Roger Fristoe, insightful freelancer for Turner Classic Movies (TCM) contacted me a while back when I had blogged about Raintree County. At the time I hadn’t known Roger very well but have since gotten to him better via Facebook. He had good things to say about Lee Marvin Point Blank so naturally, I had to get to know him better. Well, since this week is the anniversary of the opening of Raintree County, I asked him if he’d let me run the interview he did with Marvin back in 1986 for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, KY, and he agreed.
The opening before the piece is the e-mail response I’ve included here to give a little more interesting background to Marvin’s performance. Here then, in all its glory, is the interview with Lee Marvin conducted by Roger Fristoe on the making of Raintree County

Sunday magazine cover for Roger Fristoe’s piece on RAINTREE COUNTY for the Lexington Courier that included the sidebar interview with Lee Marvin.

“Hi Dwayne,
The Marvin piece was a sidebar to the main story and ran with it. I thought that gave it more prominence. Something that didn’t get into the piece…I told him that I loved his reading of his final line, “I’m from Raintree County!” He said it was an inspiration of the moment as they were shooting the scene that he added that element of surprise: how could this son of Raintree County come to this end??? ….. ” I may have told you that I wrote to all the surviving stars at the time of the story requesting phone interviews, and he was the only one who called. I was quite startled at work that day to pick up the phone and hear that booming voice: “Hey Roger, it’s Lee Marvin, what can I do for you?”

   Hope you enjoy — all the best, Roger Fristoe”
Lee Marvin Remembers
“Raintree County” – and Kentucky
“‘Raintree County was the last big film of its kind from MGM and, along with “Paint Your Wagon, my only exposure to that kind of spectacular production you associate with the old days. I thought it was a great book and a great film. But Civil War stories haven’t done well in years, except for those two ‘North and South series on TV. [According to Lee Marvin:}
“Everybody was in love with Elizabeth Taylor. Even today, when you see her, she just makes you want to smile all over. But she and Monty Clift were locked into a kind of privacy that I didn’t really share. I wasn’t really a noted actor at that time and have never been a leading man in the sense of people climbing all over you and tearing your clothes off. In Danville, I immediately mixed in with the locals with no problem.
“My memory now is not so much the film as those people who were so generous and so conducive to making us feel at home there in Kentucky. And, for God’s sake, this was a Yankee story! Now, Kentucky may have been a border state during the Civil War, but it leaned toward the South, right? I got a great kick out of the whole business of all those Rebs cast as extras and dressed in the blue uniforms of the Yankee army. I told ’em, “Look at it this way: this time you’re gonna win!”

(L-R) Lee Marvin and Montgomert Clift as ‘Bummers’ during the Civil War scene in RAINTREE COUNTY.

“You have an awful lot of time to kill between setups, and you’ve got to keep the juices flowing, so I spent a lot of time talking to the extras and helping them get into the spirit of the thing. When they marched by with a flag, I’d yell, “Don’t just wave it. Snap that flag! I’d get ’em going. And they were marvelous about it.
“My memories of the whole project are absolutely stunning. I kept my nose pretty clean, and the local people accepted me very well. They showed me great courtesy and made the location one of the most pleasant I’d ever worked on. It was amazing the things they did for us, the way they opened up their homes to us, the care they took of us. Everyone there was easygoing and accepting as long as you were genteel yourself.
“My mother is from Virginia, and she had brought me up to practice a certain kind of manners. When you do things in a cordial and acceptable manner, people respond in kind.” 

(L-R) Rod Taylor, Nigel Patrick, director Edward Dmytryk (standing), Elizabeth Taylor, Montgmery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Marvin, Agnes Moorhead and Walter Abel.

– Dwayne Epstein
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Sadly, the ranks continue to thin as we recently lost the great and shamefully underrated, Rod Taylor. Since he had worked with Lee Marvin in Raintree County, I was fortunate enough to secure and interview with him back in July of 1995. Most of the wonderful anecdotes he told me went into the text of Lee Marvin: Point Blank, but in tribute to him, I’ve reposted the entire interview below, complete and unedited. The reason is simple. He was a genuinely nice guy who had no illusions, ego or airs about himself, or the amazing work that he did. I think that shows in the transcript below so I’ll allow his words to speak for him. Rest in Peace, Mr. Taylor. We shall not see your like again…..

Initial script reading for Raintree County with from the left: Screenwriter Millard Kaufman, Lee Marvin, director Edward Dymtryk, Eva Marie Saint, Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, producer David Lewis, and costars Jarma Lewis, Nigel Patrick and Rod Taylor.

Initial script reading for Raintree County with from the left: Screenwriter Millard Kaufman, Lee Marvin, director Edward Dymtryk, Eva Marie Saint, Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, producer David Lewis, and costars Jarma Lewis, Nigel Patrick and Rod Taylor.

Dwayne: Thanks for getting back to me. I really, appreciate it.
Rod: I wanted to apologize again for not getting back to you sooner but the fucking note pad that had your number on it got misplaced somewhere.
D: Don’t worry about it. I’m sorry I had to run this morning but you started to tell me some anecdotes about working with Lee Marvin.
R: Yes, well like I said, I don’t know how much help I can be because I don’t remember that much. I do have some interesting anecdotes about working with Lee. He had a great sense of humor.
D: Almost everybody I’ve spoken to has said that to me. He must have been something.
R: (Laughs) Yeah, well Lee, and I, used to say we must have had a fucking ball because we don’t remember a thing.
D: I’m guessing you guys must have imbibed a time or two.
R: Those were the days when you could drink like that and still function the next day for work. What was the name of that musical he made?
D: Paint Your Wagon?
R: Yes. He told me he didn’t remember making the entire film. He even sang a song with a monotone. He didn’t remember a thing about it.
D: You worked with him on Raintree County. I know there was lot of problems on that but do you remember what it was like working with him then?

Rod Taylor as Garwood P. Jones & Lee Marvin as Orville "Flash" Perkins

Rod Taylor as Garwood P. Jones & Lee Marvin as Orville “Flash” Perkins

R: Well, the problems were because of Monty Clift’s terrible accident. The studio wanted to make a big budget return to an old type of movie. When you called I was trying to think of some stories and I do remember this one time when we shooting in Kentucky. Monty was with Liz taking their time on a scene working so the rest of us weren’t really needed. Lee and I and another actor, a British actor named Nigel Patrick..
D: He played the Professor.
R: Wow, what a memory. Anyway we were floating down this murky backwater swamp with a still photographer named Bob…
D: Willoughby.
R: Now how the fuck did you know that?
D: He published a book of his work called “The Platinum Years.”
R: He lives in Ireland now if you want to reach him. I think there’s a publicist named Jim Mahoney who knows how to contact him.
D: I’ve been in touch with him. He used to be Lee Marvin’s publicist.
R: Yeah, he was mine, too. He would know how to reach him. Anyway, so Lee and I with Nigel and Bob went on this picnic. Now I’m from Australia and have some knowledge about waters and what not. Bob accidentally dropped this very expensive camera into the water. Everyone looked to the fucking swimming champ. I jumped into this murky water to look for the camera. I looked and looked. Nothing. Lee put down his tall, frosty mint julep, cut through the water like a knife and brought up the camera as if guided by the hand of god while I sputtered and choked on the swamp water.
D: That’s amazing. How did he get along with everyone?
R: Oh, he got along fine. The thing you had to appreciate about him was his sense of humor. He had a great sense of humor but it could be very caustic because it was based on total honesty. I used to work over at Revue and I would see him there becuase he did a show, what was it “M-Squad”? It later became Four Star when David Niven built it. That’s where I made The Time Machine.
D: I love that movie. That’s one of my favorite movies from my childhood.
R: Yeah, it’s held up well over the years.
D: Do you remember any examples of his humor?
R: Not off hand, unfortunately. There was a story you may have heard because it’s been around so long.
D: You never can tell. Which story is it?
R: Somebody, I think it was a casting director asked him what he had done lately. This casting director asked Marvin, “What have you done lately?,” and Marvin responded immediately, “About what?”
D: (Laughing) That’s a great line.
R: That’s the  kind of sense of humor he had.
D: How did he get along with Montgomery Clift?
R: Well, to tell you the truth, they didn’t work that much. I think he felt like I did and felt sorry for him. Lee didn’t socialize much with him. I did that and I was the one who had dinner with him and got mashed potatoes thrown in my hair.
D: Yeah, I heard that Clift did some really bizarre things. Did they get along? I ask because I know they had several scenes together…
R: Lee got along with everybody. People respected Lee for his honesty, his acting ability and he was his own man.

On location in Danville, Kentucky are from the left: Rod Taylor, Nigel Patrick, director Edward Dmytryk (standing), Elizabth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Marvin, Agnes Moorehead and Walter Abel.

On location in Danville, Kentucky are from the left: Rod Taylor, Nigel Patrick, director Edward Dmytryk (standing), Elizabth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Marvin, Agnes Moorehead and Walter Abel.

D: Do you remember the last time you saw him?
R: Well, I didn’t see him much but I think I saw him in Malibu after the break up of his marriage and that whole mess. I took Lee’s side so I didn’t talk to Betty.
D: Did he ever talk to you about that?
R: Lee understood that to be a private matter and kept it private so I never asked. I know he moved to Arizona when he was smoking too much. But I didn’t see him much after that.
D: One last question. Do you know anybody else I can contact for a possible interview?
R: Have you spoken to Toshiro Mifune?
D: No, But I’d love to.
R: Mifune loved Lee. I had heard a story but it’s third person so you would have to get it confirmed. During Hell in the Pacific, when Lee was up in the tree and was supposed to pee on him, Mifune wouldn’t do the scene unless Marvin really pissed on him. Wouldn’t use water or a double. He told Lee to go drink some beer and come back to do the scene.
D: (Laughs) I know some people who would pay good money for that now. Hugh Grant comes to mind. I’m sorry, that’s a cheap joke.
R: That’s okay. I’ll tell you somebody else you can talk to.The guy who does that show “Walker, Texas Ranger.” He’s a real fucking asshole, though, nothing but ego.
D: Chuck Norris? Yeah, I’ve heard that but it’s part of the job. I’ve talked to all kinds of people. I don’t have a problem with that. I also just remembered something. I read that you worked with Paul Newman in The Rack. Is that true or is that a misprint?
R: No, that’s a misprint. I did audition for Somebody Up There Likes Me. They thought I was a Brooklyn kid.
D: Well, you pulled the accent off well in The Catered Affair. That’s also a favorite movie of mine.
R: Thank you very much. You really are a movie fan.
– END.
-Dwayne Epstein

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