OTHER SOURCES: JAMES GARNER ON LEE MARVIN

James Garner wrote about Lee Marvin in his 2011 memoir The Garner Files.  Since they never worked together, I never thought to use it as a source for Lee Marvin: Point Blank. However, once I read Garner’s book, I figure his take on Marvin deserves to be recounted here.

The cover of James Garner’s 2011 memoir, THE GARNER FILES.

It’s interesting to note that the TV & movie star belies his easy going charm as his experiences but mostly his point of view are both anything but easygoing. A better word to describe what he writes would be curmudgeonly. Not surprisingly, his cowriter, Jon Winokur, is the author of The Portable Curmudgeon. I get the feeling that Garner sought Winokur out based most likely on that fact. Don’t get me wrong, the book is a great read, mostly for just that reason. His take on his life, work, costars, the culture and society-at-large is a lot of fun. Brett Maverick or Jim Rockford he is not. Well, maybe a little. One minor correction to his comments below. To make his point, he states Lee Marvin’s salary went up to a million dollars a picture after Cat Ballou and he worked less because of it. Not true. Marvin first got a million for Paint Your Wagon and as most fans know he worked a lot after his Oscar winning role. Well, Garner certainly has a right to his opinion and I am a fan of some of his work. It’s just that the facts don’t support his point of view. No matter.
As to his main point about Marvin, of that, I guess he should be taken on his word as others have recounted similar encounters as stated in my book….

“In Hollywood you have to ‘defend you quote’ — keep your fee as high as possible and never accept less. Lee Marvin raised his quote to a million dollars a picture after he won an Oscar for Cat Ballou and had trouble getting parts.
“I never worked with Lee, but I thought that as an actor he was very colorful. As a guy, he was a pain in the ass. He just didn’t care. He was a and drinker. One night in a limousine on our way to a function, he made moves on my wife. That’s a little more than I can handle  and almost decked him.

Garner and his wife, Lois, probably around the time Garner wrote about his encounter with Lee Marvin.

“Anyway, Lee wanted to work but couldn’t take a salary cut. I didn’t want to fall into that trap, so I never let my quote get too high. Actors are paid more than they’re worth anyway.  Producers are idiots for paying the ridiculous prices we ask. We make so much money, the majority of pictures never make a profit. I think movies would be a lot better if more actors waived heir big salaries in order to do worthwhile pictures.
“I don’t think actors today are well served by their agents and managers, who aren’t as good as they used to be. They just want their 10 percent and let their clients do things they shouldn’t. They have one hit and three flops and their careers are over.”

Lee Marvin approximately around the time James Garner knew him.

Oh and for what it’s worth, Garner didn’t like Charles Bronson, either.
– Dwayne Epstein

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OREGON ARCHIVES SHOWS LOVE OF LEE MARVIN

Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are well aware of the strange shenanigans that took place during the Oregon location shooting of Paint Your Wagon (1969) and later, Emperor of the North (1973). The interesting thing is, that once a book is released, you come in contact with people you wished you had met while researching the book. Case in point, a recent new friend on Facebook brought to my attention a few rare images of Lee Marvin from the set of both films.
Katherine Wilson is a historian working on a much anticipated book on the history of Oregon filmmaking and looks to be a winner! Here’s a sample of what to look forward to in 50 Years of Oregon Film. When she saw my Lee Marvin book she made friend request and proceeded to share with me two photos from both Oregon locations. The first, seen below is obviously from Paint Your Wagon and, according to Wilson, the photographer was a state employee and were then given to Katherine by the governor’s secretary, Wanda Merrill who is to be credited for her generosity. Pictured left to right are: Nina Westerdahl, the assistant’s wife; Wanda Merrill, secretary to then governor Thomas McCall; Lee (in costume as Ben Rumson); Governor McCall’s wife, Audrey. Clearly, the ladies are enjoying the company, What I like about this photo is that it drives home the point that even though Lee Marvin never had matinee idol good looks, He definitely had what used to be called “star quality” and it shines in this photo. Charisma, Larger-than-life, whatever term fits, Marvin clearly had it without looking like Tyrone Power or Brad Pitt.
A few years later, Marvin was back in Oregon (with script in hand), but this time he was there to film the underrated, Emperor of the North with multi-film costar, Ernest Borgnine. Below, they are seen with Warren Merrill, Oregon’s first film commissioner. What’s going on in this pic is anybody’s guess but it is cool to see them in costume, ain’t it?

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GOLDEN GLOBES AND LEE MARVIN

Since the Golden Globes airing tonight begins the serious start of this year’s award season derby, it’s worth considering Lee Marvin’s involvement back in the 1960s. It’s of course mentioned within the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank, but a little more depth is always interesting….isn’t it? Well, even if it isn’t, here it is.
It’s often felt that the Golden Globes — put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) — is a sort of precursor to the Oscars. It probably was at one time but with all the awards shows glutting the airwaves these days, it’s hard to tell anymore. The best reason to watch though, is in seeing all the celebrities getting and acting drunk. Sounds like an award show just made for Lee Marvin, doesn’t it?
Marvin was first nominated for a Golden Globe back in 1965 for his dual role in Cat Ballou as broken down, drunk gunslinger, Kid Shelleen and his evil twin brother, Tim Strawn.

Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou as the evil tin-nosed Tim Strawn.

No one was more surprised over the nomination, let alone the victory, than Marvin himself. Drunks are of course favorite performances for Oscar voters but the HFPA doesn’t always agree. The same can be said of dual roles by an actor. What helped Marvin, of course, was his unsung veteran status in films and television. He did win the Globe and went on to win the Oscar, as well. His acceptance speech at the Globes was not nearly as memorable as it would be later when he won the Oscar for the same film. When the thunderous ovation died down, he quipped about his performance, “Oh, I didn’t think it was all THAT funny.”

Golden Glob Winner Samantha Eggar (for The Collector) and Lee Marvin compare trophies at the February, 1966 presentation.

Four years later he was back at the Golden Globes, nominated again in the same category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical or Comedy. I always like the fact that the HFPA separates the performances of Musical/Comedy roles from the Drama category and the year he was nominated (for Paint Your Wagon, no less!) proved an intriguing year indeed. Some of his fellow nominees, all more known for dramatic roles, also sang in their performances. The winner was a warbling Peter O’Toole in the musical remake of Goodbye, Mr. Chips. However, fellow nominee Steve McQueen in The Reivers also sang a few choruses of “Camptown Races” on camera. The non-singing Dustin Hoffman (John & Mary) and Anthony Quinn (The Secret of Santa Vittoria) rounded out the field. Marvin may have finished out of the money, but his nomination was worthy. In my opinion, his performance as Ben Rumson is one of his best, despite the film itself being an overblown, overproduced, over-long albatross. Maybe that should make him more deserving. After all, isn’t it a greater challenge to be impressive in a badly made film than in a good one? Just a thought. Who knows, maybe the HFPA voters will feel the same when they announce the winners tonight.

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