PAUL NEWMAN IN THE VERDICT: FROM THE ARCHIVES

Paul Newman, a recognized film legend made many a great film but in my opinion his best performance was in The Verdict (1983). Going through my archives recently I rediscovered the review I wrote for the film when I was critic on a paper in southern California. In rereading the review what struck my me most was my use of Newman’s career as a theme within the film and his performance. Pretty impressive for a pretentious young punk, if I do say so myself.
As a matter of fact, the concept of a successful film actor creating a through line of sorts in his canon of work remained in the back of mind for a while and came in handy when working on Lee Marvin Point Blank. Seriously.

Lee as Charlie Strom in THE KILLERS.

As Walker in POINT BLANK.

As Jack Osborne in GORKY PARK.

One need only do a cursory glance at the films and characters in Lee Marvin’s career to see a through line that extends for decades. From Charlie Strom in The Killers to Walker in Point Blank to Jack Osborne in Gorky Park and several others as well, Lee Marvin’s choice of roles has created an impressive link and theme to his work that has lasted to this day. One need only look at the career of any successful actor to see such a link and doing so has always fascinated yours truly. Name an actor with a highly successful film career and there will undoubtedly be a link from their youth to their golden years, if they’ve been lucky enough to have such a lengthy career.
In the case of Paul Newman, I was very proud to see the connection between his character of Tony Lawrence in The Young Philadelphians (1959) and decades later as Frank Galvin in The Verdict. To my mind, it’s the same person just three decades apart. It certainly makes sense since a successful actor is the one who fortunate enough to choose the role he plays based on his interest and personal experience. In the case of actors like Paul Newman and Lee Marvin, those choices clicked with audiences, too, which is what makes them legends.

Poster of Paul Newman’s THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS.

Paul Newman in poster for THE VERDICT.

My 1983 review for THE VERDICT.

Following the graphics I chose for this blog is a copy of the review for The Verdict that I rediscovered. Think it holds up with my theory? Be interested in your thoughts.
– Dwayne Epstein

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JUDGE ROY BEAN STARRING…..LEE MARVIN?

Judge Roy Bean, a legend of the old west, was indeed a real person ((1825-1903) and has been immortalized on screen countless times. The larger-than-life character of Bean would seem like a natural for the likes of Lee Marvin, who specialized in larger-than life portrayals. Apparently at one point, he almost was “The hanging Judge west of the Pecos.” 

      According to a recently discovered documentary (Milius 2013), it was Marvin who was the intended star of the 1973 film, The Life & Times of Judge Roy Bean. I was amazed to only recently find this out as I would have included it in the appendix I did of nearly four dozen films Lee Marvin almost made as an exclusive extra in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Renowned artist Richard Amsel’s poster for the 1973 theatrical release of THE LIFE & TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN.


According to writer/director John Milius’s film school alum, George Lucas, in talking about Milius and the project: “He got a job to write Judge Roy Bean. Judge Roy Bean was one of the most brilliant screenplays I ever read. It just was magnificent and polished and good and it just blew everybody away.” Martin Scorsese chimed in with, “The work reflected a stand that was impenetrable. You couldn’t change it. This guy really believed in what he was saying.”
For the full story as to what transpired, John Milius himself takes over the story in an interview conducted long before his debilitating stroke:

Writer/director John Milius.


“It was sent to Lee Marvin. And Lee Marvin got the script. His agent sent it. And he was reading it and he really liked it. He got drunk and left it on his chair and went off and passed out somewhere [laughs]. And Newman picked it up and started reading it and took it away. He called his people in Los Angeles and said, ‘Buy this script. I wanna do this.’ So, they came to me and said, ‘We wanna buy this script.’ I said, ‘Fine. I wanna direct it.’ They said, ‘No, no. That’s not possible.’ 
   See, there were two prices. One that was really cheap with me directing it. The one that kept going up and up without me [was the other price]. They finally paid the price without me. In 1972-73, that was a helluva lot money. There is no good movie without a good script.
   It wasn’t at all the same movie. Huston wasn’t the right person to direct it and Newman certainly wasn’t the right person to act in it and they’re all terrific people. Paul Newman is on of the nicest, most intelligent people in the world. I can’t say anything against him. He just wasn’t right for that movie.”

On the set of POCKET MONEY made the year before in which Newman may have read Marvin’s copy of the script.


And so, there you have it. Yet another, and probably one of the strangest examples, of a property Marvin would have been great in but due to unusual circumstances, was not meant to be. Pity, really in as much as I liked the quirky film, Marvin would have been terrific!
– Dwayne Epstein 

The real Judge Roy Bean.

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GORKY PARK: MARVIN’S LATTER DAY BRILLIANCE

Gorky Park (1983), director Michel Apted’s adaptation of the popular Martin Cruz Smith thriller, was not well-recieved when first released but it may be worthy of re-evaluation. There are several reasons I say this but the main reason, is of course, Lee Marvin’s performance.

Lee Marvin as Jack Osborne in Michael Apted’s GORKY PARK.

It was not only one of the actor’s last films, it would be the last time he would play a classic villain, as he had earlier in his career. I don’t want to give a spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the film (which I highly recommend) so simply the premise will suffice here. It’s a complicated ‘whodunit’ in which Soviet-era police detective Arkady Renko (William Hurt) is tasked with finding who is responsible for the three mutilated bodies found in Gorky Park. There are several suspects and among them is shady American businessman, Jack Osborne (Marvin). To Marvin’s credit, as good as he looks in uniform, he looks even more impressive in the dapper expensive suits his character wears.  Watch the way he carries himself, as well. The brilliance mentioned are the touches the actor adds that are clearly not in the script. Dressing after a day at the sauna, he uses the back of his index fingers to straighten his collar and expensive tie he admires in the mirror. Then there’s the way he dallies the cat-and-mouse dialog with adversarial Hurt.

(L-R) Lee Marvin as Jack Osborne, William Hurt as Russian police detective Arkady Renko and Ian Bannen as Renko’s superior.

I genuinely believe it’s one of Marvin’s best performances that creates a through line of sorts to his career. Think of Paul Newman as the idealistic lawyer Anthony Lawrence of The Young Philadelphians (1959), and then the tragic alcoholic Frank Galvin of The Verdict (1982). There are other such examples to be made but I like to think that in Jack Osborne’s wilder youth he was not unlike the dapper yet violent Vince Stone of The Big Heat (1953). See Gorky Park and judge for yourself, of course.
As for the film, I was fortunate enough to interview British director Michael Apted for Lee Marvin Point Blank and his insights as to the films success and/or failure is on the money, as well as the fascinating anecdotes about its production. So check it out again wherever possible and give Lee Marvin’s performance a second look. I think you’ll pleasantly surprised.
– Dwayne Epstein

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