ALLEN GARFIELD, A GREAT CHARACTER ACTOR REMEMBERED

Allen Garfield, a great character actor in 1970s American films, passed away recently at the age of 80 from the dreaded Corona Virus. I was a fan of his work and thought he was terribly under appreciated. In fact, a recent obit read as if he’ll be remembered as barely a blip in film history. He may not be as revered as say a Walter Brennan or Ed Asner, but he certainly left his mark of versatility on some great films.

Some personal favorites are his media savvy consultant who shows up idealistic Robert Redford in Michel Ritchie’s The Candidate by smilingly smashing up a bag of lollipops with a tiny hammer. He was also Oscar-worthy as Peter Falk’s not-too-bright brother-in-law in William Friedkin’s underrated The Brinks Job.

I had the privilege of a chance meeting with him outside the Virgin Record Store on Sunset in the early 1990s. He was walking down the street with a pretty young woman when I recognized him and introduced myself.

Allen Garfield as he looked around the time I met him in the 1990s.

He was warm and cordial and was in the mood to talk. When I told him what I was working on at the time, he told me what a great idea a biography on Lee Marvin would be as he had always been a fan. I should add that even though he was older than myself, he peppered his conversation with many hip phrases, like “Right on,” and “Far out,” and “I can dig it.” When I mentioned the Lee Marvin bio he told me he always wanted to work with the man and almost did…once. He heard that The Iceman Cometh was going to be made into a film and desperately wanted the role of Rocky, the night bartender. As I recall, he said he got a reading with director John Frankenheimer, thought he nailed it and waited anxiously for a call back. Alas, it was not to be as Frankenheimer went with long-time veteran character actor Tom Pedi, who had played the role many times on stage, TV, radio, you name it.

Tom Pedi (left) as night bartender Rocky in Eugene O’Neill’s The ICEMAN COMETH with Lee Marvin (right) as Hickey.

Rather ironic considering Frankenheimer purposely didn’t want Jason Robards to play Hickey as he thought Robards too familiar with the role and directing him would be like, ‘Directing him how to go the bathroom.” You could see the disappointment on Garfield’s face as he recounted the story. I felt for him but also knew it was the lot of an actor’s life. He did as well so instead of dwelling on it mournfully, we began talking about the films and performances he did make and loved doing. I also asked him why he made the risky move of changing his name to Goorwitz and he told me it was in honor of his mother who had recently passed away. He did of course go back to Garfield shortly thereafter. Before parting he gave me his card and said to call him any time as he loved talking about movies. I kept it in my wallet for years but never did call him. My loss, I’m afraid. I did toy with the idea of including his little anecdote in the chapter about Iceman in Lee Marvin Point Blank but my exclusive interviews with Frankenheimer, Jeff Bridges and the children of Robert Ryan abundantly filled it out.
I often wondered why I had stopped seeing him in projects as much as I used to until I read about his health issues. He suffered a series of strokes and spent the last 15 years in the Motion Picture Retirement Home. Damn shame as we should have seen him in a lot projects. Farewell Mr. Garfield and fear not. As long as there are classic movie fans, you will always be remembered.
– Dwayne Epstein

Allen Garfield, aka Allen Goorwitz. Rest in Peace.

 

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IN HONOR OF Pi DAY: THE GREATEST Pi FIGHT EVER!

This being Pi Day I wracked my brain to find a connection to Lee Marvin but the closest I could come up with were the deep-dish apple pies served up in Liberty Valance. Close enough, right?…..I didn’t think so. Instead, I give you images from one of my all-time favorite films which contained probably the all-time greatest pie fight.
The Great Race was a film I didn’t see in theatres, at least not the first time. It aired on TV, in two parts and then years later 5 nghts a week on a local network. I watched it every time, and on the rare occssion it showed up at a revival theatre, I was there, front & center. It wasn’t a great film, but to me and my friends growing up, it was a whole lot of over-the-top, old-fashioned fun with Tony Curtis’s swashbuckling, Peter Falk’s buffoonry, Natalie Wood’s lusciousness and above all, Jack Lemmon’s comedic genius in dual roles. Still a favorite all these years later!
Below, are some wonderful and rare images from the book The Platinum Years by photographer Bob Willoughby. Of all the great coffee table books about movies, I reccomend it above all others. It came out in the 1970s and Willougby’s images from his life as an on set photographer are downright stunning! The images below are just a small example….

Jack Lemmon as Prince Hapnick (giddily shown far left) with Natalie Wood as Maggie Dubois and Tony Curtis as the Great Leslie (both center) assess the damage as the pi fight winds down.

Jack Lemmon as Prince Hapnick (giddily shown far left) with Natalie Wood as Maggie Dubois and Tony Curtis as the Great Leslie (both center) assess the damage as the pi fight winds down.

The havoc of the pie fight near the end of the film is shown above but better than that, this image of director Blake Edwards working on set…..

This rare pic answers that oft-asked question, WHO THREW THAT PIE? Director Blake Edwards is caught in mid-form slamming his star Natalie Wood right in the kisser. At far left,  co-star Jack Lemmon, already nailed, steps out of the scene to admire his director's form.

This rare pic answers that oft-asked question, WHO THREW THAT PIE? Director Blake Edwards is caught in mid-form slamming his star Natalie Wood right in the kisser. At far left, co-star Jack Lemmon, already nailed, steps out of the scene to admire his director’s form.

 

Soupy Sales, The Three Stooges or anybody else you can think of must have cringed with envy at the enormity and huge budget afforded the filmmakers in this pie fight to end all pie fights. Of course, Natalie Wood may have had a different opinion…..

Shown at the end of the scene, Natalie Wood smiles and shows off Blake Edwards' handy work.

Shown at the end of the scene, Natalie Wood smiles and shows off Blake Edwards’ handy work.

Even Jack Lemmon was not immune but then again, playing the villianous Professor Fate, why should he be?

A pie caught in mid-flight lands on its intended target, actor Jack Lemmon, just as he was about to propel two of his own projectiles.

A pie caught in mid-flight lands on its intended target, actor Jack Lemmon, just as he was about to propel two of his own projectiles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These terrific images are but a small sample of what fun can be had on this once-in-a-lifetime National Pi Day. It must be said that in order to stay within the spirit of this blog, one must simply ask the question, who would you least want to get a pie in the kisser from and how would he throw it? The answer is of course, Lee Marvin: Point Blank.

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