NOVEMBER ON TCM

November on TCM is upon us and as usual, they’re showing a few Lee Marvin gems. Maybe not as much as some months but there is always something worth watching in which he appears or has a connection to a given film. Regular readers here (if there are any!) know that my intention of this blog is to of course t encourage folks to read and discover my book Lee Marvin Point Blank. So coupled with that is to equally encourage folks to discover his films. With that in mind, I’ll be starting off each month with notification of his films or films he was connect with here on this site. First up, November on TCM. All times are PST:

I Died a Thousand Times airs Monday, November, 2, 10:30pm:

Ad art for I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES featuring a cowering Lee Marvin.


Since Shelley Winters is November’s “Star of the Month” on TCM, they’ll be showing her costarring with Jack Palance in this lush looking remake of High Sierra (194?). The original helped make Humphrey Bogart a breakout star and I guess Palance was hoping for the same. He did a few more sympathetic leads in the 1950s (The Big Knife, Attack!), but then quickly returned to villainous costarring status. A rare exception was his poignant turn as Lee Marvin’s buddy in Monte Walsh (1970) but Marvin had the lead that time. So, check out their earlier teaming in which Marvin plays second banana to Palance as his tough acting yet ultimately cowering henchman. More factoids about it were plumbed here.

Point Blank airs Saturday, November, 7, at 1:30pm.

The better ad art for POINT BLANK’s video release as opposed to the film’s original poster.


 






Considered the first “arthouse action film,” this stylized John Boorman thriller was largely ignored when first released but has since become a recognized classic of the genre, and with good reason. One of Lee Marvin’s first major starring vehicles is clearly also one of his best. It’s also the reason why I used it as my book’s subtitle as I explain in the introduction. If you haven’t seen the film, or even if you have, check it out again and be reminded of Lee Marvin’s gritty brilliance. Read more about it here.

The Dirty Dozen airs Wednesday, November, 11, at 11 am. 

Composite of scenes from the TCM perennial, THE DIRY DOZEN.

If Ted Turner and the good folks at TCM have a perennial favorite other than Gone With the Wind (1939), it must be The Dirty Dozen. It’s airing again as part of the Veteran’s Day line-up of classic war films and the testosterone driven classic still holds up no matter how many times you see it. The all-star male cast is one of the best ever and director Robert Aldrich gets them all to deliver the goods. No wonder TCM programmers like it so much. How much? Check this out

Honorable mentions:
Ride the High Country (1962) Sam Peckinpah’s best film besides The Wild Bunch (1969) airs November 6 and as a friend, drinking buddy and rival of Lee Marvin, it’s a definite must-see. 
Others worth viewing that Marvin doesn’t appear in this month but bears import in the man’s life and work are: the original High Sierra (11/4 & 11/29), The Hurt Locker (11/10) The Snows of Kilimanjaro (11/12), Brother Orchid (11/14), and Kiss Me, Deadly (11/21). Read Lee Marvin: Point Blank to find out their importance. Check local listing for airtime.
So there you have it! November on TCM for Lee Marvin fans. More to come next month and until then, stay safe!

– Dwayne Epstein

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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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BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & POINT BLANK

Bruce Springsteen, New Jersey’s legendary rocker, recently celebrated his 71st birthday –Sept. 23rd, to be exact — and as such, I thought it a good time to explore the possible connection between the man’s music (one song in particular), and a possible Lee Marvin connection.

Terrific cover art for the VHS release of POINT BLANK.


Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know why I titled the book what I did as it’s explained in the introduction. Yes, it’s partly due to the title of one of his signature films, but there’s actually more to it than that. 


What does any of this have to do with Bruce Springsteen, you may ask? Well, to start with,  Springsteen has often utilized imagery from films in his work, which is why I thought there may indeed be a Lee Marvin connection. For example, having been a long time fan, I was amazed the way in which he opened the first concert I ever saw. The arena went dark and over the sound system came the following dialog: “Me and the boys got us some work to do. Wanna come along? Won’t be like the old days….but it’ll do.” That end dialog from The Wild Bunch (a film Lee Marvin almost made, by the way), lead to the stage lights coming up and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band launching into Buddy Holly’s rocking “Oh Boy!” For the next four hours, I was enthralled and then exhausted by evening’s end. “The Boss’ put on one hell of a show! 

Article in the L.A. newspaper for the first Springsteen show I saw back in 1980


 That aside, Springsteen’s film references include everything from titling one of his signature songs “Thunder Road,” after the 1958 cult Robert Mitchum film, to to the title of his album The Ghost of Tom Joad, as in the character Henry Fonda played in the John Steinbeck adapted film, The Grapes of Wrath
Even more pervasive are the lyrics chosen for some of his songs. Take for example, “Cadillac Ranch” in which he borrows imagery from the likes Rebel Without a Cause, The Last American Hero and Smokey & The Bandit:
“James Dean in that Mercury ’49
Junior Johnson runnin’ thru the woods of Caroline
Even Burt Reynolds in that black Trans Am
all gonna meet down at the Cadillac Ranch.” 

1980 line-up of the E Street Band :(L-R) Bassist Gary Tallent,guitarist Steve Van Zandt, organist Danny Federici, Springsteen, drummer Max Weinberg, pianist Roy Bittan, and saxophonist Clarence Clemmons.


Which brings us to the haunting lyrics of “Point Blank” from his 1980 double album, “The River.” The song concerns the end of a romance in which the narrator describes how his ex-lover has been destroyed by her experiences. At one point in the song, he dreams they are dancing together again, only to wake up and discover she’s standing in the doorway trying to stay out of the rain “looking like just another stranger waitin’ to get blown away.” Hence the title and chorus, “Point Blank”. 

Libretto from THE RIVER for “Point Blank.”


Granted, it’s hardly the same premise or theme as the Marvin film. However, creative entities, such as Springsteen can be motivated in the most interesting of ways. Since he clearly is quite literate when it comes to film iconography, one can easily picture him watching the film one night and grabbing a pad and pencil with an idea once the premise of the film is established. Is Walker alive or dead? As Walker himself asks, what is all a dream that he was double-crossed by his wife and best friend then left for dead? 
It certainly is not a new premise for a writer to create a theme of blurred lines between life and death, or dreams and reality. I believe Ambrose Bierce’s classic 1890 short story “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” set the standard for such a theme. A personal favorite is Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun,” which realistically established a character grappling with the ability to know whether he is asleep or awake. In other words, Walker of Point Blank may have very well inspired Springsteen to use the premise as a springboard for what he would utilize as a dark concept of a tortured romance. Pure supposition, for sure, but certainly not unlikely. Judge for yourself in the video below and in closing, happy birthday, Bruce Springsteen!
– Dwayne Epstein

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