ROBERT ALDRICH: A 100TH ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE

Robert Aldrich was born one hundred years ago today and we classic movie fans are all the richer for it! Lee Marvin Point Bank readers are familiar with Marvin’s and Aldrich’s working relationship as they made a great film together in almost every decade of Marvin’s career: Attack!, 1956; The Dirty Dozen,1967; Emperor of the North, 1973. In fact, it was almost more than that as Marvin wanted Aldrich to direct Death Hunt (1983), which would have completed the last decade of Marvin’s career.

(L-R) Director Robert Aldrich and costars Lee Marvin & Ernest Borgnine at the initial script conference for THE DIRTY DOZEN.

Probably the most remembered of both of their careers was indeed The Dirty Dozen.
The success of that film catapulted both the actor and the director to rarified heights of fame and success.

Aldrich demonstrates to Lee Marvin how to kick John Cassavetes in THE DIRTY DOZEN.

Marvin got a million dollar paycheck from then on and was a top ten box office sensation for the next decade. Aldrich continued to direct & produce films that may have defied description, but maintained his high level of quality. His signature style, which included a love of characters bordering on the grotesque (Whatever to Baby Jane?, The Grissom Gang, The Choir Boys) and a distinct brilliance at mounting suspense through editing and character anticipation, put him in league with some of the greatest directors of all time.

Case in point: The powerful climax to one of my favorites of his, Flight of the Phoenix, compares perfectly to the scene in which Lee Marvin goads Clint Walker into a knife fight in The Dirty Dozen. Watch the way Aldrich mounts the suspense in Phoenix by building to quicker cuts, showing the stranded characters’ apprehension in hopes of the resurrected airplane’s ability to start up just one more time. Rosaries are prayed on, sweat builds on the nearly dehydrated men, some of whom begin to jump up and down as the audience’s anticipation reaches a pitch. In Dozen, he does the same with mounting edits, sidelong characters laughing and goading the giant Walker to stab Marvin, as M.P. Richard Jaeckel is shown reaching for his sidearm. Both scenes are signatories of Aldrich’s unique style of cinema and it’s a style that is sorely missed in this day of computerized technology.
Aldrich himself may have had the best last word about such things. When Marvin visited Aldrich in the hospital as he lay dying of cancer, Marvin asked him, “Can I get you anything?” The wizened director commented, “Yeah, a better script.”

Robert Aldrich: August 9th, 1918 – December 5th, 1983.

I think that’s something we could all use now.
-Dwayne Epstein

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THE DIRTY DOZEN: THE NEXT MISSION PREMIERED 30 YEARS AGO

On February 4, 1985, Lee Marvin made his TV-move acting debut when NBC broadcast the “long-awaited sequel” The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission…..

Video box cover art for The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission

Video box cover art for The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission

Not quite sure exactly who had been long-awaiting the poorly made sequel, however, it was indeed Marvin’s TV-move debut since the made-for-TV remake of The Killers aired in theaters before it made its way to television. Marvin’s opinion of the project was wholly positive as far as the media was concerned, but, to his friends and family he gave another opinion of the show, as I quoted in Lee Marvin: Point Blank (pp.240-241).
Two of the 1967 film’s original cast rejoined Marvin. Ernest Borgnine returned as General Worden to berate Major Reisman while explaining the mission….

Lee Marvin (left), looking a wax museum from the Hollywood Museum gets his orders from General Ernest Borgnine

Lee Marvin (left), looking like a wax figure from the Hollywood Museum, gets his orders from General Worden, played by Ernest Borgnine.

Even though the film is set just a few months after the orginal ended, Borgnine’s marriage to beauty expert Tova Borgnine had him looking much better than Marvin, who appeared MUCH older in the film than he did in 1967. Also looking surprisingly well was co-star Rchard Jaeckel as MP Seargent Bowren. An entirely new breed of young actors filled out the cast of the new dozen….

(left) RIchard Jaeckel reuturns as Sgt. Bowen shown with, among others, Larry Wilcox (next to Jaeckel) of CHiPS fame and Wiseguy's Ken Wahl, pcitured next to Marvin among the cast.

(left) RIchard Jaeckel returns as Sgt. Bowren, shown with, among others, Larry Wilcox (next to Jaeckel) of CHiPS fame and TV Wiseguy Ken Wahl, pictured next to Marvin among the cast.

The plot, such as it was, concerned an attempt to kill Hitler, which was even more of a stretch than the original! The storyline even went so far as to include the original’s plot device of having Reisman and several of the ‘Dozen’ going undercover as Nazis. In the original, African-American actor Jim Brown was wisely not put in a Nazi uniform. That didn’t seem to come up during the making of the sequel….

(L-R) African-Amercian actor Ricco Ross, Lee Marvin & Larry Wilcox go undercover in THE DIRTY DOZEN: THE NEXT MISSION.

(L-R) African-Amercian actor Ricco Ross, Lee Marvin & Larry Wilcox go undercover in THE DIRTY DOZEN: THE NEXT MISSION.

It did pretty well in the ratings, as NBC executives decided to pay for a few more sequels with other previous cast members, such as Telly Savalas, since Marvin was already long gone. It eventually spawned a short-lived TV show, appropriatley enough on FOX-TV. Overall, the first sequel is  worth watching if it ever shows up on TV simply for the laugh factor. Perhaps the look on Marvin’s face below best sums up one of his last performances that aired 30 years ago this week…..
JEEP

 

 

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THE DIRTY DOZEN PREMIERE PARTY INVITE – JUNE, 1967

Back in the days when studios did things up BIG, the studio that produced The Dirty Dozen, MGM,  planned an old-fashioned formal premeire party with all the trimmings. The studio wasn’t in the greatest financial shape at the time and was understandably nervous about the film’s prospects, never dreaming it would become the biggest hit of the year and one of the highest grossing films in MGM’s history. Relucantly, however, they did send this invite to a select few….

Attendees of this special invitation only soiree received the following souvenir program…..

DDINVITE

Dirty Dozen Preimere invite

DDFRONT

Dirty Dozen program cover

 

On the back was the following promotional ad…..
The entire legendary cast was in attendance at the black-tie affair (Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, George Kennedy, Trini Lopez, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker and Robert Webber). For Lee Marvin, who was divorced from his wife Betty (but still in contact with her) and keeping company with Michele Triola, the quandary was who would he take to the event? According to this ragged clip from Cue Magazine, the answer surprised everyone…..

DDBACK

Dirty Dozen program info

DDCUE

Lee Marvin & Monte Marvin at premiere party

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