KILLING GENERALS

Killing Generals: The Making of The Dirty Dozen, the Most Iconic WWII Movie of All Time (2023) will be my next book and will be available Father’s Day, 2023. It’s been too long since I tackled another worthy writing project but it’s not for lack of trying. Came VERY close several times on a variety of projects but I won’t bore the reader with those details. Suffice to say, I finally got  a new literary agent, Lee Sobel, who contacted me, which is always a good sign. After checking him out as thoroughly as possible, I signed with him and we proceeded to discuss possible subjects (I won’t bore you with those details, either). In a miraculously short time we came up with Killing Generals. He asked me to do a proposal in record time and he would make the pitch based on that. Amazingly, and much to my own surprise, I was able to do it in the time he requested and he tweaked it appropriately. I created a mock-up cover for added eye candy sizzle….

Proposal Cover for Killing Generals

Mock-up of the proposal cover I created for Killing Generals with my Mac and very little knowledge of how to do it (!).

 




























After the mock-up cover is the pitch Lee Sobel submitted to editor Gary Goldstein, at Kensington Books. It must have worked because it was not long after, we got an offer. Read below and tell me if you think it worthy. I have since amassed an amazing amount of exclusives and continue to do so!

Until the next time, all the best dear reader, and in the immortal words of Joseph Wladislaw: “Boy oh, boy. Killing Generals could get to be a habit with me.”   😉

The Dirty Dozen, released in the tumultuous year of 1967, is a recognized classic in the genre of ‘Men-on-a-mission’ that still exerts a powerful influence on films more than 50 years later. Author Dwayne Epstein is uniquely qualified to tell this story. Having researched and written the award-winning NY Times bestseller, Lee Marvin Point Blank, Epstein interviewed many of those involved in the production. Much of what was exclusively gathered on the film did not go into the final version but remains in the author’s possession. This includes unpublished interviews with cast and crew members resulting in this remarkable story.

The creation of the film includes such unlikely participants as sexploitation pioneer Russ Meyer, who gave the idea of the premise to author E.M. Nathanson for his bestselling novel, not knowing at the time that it was based on fact.

The production includes behind-the-scenes conflicts that rival any of the controversial violence seen in the film, such as director Robert Aldrich’s conflict with studio brass over content, leading man Lee Marvin’s grapple with the bottle on and off set, Jim Brown’s battle with the NFL and the entire ensemble cast fighting for screen time. The result subtly referenced the then current controversy of the Vietnam War as well as the Civil Rights Movement. The end result proved to be a subtle balancing act of pyrotechnics that proved to be equally adept at being anti-authoritative towards the military brass. In short, the dirty little secret was out.

It went on to become the year’s highest grossing film when released and remains one of the biggest hits in the history of MGM, establishing the major film careers of Marvin and costars Jim Brown, Charles Bronson and Donald Sutherland. Since its release its lasting impact has influenced several TV series, such as “The A-Team” (1980-1987), and such other diverse film productions from Kelly’s Heroes (1970) to Inglorious Basterds (2009) and Suicide Squad (2021). This fascinating tale of The Dirty Dozens’s creation, production and legacy has never been fully told, until now.” 

– Dwayne Epstein

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JERRY GOLDSMITH

Jerry Goldsmith, the legendary composer of great film music, never scored a Lee Marvin film, and as classic film fans, we are less enriched because of it. I say this as the author of Lee Marvin Point Blank and genuinely wish that he had, as it would have been a wonderful marriage of an actor’s persona and a musical entity’s talent.
I should explain in that I am a huge fan of Jerry Goldsmith’s music and given the theme or setting of a project, he excelled even beyond his very talented contemporaries. For example, if a film involved a train as part of the premise and Goldsmith composed the score, the result was breathtaking. Listen to his main themes to the likes of  Von Ryan’s Express (1965), Breakheart Pass (1975) or The Great Train Robbery (1978).  He evokes the the motion of the train, the period the stories takes place and creates a hummable main theme…all at the same time!
With that in mind, I find it very disappointing that director Robert Aldrich failed to hire Goldsmith to score Emperor of the North (1973), choosing instead to go with Frank DeVol. Mostly known for his lighter scores for TV and Doris Day movies, DeVol was also an actor, most notably playing the dour-faced conductor Happy Kyne on “Fernwood 2-Night.”

CD cover of the belated release of Frank DeVol’s score to Emperor of the North.

I doubt if a Jerry Goldsmith score might have saved Emperor from its box-office disappointment, but it would have, at the very least, made for a great opening credit and rousing theme for the fight scene.
Another example is yet another Robert Aldrich film scored by Frank DeVol. Granted, The Dirty Dozen (1967) really didn’t need any help in reaching its classic status and DeVol’s main theme is pretty good. However, his reliance on variations of “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” may have been period correct but lazy composition, in my opinion.

Original DIRTY DOZEN vinyl soundtrack cover featuring Trini Lopez.

Having scored many films with military themes, most notably his Oscar-nominated score for Patton (1970), I think Jerry Goldsmith would have done amazing things with The Dirty Dozen. However, composers, like actors, are often hired based on their working relationship with a a given director, or are typecast based on the film’s subject. In this case, Robert Aldrich almost always went with DeVol, while Goldsmith frequently worked for several other high-profile directors, such as Franklin Schaffner and Joe Dante.
As a huge admirer of Goldsmith’s rich melodic scores, I just think it’s a damn shame that he never composed a rousing score for one of Lee Marvin’s films. In those golden days of rich music film scores, it’s a true pity that we shall never see the likes of Jerry Goldsmith again, nor, for that matter Lee Marvin.

Rare CD cover of the great Jerry Goldsmith conducting some of his best scores. I treasure it!

  • Dwayne Epstein
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MARCH 2021 ON TCM

March 2021 is upon us and with it comes some Lee Marvin goodies from TCM. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank may see the connections to the choices and those who don’t, read on!
Below are the films, the reasons chosen and the airdates. Check local listings for time in your zone….

The Big Leaguer (1953), Saturday, March 6th:

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


Since March is the start of the major league baseball season (although who knows with the pandemic upon us!), TCM has decided to air this interesting little gem. Edward G. Robinson stars in one of his final lead roles as the coach of the then New York Giants and what he must go through in scouting, training and choosing his young talent. It was the first film of the man who directed Lee Marvin in Attack!, The Dirty Dozen and Emperor of the North, one Robert Aldrich. It even has frequent Aldrich cast member Richard Jaeckel in it. Watch and see if you can detect Aldrich’s future talent. Oh, and speaking of the great Robinson, Lee Marvin recounts a terrific anecdote about meeting him at a Hollywood party that’s a favorite in Lee Marvin Point Blank

I Shot Jesse James (1949), Monday, March 8th:

(L-R) Director John Boorman is visited by Sam Fuller & Lee Marvin while filming THE BIG RED ONE in Ireland.


Speaking of Lee Marvin directors making their debut, this little programmer has the distinction of being the first film directed by maverick legend Sam Fuller. Fuller’s gut punch style of filmmaking is on full display here with the underrated John Ireland as the title character. I always liked what Scorsese said of Fuller’s style: “If you don’t like Sam’s movies, you just don’t like movies.” I got to know Sam at the end of his life and agree with Scorsese’s opinion. Marvin waited decades to work with Fuller (almost did a few times) but finally did in the underrated WWII-era film, The Big Red One.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Saturday, March 20th:

The mostly male cast of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK: (L-R) Dean Jagger, Walter Sande, Lee, Walter Brennan, Russell Collins, Robert Ryan and Spencer Tracy.


Celebrate the first day of Spring this March 2021 with this classic modern western thriller. Mysterious one-armed Spencer Tracy heads an all-star cast in this taut suspense film with plenty of action thrown in along the way. It set the standard for such productions and Lee Marvin, in a minor role more than holds his own against such heavyweights as Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine and Tracy himself. I was fortunate to interview costar John Ericson and the film’s Oscar-nominated screenwriter Millard Kaufman who became a good friend of Marvin’s over the years. The tales that were told are all in the book. 

The Caine Mutiny (1954), Sunday March 21st: 

Lee Marvin (“Meatball”) and Claude Akins (“Horrible”) in Edward Dymytrk’s THE CAINE MUTINY (1954).

Marvin was fortunate enough to work with some of the most legendary male stars in cinema throughout his lengthy apprenticeship. In fact, with the possible exception of Clark Gable, he worked in support of practically all of them! The impressive list includes Tyrone Power, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, the aforementioned Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Paul Newman, John Cassavetes, Anthony Quinn, Randolph Scott and more! Here he is lending comic support to the great Humphrey Bogart in one of Bogart’s last and best performances. Bogart is the paranoid Captain Queeg of the U.S.S. Caine and few actors could portray mental illness as well as Bogie. Contrary to rumor, Marvin was not an uncredited technical advisor on the film, mainly because he had been a Marine and not a sailor, which Bogart was in real life. I interviewed the film’s director, Edward Dymytrk at the legendary Musso & Frank’s, and the anecdotes, as with others I spoke with, were put in my book. 

Stylishly filmed, this fight scene with Bogie and Tim Holt vs. Barton McLane in THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE is a classic.

The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1949), Saturday, March 27th: 

This classic is of course not a Lee Marvin film but he is on record as calling it one of his favorites, and for good reason. As he had in The Caine Mutiny, Bogart again shows his mastery in exploring a growing paranoia but this time its in the midst of a gold strike in the mountains of Mexico. Director John Huston guided his father Walter to a worthy Best Supporting Actor Oscar with Tim Holt along for the ride. Why did Marvin consider this film a favorite? The fight scene toward the beginning is the main reason. I completely agree with his reasoning and said as much in a previous blog entry. It’s considered a classic for a reason. 

So there you have it: March 2021 on TCM for Lee Marvin fans. By the way, there some other non-Lee Marvin related personal favorites being aired on TCM for March 2021 to also look out for:
Sweet Smell of Success (March 3rd); Boy Meets Girl (March 4th); Brute Force (March 5th); A Face in The Crowd (March 6th); Lust For Life & The Great Train Robbery (March 6th); Red River (March 8th); The Adventures of Robin Hood (March 9th); Fool’s Parade (March 10th); Straight Time (March 11th); Inherit the Wind (March 13th); The Quiet Man (March 17th); Ice Station Zebra (March 18th); Anatomy of A Murder (March 20th); My Favorite Year & Oliver! March 21st) Bugsy Malone (March 23rd); The Marrying Kind & Charade (March 28th); Mickey One (March 30th); The Candidate (March 31st). 

Thank the classic movie gods for TCM!

– Dwayne Epstein

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