LEE MARVIN: IN COLD BLOOD

I recently watched the 1967 classic true-crime thriller In Cold Blood on TCM and it still packs one hell of a wallop. Writer/Director Richard Brooks was at the peak of his game in his stark tale of the horrific murders of the Clutter family at the hands of ex-con drifters Perry Smith (Robert Blake) and Dick Hickox (Scott Wilson). As readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know, Marvin himself came pretty damned close to being in the film.
How close? From the IMDb: “Lee Marvin wanted the role of Alvin Dewey but director Richard Brooks gave it to John Forsythe instead. Brooks had worked with Marvin on the extremely successful, The Professionals.  but Marvin had proved to be a handful on the set.”

L-R: Veteran character actor James Flavin, Robert Blake, Gerald S. O’loughlin, John Forsythe (in the role Marvin was to play) & Scott Wilson in Richard Brooks’ true crime thriller, IN COLD BLOOD.

I’m not quite sure where the IMDb got its information from but I had interviewed stuntman Tony Epper, who had worked very closely with Brooks and Marvin on The Professionals. His version of why Marvin was not in the film was quite different. While it’s true Marvin and Brooks did not always get along, both men were well aware of each other’s  personality traits and it was Marvin, not Brooks, who did not want to work with the other. Marvin thought of Brooks as a martinet who may have been a military veteran, but having not seen actual combat, he considered Brooks a phony and a bully. Unfortunate really as it was another golden opportunity that Marvin missed in being a part of portraying the horror of violence on film as never seen before at that time.

Lee Marvin as Detective Frank Ballinger on M Squad, or, as I like to think of it, how he would have appeared in the John Forsythe role for IN COLD BLOOD.

Tony Epper: “I’ll tell you what Lee did. I came over and Lee said ‘Go get some of that good wine at the liquor store.’ It was a different label, that’s all. Other than that, after the third drink, you know. Anyway, I get a phone call. I lived down in the valley in those days. It’s Richard. I remember Tommy Shaw, who was the production manager, in those days. He was a good production manager. Anyway, Brooks wanted to get the script of In Cold Blood to Tommy. He had called Tommy and Tommy couldn’t come. I took it, because his wife had a liver problem. That’s where the money went. Anyway, I went over and that’s when Brooks was still with Jean Simmons. He and I were good friends. Nothing but good friends…Anyway, I go in the house and there’s Richard. He says, ‘I want you to do me a big favor.’ I said ‘Do you want me to kill somebody?’ (laughs) He gives me the script. Lots of seals all over it. I stopped by Lee’s with the script and the bottle he wanted. Anyway, this part was Lee’s idea. He saw the sealed script I was to deliver to Shaw, and since he knew Brooks was so paranoid about anybody reading his script, he came up with this idea. He said, ‘Let’s just break the seal before giving it to Shaw.’ I asked Lee if he wanted to read it first. We never read it, just broke the seal. Brooks, until the day he died, kept asking me if we had ever read the script to In Cold Blood. I think that’s why he changed his mind about offering the role to Lee.”

IN COLD BLOOD writer/director Richard Brooks (behind the camera) and cinematographer Conrad Hall behinds Brooks.

Share

RARE PALIMONY PIX

It had to start somewhere and for better or for worse, it started with Lee Marvin. Decades before the high profile media circuses surrounding the divorces of Paul McCartney, Tom Cruise, Woody Allen & Mia Farrow, Brad Pitt & Jennifer Aniston, even before the unsavory murder trials of O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake, there was the media frenzy of the Marvin vs. Marvin palimony suit.

The media of 1979 didn’t have the internet or 24 hour cable news to report their findings. Instead, they laid in wait outside the L.A. Courthouse (Judge Arthur K. Marshall wisely banned cameras from the courtroom) to pounce on every possible sound bite elicited by the participants. While the media at the time constantly sought and received daily interviews from Michele Triola, her lawyer Marvin Mitchelson and countless court observers ( including Gloria Allred),  Lee Marvin: Point Blank devoted an entire chapter to the trial, covering it in a way that was not done at the time of the actual proceedings (pp. 215-229).  Lee Marvin, his lawyer A. David Kagon and others refused to kowtow to the press but Kagon and others did give lengthy interviews to this author to tell the story as it had never been done before. Some of the images from that time period were all the media got from Lee Marvin and they tell an interesting story, not having been seen since 1979…..

palimony1With his ever present cigarette in the days before smoking was banned in public buildings, Lee Marvin (above) is snapped by wire service photographers on the first day of the trial in January, 1979.

 

palimony2Refusing to comment to reporters, Lee and second wife, Pam Marvin (above on the right) patiently wait outside the courtroom for the day’s proceedings to begin.

 

free leeAn enterprising court watcher handed Marvin a homemade memento of the trial and a perfect chance for a photo op.

palimony3

As the lengthy trial finally began to draw to a close, Marvin surprised the ever present media outside the courtroom with some statements for the press. Part of his statement made the perfect title for the chapter in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

 

palimony4The trial over and the verdict rendered, Marvin was caught by reporters in NY’s JFK Airport as they jockeyed for a quote. Based on the smile on the actor’s face, the often misunderstood verdict was self-explanatory.

 

 

 

 

Share