FINDING THE RIGHT AUTHOR PHOTO FOR DWAYNE EPSTEIN

You would think using a photo of myself, Dwayne Epstein, for the cover of Lee Marvin Point Blank would be a rather simple matter. Not so when the situation was complicated by several factors. Topping the list was not liking how I look in photographs. In fact, there are damn few photos of myself that I like. There are a handful of exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between. One exception was a photo of me taken in New Jersey back in the late 80s.

Author Dwayne Epstein in New Jersey, circa 1989.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to use that photo but publisher Tim Schaffner balked at the idea, stating that it was too old and I no longer looked like that. He was right of course. So, I thought about this possibility, taken a few a years later when I moved back to California. Problem was that I no longer had the beard and…I no longer looked liked. Cool posters, though, huh? Unlike the beard, I still have them.

 

 

 

Long Beach, Calif, circa 1991

 

 

 

 
Then there was the idea of this photo, in which I posed with Robert Marvin in front of the Marvin family home in 1994. Problem was….that’s right, you guessed it. I no longer looked like that. Sensing a trend, here?

 

 

Robert Marvin and author Dwayne Epstein in front of the Marvin home in Woodstock, NY, in the mid-90s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personally, I didn’t understand why this was becoming so difficult. It had not dawned on me at the time that my publisher was trying to politely spare my feelings. It reminded me a lot of that scene in The Professionals with Ralph Bellamy and Lee Marvin. You know the one. Early in the film, Bellamy’s character of J.W. Grant points to a newspaper clipping on the wall that includes an image of Marvin during the Mexican Revolution. He tells Marvin’s character, Henry ‘Rico’ Fardan, “Your hair was darker, then.” Silver-haired Marvin responds, “My heart was lighter, then.”

 

 

 

Ralph Bellamy and Lee Marvin in ‘that’ scene from THE PROFESSIONALS.

It had gotten so bad between the publisher and myself that he hired a professional photographer to take a more recent picture. The ones the publisher liked I detested and vice versa. I suggested that my girlfriend Barbara take the shot. End result? His choice was used for the hardcover and my choice, by Barbara, was used for the paperback. Want to know what they look like? Ha! Buy the book(s).

 

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DRINKING WITH LEE MARVIN

Some of the many comments I’ve receive from folks who have read Lee Marvin Point Blank concerns his drinking. There are some who understandably enjoyed his more humorous exploits during those less informed and politically incorrect times. Others have said it changed their opinion of the actor and not for the better. For myself, in doing the research for the book, so many of those stories not only took a much darker tone, I also discovered how distasteful dealing with these incidents had become. After a while, it became downright morbid and forced me to make a conscious decision about it. Instead of constantly ticking off such events in the man’s life, I chose to only include particular stories or events that shed some light on the man’s character. In doing so, I think the result was more enlightening, but of course, there were still some readers who felt shorted, or worse, still thought I over-emphasized the problem simply by the inclusion. Just goes to show, you can’t please everybody.
With that in mind, I found a few images from my research of Lee imbibing that did not make the book but is  included here…or what’s a blogosphere for?

A 15-year-old Lee Marvin (far left) and friends at New York's 1939 World's Fair.

A 15-year-old Lee Marvin (far left) and friends at New York’s 1939 World’s Fair.

The first photo, which to my knowledge has not been previously published, shows a barely in his teens Lee Marvin with some friends enjoying beer and cigarettes at the NY World’s Fair. Since the fair ran from April of 1939 to October 1940, one can only assume Marvin & company went during the summer when school was out. Of course, with Marvin’s academic history, drinking beer and smoking would be a minor consideration for him if he had already ditched class for the day.

Some time in the late 50s, Lee Marvin holds court behind his home bar while wife Betty holds her gaze on her husband's intake.

Some time in the late 50s in their Uplifters Ranch home, Lee Marvin holds court behind his bar while wife Betty (far right) holds her gaze on her husband’s intake.

When Lee and Betty Marvin married and eventually bought a house for their growing family, it was in an area of Santa Monica known as “The Uplifter’s Ranch,” whose history was as colorful as its name. Established in 1913 by several wealthy (and well known) gentlemen, according to Betty Marvin: “The old Uplifters Ranch, it was in the early days, remember the producer Sam Briskin? That era. He had our house. It was a men’s club, a private club for people in the business. They were log cabins and before Will Rogers had polo fields, there were pole fields down below. The men would all go there without their wives and they would play polo and they would drink and play bridge and go crazy. It was a wild club. They had a big pool and stuff. Anyway, Sam Briskin’s wife, and the women found a way to get in. They put up curtains and such…When I found this house it was a mess. Berle, her name was, Johnny Weismuller’s wife, they had all those boys and the place was filthy, chewing gum on the walls. But the bones of the house was great. The architecture was wonderful. When we went there, there was still potholes in the road. It was a private road even though out of spite one of the last widows gave the property to the city so it became a city park. Nobody knew it because there was only one entrance and exit. It was a city park but we still the owned the road in front and half the road in back. No one used it except the kids of the neighborhood and the bus stopped across the street to the little old schoolhouse down the hill….An acre of land with these big old oak trees and avocado trees. It was wonderful. It was so right for us…” And so, The Uplifters Ranch. Not that he needed one but the history proved a perfect place for Lee to imbibe, under his wife’s watchful eye.

Late 1960s: Lee (seated), his father Monte (center) and brother Robert (right) settle an argument in Marvin Woodstock home.

Late 1960s: Lee (seated), his father Monte (center) and brother Robert (right) settle an argument in Marvin Woodstock home.

A little later in life, Lee visited his family in Woodstock for the holidays and is pictured with his brother and father in the 1960s (judging by the actor’s hair), as they peruse an atlas to settle a disagreement. Also, you don’t often see Lee Marvin wearing reading glasses. So, why is this picture included? If you examine the photo a little closer, you might notice the glass on the edge of the end table. It is doubtful the clear liquid is water, probably closer to gin or vodka. It certainly would be the case, if only having to deal with the pajamas that inebriated Robert is wearing.

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IN HONOR OF ROBERT D. MARVIN’S BIRTHDAY

Robert D. Marvin, Lee Marvin’s older brother, would have been  94-years-old on July 18th. In honor of his birthday, I’ve chosen to post some exclusive unpublished comments and photos from our time together working on Lee Marvin Point Blank. No lengthy or laudatory intro. Just the late, great Robert D. Marvin at his uncensored best. Enjoy!

(L-R) Teenage Lee, mother Courtenay and brother Robert, on the beach in Florida, photographed by father Monte in the 1930s.

(L-R) Teenage Lee, mother Courtenay and brother Robert, on the beach in Florida, photographed by father Monte in the 1930s.

Dwayne: Has anybody ever interviewed you in the past about your brother?
Robert: Yes, but nothing came of it.
D: Then this is actually the first time you’ve publicly spoken about him?
R: Besides which, around here [Woodstock] some people know I’m his brother, some don’t. Nobody seems to give a damn, anyhow. It doesn’t make much smoke. What are you going to do with it? I became a school teacher. When I was, my brother was fairly popular, and all the kids would ask me about The Dirty Dozen, and so forth. Once in a while I’d give them a little baloney (laughs).
D: Where did you teach?
R: I was in the south Bronx, mostly in “Fort Apache.” It was bad, but it’s a part of this world, this country, that’s getting more and more publicity all the time. Most of my students were more or less normal.
D: Were they grade school?
R: Tough Age… Well it is but I taught art, so…I didn’t have a tight curriculum, know what I’m saying? So they didn’t have to pass regents and all that sort. So if they didn’t do very well I could give them 65 or something, and let them slide.
D: I read somewhere that towards the end of his life your brother had done some oil painting as well.
R: I never…I went out to see him, let’s see, he wrote a will in ’85….by the way, give him a good mark. He left me a small pension, He says in his will for my education and improvement only. (I laugh). …It means I have something to keep me secure.

(L-R) A bearded Robert and smiling Joan welcome visiting brother Lee to the Woodstock home.

(L-R) A bearded Robert and smiling Joan welcome visiting brother Lee to the Woodstock home.

 

 

Robert (right) returns the favor by visiting his brother Lee (left) in Tucson, as seen here on the tennis court.

Robert (right) returns the favor by visiting his brother Lee (left) in Tucson, as seen here on the tennis court.

 

 

He wrote what they called a testamentary trust. I don’t get the principal, but I get the interest. Yes, so that was a break.
D: Yeah, that was nice. What was your general overall opinion of him?
R: I kind of wonder about him (laughs).
D: In what sense?
R: On the other hand, he could handle himself. There’s a lot of things…because there’s a long period of absence you know, you lose track of where the main line is somehow. But if there was a fight I would try to defend him (laughs).
D: Okay so you were an art teacher. Had you pursued being and artist on your own?
R: I work on some pictures, but I’ll tell you, most of them are pretty trashy. One thing I do, sometimes I do some research. I was down in Brooklyn taking photos of the Williamsburg Bridge. That’s some view there. I included it in some paintings. One of these days, I’ve been goofing off something awful. So, I peck away at it.

(L-R) Monte Marvin, new bride Ruth Marvin, pictured with newlyweds Robert & Joan Marvin.

(L-R) Monte Marvin, his new bride Ruth Marvin, pictured with newlyweds Robert & Joan Marvin.

D: What did your parents think of you becoming an artist or art teacher? R: Well, I wanted to be an artist. I figured the second best thing was being and art teacher.
D: You like putting yourself down. You say “it wasn’t that hard work”…”I gave kids an easy grade”. I don’t agree with that, by the way. I think it’s harder to teach art than it is anything else…
R: On the other hand, your big out is that it’s a minor subject. It doesn’t…You might give them and average now and then but you certainly can’t hold them back on it.
D: You were teaching art to kids who don’t necessarily care about art.

A very rare photo capturing Robert teaching his art class in "The Fort Apache" district of the Bronx.

A very rare photo capturing Robert teaching his art class in “The Fort Apache” district of the Bronx.

R: I’ll tell you what I did. The best system usually is like you see it on TV. The guy says “All right ladies and gentleman. We have a canvas and we’re going to paint a pond and a woodland. We’ll start by making a line.” Ain’t that right? Ain’t that how they teach you? The same way in the school. It works to perfection. “You put a dot here, dot there, now take a ruler and draw..” The same way. It’s like a recipe. You ask them to do something creative and go “Yech”. Unless it’s love and peace. That sign the girls will make forever. You can imagine, living in some of these neighborhoods love and peace was a very important ideal.

Although he preferred locomotives& bridges as his subject, above is Robert's own charcoal portrait of himself. The book he's holding cleverly reads, "A Portrait of Robert D Marvin By Himself."

Although he preferred locomotives& bridges as his subject, above is Robert’s own charcoal portrait of himself. The book he’s holding cleverly reads, “A Portrait of Robert D Marvin By Himself.”

D: Did you have any run-ins? You were in “Fort Apache.”
R: It varies from school to school. Some schools are very tightly run. Others are loose. I prefer an in-between myself because…
D: You didn’t stay in the same school?
R: I stayed at one school about ten years.
D: Which school was that?
R: That’s right near the police station, right around the corner about two blocks. I got to tell you, this is cute. I said, “All right!” You know how they are, this was in seventh grade. “I’m going to take the children and introduce them to the police force so we can improve the community relationship”. These bunch of kids are all nice kids. Well, not all of them. Pain in the ass, some of them, but there are a lot of nice ones, too.” Fort Apache” looks like a battleship. A great big concrete thing and they had a desk that was chin high. Most of them are kind of informal. You can sit right down and have a nice…
D: The sergeant’s desk, yeah.
R: Right. So I looked around and I could see everything had wrapping paper all over the walls. I said, “What’s that for?” He said, “Well we had a lot of photographs. We don’t want to embarrass any of the children.” I laughed. That was pretty considerate. So I sit down. There was a lieutenant, a sergeant, and two other men sitting at the desk. I says, “Excuse me sergeant. Would you mind telling me how many arrests you made so far this year?” Now remember this is September. He says, “Well now, let me see.” You know how they fuck around with it. He says, “We have done over 6,060 arrests. For every arrest we make there’s at least 10 reported crimes.” This is in one precinct! Think about that. [and this was] like 1970.

Robert Marvin's final resting place near his parents' grave in The Artist's Colony Cemetary in Woodstock, New York.

Robert Marvin’s final resting place near his parents’ grave in The Artist’s Colony Cemetary in Woodstock, New York.

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