AUTHOR ROBERT WARD, ROLLING STONE…AND ME

What do author Robert Ward, Rolling Stone Magazine and I have in common? Well, let’s go back a ways, before the internet, before smart phones, back to a time when the printed word was all hard copy and the so-called “New Journalism” still had an impact.
It’s 1981 and the week’s cover of Rolling Stone (Stevie Nicks in full ethereal thrall) gave no hint to the internal contents. I’m at a magazine rack (remember those?) perusing the issue and my eyes fall upon this image….

Inside image from Rolling Stone, 1981.

Rolling Stone’s inside image to its accompanying profile of Lee Marvin.

I immediately thought, “How Cool!” before realizing it’s actually a full article on Lee Marvin written by author Robert Ward. The article itself is terrific, one of the best interviews with the actor I’ve ever read..to this day!

Author Robert Ward's opening to his Lee Marvin article.

First page of Rolling Stone’s Lee Marvin profile by Robert Ward.

I actually buy the issue, drive over to my buddy Mike’s house and show it to him. Seeing as how he’s just as big a Lee Marvin fan as I am, I figured he’d enjoy the hell out of it, too. A few days later, when I ask him what he thought of it, the following dialog took place.
Mike: I didn’t know he lived in the Tucson desert. We could drive out there and knock on his door.
Me:  We step on his property and he’d probably punch us both in the mouth.
Mike: Yeah, but how cool would it be to honestly tell people Lee Marvin punched us in the mouth?

Okay, flash forward several decades and I’m working diligently on Lee Marvin Point Blank. Frustrated for an anecdote that would properly illustrated my book’s theme, I reread the Rolling Stone piece and it presents itself. By the way, such things are not the proverbial flashbulb over the head. More like a 2×4 to the back of the neck.
Well, I turn everything in and lo and behold, upon publication, even some folks who may not like the book comment on how much they enjoyed the opening anecdote. On a hunch I then do a Facebook search for Ward and not only find him, but he accepts my friend request. I was nervous at first since he remained good friends with Marvin after the article came out and shock of shocks, he had read my book and liked it! We exchange more pleasantries and he invited me to his home since I offer to sell him a favorite piece of Marvin memorabilia. We talk, he pulls out a copy of my book and then asks me to sign it to him.  He also offers me a copy of one of HIS books that he signs to ME. It’s a collection of his wonderful essays through the years and I could not be more honored….

Renegades

Cover of Robert Ward’s Renegades.

Robert Ward's inscription.

“For Dwayne
Fellow rider on the storm.”

The entire moment reminded me a little of a scene in Donnie Brasco. It’s the one where Johnny Depp and Al Pacino exchange Xmas gifts and it consists of each of them counting the wad of stolen money they give each other. No money of course, but Robert Ward and I signing each other’s books at the same time and then exchanging them was a similar image to me. Good guy, that Robert Ward.
Oh, and the opening anecdote used in my  book’s intro? One of my favorites. If you don’t know, then read, Lee Marvin Point Blank.
– Dwayne Epstein

P.S. Ward is also the author of the novel and screenplay of the criminally underrated Cattle Annie and Little Britches. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Poster for Robert Ward’s CATTLE ANNIE & LITTLE BRITCHES.

 

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WILD BUNCH REMAKE? DON’T FORGET LEE MARVIN!

The Wild Bunch remake has recently been announced, to be written and directed by Mel Gibson. Lots of voices are arguing over whether it should even be done but to my mind, the question is will Lee Marvin finally get the credit he so richly deserves? What credit, you may ask? Well, as I discovered in researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, he was heavily involved in the project’s creation and was set to play the William Holden role of Pike Bishop.

Lee Marvin in THE PROFESSIONALS as Henry ‘Rico” Fardan, looking a lot like….

William Holden as Pike Bishop in the original version of  THE WILD BUNCH.

I discovered this lost nugget of information thanks to the files at the Academy Library in Beverly Hills in which the notes and communications between producers Phil Feldman and Ken Hyman tells the remarkable story in detail of Lee Marvin’s involvement in Sam Peckinpah’s renowned classic.
For Marvin’s part, he told his version to Grover Lewis in a 1972 Rolling Stone interview: “Good ol’ lovable Sam. …He approached me about doin’ The Wild Bunch. Shit, I’d helped write the original goddamn script, which Sam eventually bought and rewrote. Well, I mean I didn’t do any of the actual writing, but I talked it out with these guys who were writin’ it, Walon Green and Roy Sickner. Sam said, ‘Jeez, aren’t you even interested?’ I told him I’d already done The Professionals and what did I need The Wild Bunch for? And when the picture came out I didn’t think it really succeeded. It didn’t have the — I mean, it had all the action and all the blood and all that shit, but it didn’ have the ultimate kavoom, you know? It didn’t have the one-eye slowly opening it should’ve had.”
What Marvin failed to mention was the real reason he turned it down and why he made Paint Your Wagon, instead. Career-long agent Meyer Mishkin revealed that to me, which of course, is in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank.
As to The Wild Bunch remake? I reserve judgement on Gibson’s version until I see it. Bad enough he ripped off Marvin’s Point Blank with his bizarre remake Payback. Hopefully, with The Wild Bunch remake, he’ll give the devil — in this case Lee Marvin — his due.

(L-R) Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode in a p.r. still from THE PROFESSIONALS (1966).

(L-R) Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden and Ernest Borgnine in the climatic scene in THE WILD BUNCH (1969).

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MARVIN? QUINN? CASSAVETES? ALMOST!

Of the films Lee Marvin almost made, one of the standouts is a project in which he would have costarred with Anthony Quinn and been directed by….John Cassavetes! Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank have commented to this author on how much they enjoyed the appendix in which films the actor almost made are listed but some have questioned the veracity among the titles. I can assure one and all they are indeed documented as the Marvin-Quinn-Cassavetes project is proof of below.
Actually, Marvin and Quinn had worked together briefly in the early 50s western Seminole (1953) with Marvin in little more than a glorified cameo. However, on the face of it, Marvin and Quinn may seem an unlikely pairing based on their different cinematic appeal. Quinn was ethnic and earthy, while Marvin came off more weather-beaten and militaristic.
Their screen differences aside, Marvin was actually cast in a role meant for the Mexican-Irish actor. According to novelist, JPS Brown, author of the autobiographical novel Jim Kane which was the basis for Pocket Money (1972), Marvin’s character of Leonard, opposite Paul Newman, told me that Leonard was based on Brown’s Mexican business partner:

Lee Marvin as Leonard in Pocket Money, originally meant to be played by Anthony Quinn.

“His name was Andres Canye. He’s the character they tried to base Lee Marvin’s character on. They called him Leonard. I called him ‘The Lion’ in Jim Kane. So they got Leonard from that. A lot of imagination there, don’t you think? There’s only one Gato Canyes [‘Big Cat’] in the world….A man that knew the name of every plant, every weed, every grass, every rock. He knew the medicinal capabilities of everything on the range. He knew the mountains…he lived there in those mountains on horseback. He was a real man. In Pocket Money, here’s the two big gringos on great big stout horses. ….Gatos Canyes was just a great, big, course-looking Anthony Quinn. Really. And Anthony Quinn really liked the book.”
It was actor/director John Cassavetes who thought Quinn and Marvin might work well together. Marvin and Cassavetes had of course, worked together in The Killers (1964), and a few years later in The Dirty Dozen (1967). In discussing his career on the set of Emperor of the North (1973) for Rolling Stone’s Grover Lewis, Marvin opined: “Remember Cassavetes in The Dirty Dozen? Jeez, he was sensational in that. Then you go see Husbands and you have to say ‘What are you tawkin’ about Jawn?’ I mean, he’s a bizarre little guy. Very juicy. John’s a violent little Greek, is what he is.”

Actor/director John Cassavetes around the time he considered pairing Marvin and Quinn.

Grover Lewis also interviewed Cassavetes the same year who at the time mentioned teaming himself with Marvin and George C. Scott. He said at the time, “Maybe it’ll happen. Who knows? The thing about acting is…Well, I like to do it.”

Over a decade later,  when asked about Cassavetes in a 1986 Orange County Register interview, Lee Marvin said:

Renaissance man Anthony Quinn in The Secret of Santa Vittoria, or as he may have looked barhopping the Midwest with Lee Marvin.

“A wild greek. He wanted to get Tony Quinn and me to travel around the country, stop in all these honky-tonk bars, then he’d write a story based on all that and we’d go shoot it. I said, ‘No, John. Please. Oh, Jesus please, no. I don’t wanna die in some barroom brawl in the Midwest.'”

One can certainly understand Marvin’s feelings but it still leaves one wondering. As the old verse goes:
“Of all the words of tongue or pen,
the saddest of these:
‘What might have been.'”

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