WORKS OF NON-FICTION: TOP TEN FAVORITES

WORKS OF NON-FICTION, unlike choosing favorite fiction, is a much tougher category for yours truly. Being an avid reader, I’ve chosen to read more non-fiction throughout my life than fiction, making the effort to choose a favorite as difficult as choosing a favorite offspring.

Granted, the specific realm of choice for me leans more towards works involving film and film history, rather than other subjects of non-fiction. For instance, I’ve never been much of fan of ‘true-crime’ or some other such tawdry genres but I do have an affinity for biography beyond film, such as politics and the like. But, since I made the rule for myself, I stuck (pretty much) to a singular subject, for better or for worse. Besides, even if I included other subject matter, it would be just as difficult for me. to choose or narrow down. Maybe I should have just titled this work of movie non-fiction? Nah, I like this the way it is, with some of the exceptions I included.
So, below is my list of top ten favorite works of non-fiction in no particular order of preference. See any you might agree with?

  • Dwayne Epstein

    10. LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK by Dwayne Epstein….Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

     

    9. THE SIXTIES massive trade paperback (11×15) published by Rolling Stone with various authors.

    8. PAPILLON by Henri Charriere. Yeah, my well-read copy scanned above.

    7. HOW TO TALK DIRTY AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE by Lenny Bruce.

    6. CLOSE-UPS: THE MOVIE STAR BOOK edited by Danny Peary.

    5. MCQUEEN: PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN REBEL by Marshall Terrill.

    4. MY WICKED, WICKED WAYS by Errol Flynn.

    3. DINO: LIVING HIGH IN THE DIRTY BUSINESS OF DREAMS by Nick Tosches.

    2. SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE by Abbie Hoffman.

    CAGNEY BY CAGNEY….nuff said.

     

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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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