JAMES DEAN IS BACK! COULD LEE MARVIN BE NEXT?

James Dean, the cult actor who died over 60 years ago, is back thanks to the auspices of CGI. At least that’s the case according to recent articles in both Variety.com and The Hollywood Reporter. I first heard about this on the local news radio station, KNX-FM, news radio.

It isn’t widely remembered but James Dean made more than the celebrated 3 films he’s know for. Pictured here is his film debut, 1951’s Korean War film FIXED BAYONETS, written & directed by none other than Lee Marvin’s good buddy, Sam Fuller.

Another early Dean film appearance was the Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis comedy, SAILOR BEWARE! in which Dean (far left) played the second to the boxer Jerry was supposed to fight.

This comment from the Hollywood Reporter article by Dean’s estate agent is what gave me pause: “This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us,” said Mark Roesler, CEO of CMG Worldwide, which represents Dean’s family alongside more than 1,700 entertainment, sports, music and historical personalities, including the likes of Burt Reynolds, Christopher Reeve, Ingrid Bergman, Neil Armstrong, Bette Davis and Jack Lemmon.”
Apparently there has also been major back lash from such fans as varied as Chris Evans and Elijah Wood. The producers remain unfazed and are moving ahead with the planned project. Can you see why, as a classic movie fan, such an idea gave me pause?
Here’s the thing. When I first decided to research and write Lee Marvin Point Blank, my friend and fellow biographer Marshall Terrill suggested I create an appendix of films Marvin almost made but didn’t, as he did for his Steve McQueen biography. I took his advice and then decided to go one step further. I created an appendix of films made since Marvin’s passing that the actor could have made if he was still with us. It never occurred to me that another appendix could be included: Lee Marvin coming back in films that have not even been made yet! The mind reels.
Oh, and those appendices I mentioned? They can only be found in….

Cover of LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK.

– Dwayne Epstein

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RON SOBLE, LEE MARVIN & THE UNUSED ANECDOTE

Ron Soble, a veteran character actor of the 1950s and 60s, was one of the few people who worked with Lee Marvin who refused to go on the record for Lee Marvin Point Blank. A shame, really, as the brief story he told me was a good one.
I met Ron Soble back in the 1990’s at the Beverly Garland Hotel’s Hollywood Collector’s show where I would collect wonderful quotes and interviews en masse from those who worked with Marvin. When I asked Soble if he had ever worked with Marvin, he told me about the episode of The Virginian they were in together.

Lee Marvin in the “It Tolls For Thee” episode of The Virginian directed by Sam Fuller.

I was familiar with the episode but had not seen it at that point. Turns out that it, and another episode with Charles Bronson, were sloppily edited together to cash in on their late life fame and released theatrically as an embarrassing mess called, The Meanest Men in the West.
Soble gave me some background on the episode with Marvin and then told me what I considered to be a hilarious anecdote about the off-camera doings of this particular episode.

Network caption to previous photo explaining to newspapers the episode plot.

I should explain, Soble was a pretty trippy guy, kind of like the way Jack Palance was a pretty trippy guy. I remembered him best as the creepy gambler who challenged Steve McQueen in the beginning of The Cincinnati Kid and wound up with a rusty razor to his jugular. Trekkies may remember him from an episode on the original Star Trek series where he played Wyatt Earp. The clenched teeth way he spoke in his scenes was indeed the way he spoke in life. Strange man.

Ron Soble as part of Lee Marvin’s gang in The Virginian.

The story he told me had to do with a between-camera-set-ups moment he overheard between Lee Marvin and Lee J. Cobb. According to Soble, the cast was sitting around waiting to be called to the set as Lee Marvin did what he often did between takes, needle his co-stars. This time his target was Cobb, a legendary actor who originated the role of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The fact that the acting legend was now a regular on a TV western was the point of Marvin’s needle.

(L-R) Lee J. Cobb as Judge Garth & Lee Marvin as Kalig in The Virginian.

A voice was suddenly heard stating, “Lee! You’re wanted on the set.” Cobb rose to the call until Marvin asked him, “How do you know they’re calling you?” With sharp comic timing, Cobb responded, “Because I’m the Lee with the talent.”
Great little anecdote, right? Well I laughed until Soble said I couldn’t use it. When I asked why he just shrugged his shoulders. I persisted but he never changed his mind. I assumed he thought it would hurt somebody’s feeling but he never relented.
Well, I recently saw on the ‘net that Soble passed away back in 2002. His permission no longer needed, you’re now reading the anecdote here. Not much, I know,  but I would’ve put in the book if he let me. There are a few other tidbits I’ll write about in due time here but until then, there’s always Lee Marvin Point Blank and what IS in the book is just as good, if not better than what is not. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein

The one with the talent?

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LEE MARVIN’S LUMP-IN-THE-THROAT MOMENTS, PART 1

A recent thread on Facebook gave me the idea for this blog entry concerning ‘lump-in-the-throat’ moments. Due to the kind of films Lee Marvin made, that kind of emotional impact on audiences were not always readily apparent. However, in researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, it did indeed become apparent when having to happily watch and/or rewatch all of his performances. He actually had several such lump-in-the-throat moments in his career and to my mind, there are a couple on both film and television, even within the realm of such genres as war film and westerns. Go figure. First up, on screen….

The look in Jeanne Moreau’s eyes as she gazes into Lee Marvin’s speaks volumes in this scene from Monte Walsh.

Although he was disappointed with the way the studio tampered with director William Fraker’s final cut, Marvin has said that the elegiac western Monte Walsh remains one of his favorite films. Probably because the film’s poignant message of an aging cowboy with nowhere to go still packs a punch. The message is quietly stated by costar Jack Palance, who tells Marvin, “Nobody gets to be a cowboy forever, Monte.”
A personal relationship with costar Jeanne Moreau may be another reason the film resonated for Marvin. In one scene in particular, without giving away the ending, he had never been more touching. He simply absorbs the moment and allows us to feel what he is feeling and it works every time. The film then quickly shifts moods into a thrilling climax involving Mitch Ryan but again, no spoilers here. See it for yourself and you be the judge.

The poignant climax to The Big Red One with Lee Marvin as the unnamed sergeant and a frail, young concentration camp survivor.

Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One, an epic and episodic WWII memoir remains one of Lee Marvin’s best performances and for my money, should really have been his cinematic swan song. He’s a wizened, old war horse throughout the film but a powerful and amazing climax involving a liberated concentration camp culminates with the most impressive, stoic performance that Marvin has ever given. Once again, no spoilers. Simply see it for yourself and make your own judgment. I dare you not to be moved by it.
– Dwayne Epstein

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