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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IN HONOR OF VALENTINE’S DAY, LEE MARVIN STYLE

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I was rather stumped for a blog idea that would be appropriate for the occassion. At first, I though of simply uploading the image below. No, it’s not from the set of The Untouchables, although Lee did appear on it frequently enough. Actually, it’s a rare picture of Lee and first wife, Betty Marvin at a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Party in the 50s courtesy of Betty Marvin

Betty Marvin (left) with husband Lee (bottom right) dressed approriately for a St. Valentine's Day Massacre Party.

Betty Marvin (left) with husband Lee (bottom right) dressed approriately for a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Party.

herself.. Cool, huh?

Howevever, even better than the image is a completely different blog entry that was posted in Vanity Fair online shortly after Lee Marvin: Point Blank was released. Writer James Wolcott takes an interesting look at the subject that may seem far afield, but nails it nontheless. What do you think?

“FEBRUARY 14, 2013 3:15 PM

“Wash his face. He’s fine.”
BY JAMES WOLCOTT
It being Valentine’s Day, I can think of no more romantic way to waste the day (before I get to work) than by dipping in and out of a tender, caring, just-published biography of America’s former sweetheart, Lee Marvin. In Lee Marvin: Point Blank, written by Dwayne Epstein, the action star who terrorized the West with a bullwhip in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, taught a squad of murderers and borderline psychos how to love again in The Dirty Dozen, and let Angie Dickinson use him as a punching bag for her furious little fists in the movie that gives this bio its subtitle weaves through the pages like the big rangy scary cat he was.

I’d often wondered why Marvin and director Sam Peckinpah never worked together in movies. Such simiarities. Both tough ex-Marines, both heavy intakers of alcoholic content, both volatile, both white-haired with a silvery patina to their appearance. Maybe it was because their experience shooting a TV’s Route 66 killed off any chance of bromance:

…Frustrated with his career, at odds with director Sam Peckinpah, and hating the dreary Pittsburgh location, the actor drank too much during work hours and paid the price. “What I remember most was his eyes,” recalled co-star Bert Remsen [who would go on to become a member of Robert Altman’s rep company, appearing in California Split, Thieves Like Us, Nashville, et al]. “He’d come in from the night before with his eyes all red and that strange walk he had, and say with that voice, ‘Hiya baby! You going out drinking with me tonight?'” I’d say, ‘No way! I gotta work the next day.’ He could do it though. He’d come in all disheveled and go throw up in the corner. Sam would say, ‘Wash is face. He’s fine.’ He’d do the scene and never miss a line…”

It’s never good to work woozy, however, and during this episode there was a fight scene with Martin Milner where one of the actors zigged when he should have zagged and the result was a punch that split Marvin’s nose wide open, the resulting damage putting his career in jeopardy. He was fortunate, notes Epstein, that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was shot in black and white, masking the discoloration.

The pages devoted to Donovan’s Reef, the “rollicking comedy” (an extinct genre) that reunited Ford, the Duke, and Marvin, confirm the impression that I acquired at an early age that Donovan’s Reef is one of the booze-bathed movies of all time, a sot’s vision of tropical paradise. “For tax reasons [Ford] had to sell his beloved yacht, The Araner, so he decided to use it in the movie before selling it off, and figured he could have a good time drinking on board during the film.” This is the sort of consideration that seldom comes up in film-studies courses. As it turned out, Ford wasn’t allowed to drink for health reasons, so he “had to referee” while Wayne and Marvin went watery-eyed.

I once heard someone compare Donovan’s Reef to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but that person might have been drinking too.”

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IN HONOR OF SAM PECKINPAH’S 90TH BIRTHDAY

Sam Peckinpah would’ve been 90-years-old last month. A recent conversation with writer Jeb Rosebrook (Junior Bonner) reminded me of the fact and the conversation got me to thinking yet again how interesting it would have been had Lee Marvin & Peckinpah ever made a film together. They came close several times — most notably The Wild Bunch — but unfortunately, it was never to come to pass. They did however work together several times on episodic televison. Peckinpah directed Marvin on “Route 66” and the anthology show “The Dick Powell Theatre.”

Lee Marvin as Dave Blassingame (top), Adam Lazzare as Blind Johnny (left) and Keenan Wynn as Burgundy Smith (right) in The Dick Powell Theatre production of The Losers (1963) directed by Sam Peckinpah.

Lee Marvin as Dave Blassingame (top), Adam Lazzare as Blind Johnny (left) and Keenan Wynn as Burgundy Smith (right) in The Dick Powell Theatre production of The Losers (1963) directed by Sam Peckinpah.

Both shows were written about in Lee Marvin: Point Blank but some rather bizarre anecdotes did not quite make it into the final draft. The information I obtained was from Peckinpah biographer, David Weddle. What did not go in to book can be found below. Enjoy and Happy birthday Sam!

David Weddle, author of the 1994 Sam Peckinpah biography, "If They Move, Kill'em!"

David Weddle, author of the 1994 Sam Peckinpah biography, “If They Move, Kill’em!”

Weddle: When Sam was working out at Warner Brothers during The Wild Bunch & Cable Hogue, they [Marvin & Peckinpah] would meet over at these bars. I forgot the names of them but all these bars, like the Mexican restaurant by Warners, a lot of stuntmen used to congregate there….. So Sam would go in and tear up and he Lee Marvin would get together there a lot. This one lawyer, who used to work for Sam when Sam was having a lawsuit against Warner Brothers, would show up there. He had to get Sam to sign papers pertaining to the lawsuit. Sam would say, ‘Meet me at so-and-so…’ Anyway, he’d be sitting there like, ‘Sam I need you to sign. Here are the papers.’ He’d be with Marvin and scream at him, ‘You son-of-a-bitch! You don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Marvin would say, ‘Fuck you, Peckinpah!’ Then the lawyer would say something and Peckinpah would go, ‘Yeah just a minute.’ [Yelling to Marvin], ‘And another thing…!’ I think they came to blows a couple of times, or shook each other. They never seriously hurt each other.
D: After Peckinpah’s death and about a year before his own, Marvin was quoted as saying something interesting about Sam: “The problem with Sam and I was I had Sam’s number and he had mine and that’s a dangerous thing because he’s a little guy.”
W: There was that other line that Peckinpah is quoted a couple of times. He was drinking with Marvin one time and said, ‘God, I hate actors.’ Marvin smiled and said, ‘Every actor does, Sam.’
D: Marvin may felt cheated out of The Wild Bunch but I’ve read where Peckinpah put on a big act of being chetaed of Emperor of the North
W: Yeah, I talked to [producer] Ken Hyman about that. They had been waiting and waiting for Sam. I heard other stories but his is probably true because Ken Hyman is a pretty honorable guy. Sam decided to go off and do The Getaway because they offered him a great deal, a better deal. He kept telling Hyman, ‘Just wait, I’ll do yours next.’ He had promised to do it next, instead, he took The Getaway. So, Hyman just decided, ‘Forget it. I’m going with somebody else [Robert Aldrich]. I’m not waiting.’ Then Sam turned around, as Sam often did and said, ‘Ah, you stabbed me in the back.’

The late Sam Peckinpah, who would've been 90 years old last month.

The late Sam Peckinpah, who would’ve been 90 years old last month.

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