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:
“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.”
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:
“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.'”