ADVENTURES IN AUTHORING: ANSWERING NEGATIVE CRITICISM

A while back I was having dinner with my publisher, Tim Schaffner, when the subject of negative criticism of Lee Marvin Point Blank came up.
Don’t get me wrong, the overwhelming majority of reviews of the book have been largely positive and for that I am eternally grateful.

Paperback back cover of LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK (designed by Jake Kiehle) highlighting some of the reviews.

However, the handful of negative criticism still stick in one’s craw. I can chuckle at it now but at the time, you can’t imagine how frustrating it is to be pummeled over something the critic claims authority over, yet in reality, knows nothing about….and then blames me!
What had bothered Tim was a review that not only raked the book over the coals, but also tore into what the reviewer thought was the awful editing of the book. Why did that bother Tim so much? He just happened to have been the editor! I told him I had read some other negatives too, but he emphasized to me in no uncertain terms that no matter how tempting it is: DO NOT RESPOND IN KIND. His point being that iit gives them a platform, brings you down to their level, and might even effect sales negatively in the long run if the review is believed.
He was right of course, but seeing as how this is my blog, to help support and supplement my book, run for cover if you are so inclined as I’m-a gonna fire back, once and for all. As James Dean said to Rock Hudson in Giant: “And there ain’t a dang thing you can do about it!”
Okay, Since I had told Tim I wouldn’t respond in kind, and to keep myself as honest as possible, I’ll just focus on two such reviews and I won’t be citing the source of the criticism. I’ll merely quote the inane comment anonymously and then show how frustratingly wrong they can be. Ready? I’ll start with the one that pissed off Tim so much. Here goes….

… Dwayne Epstein’s Lee Marvin: Point Blank isn’t anything close to definitive. A sloppily edited assemblage of interviews, it’s first-draft oral history in which readers with considerable patience can find Epstein issues several medical diagnoses derived from his own conclusions….Marvin fans who can get through all the throat-clearing tedium will find similar quotable bits in these underedited pages.

Heh, heh. Can you see why Tim, the book, editor got so pissed? No proof to back up their claim, no alternative response, not even an example of my ‘throat-clearing tedium,’ other than one sentence in which the quote is taken completely out of context. I hope the idiotic reviewer got paid well for his online rant because he may have kept a lot of well-meaning movie geeks from reading my book and discovering Lee Marvin for themselves. Sadly, it’s their loss.
And now, my personal favorite. There’s the one from a respected and long-in-the-tooth film journal that went to town on my facts. Strange scenario involved as well because the reviewer sent me the review and apologized as it was a last minute assignment for him, thus hinting that he may not have read the whole thing. Like a bonehead, I thanked him for his effort without reading the review first. Still kicking myself over that one. Here’s part of what bugged me….

Epstein does tell of Marvin—during the filming of Samuel Fuller’s The Big Red One (1980), his last great role—taking the stage at a Roman-built amphitheater in Israel to recite a soliloquy from King Lear. That event is as surprising to the reader as it must have been to Marvin’s costars, as there’s no other mention in the book of Marvin having an affinity or aptitude for William Shakespeare or classical drama.

Hmm, do you think he may have missed the section in which Lee studied the classics at the American Theatre Wing (ATW)? Possibly. Then again, he probably also missed this image in the photo section (laid out by graphic artist Jake Kiehle), as well…..

Lee Marvin in LM:PB’s photo section shown in Shakespearean garb while attending the ATW.

I swear to you folks, try as you might, you just can’t make these things up!
Okay, enough ranting. Don’t go by my word as to the book’s value. Certainly don’t go by the word of an online movie geek or pompous film journalist, either. By all means, judge for yourself. Read the book. Find out about Lee Marvin. Rent or download some of his films. Then, do something revolutionary these days: make up your OWN mind.
– Dwayne Epstein

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5 WAYS TO CELEBRATE LEE MARVIN’S HEAVENLY BIRTHDAY

Sunday, February 19th, marks the 93rd birthday of Lee Marvin. Granted, it is what’s often described as a heavenly birthday as he passed in 1987. However, even though it’s only in spirit, there are some ways to pay tribute to his heavenly birthday. By the way, all photos shown herein is a just a small sample of the images in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

John Wayne: You shoot pretty good drunk.
Lee Marvin: Better drunk than sober.
-The Comancheros

 

 

  1. Get Drunk And Bring Out The Heavy Firearms: According to several sources, such as his first wife, Betty, as well as Keenan Wynn’s son, Ned, Lee did that on more than one occasion.The amazing thing is no one ever got hurt in the process. Sort of like the lines of dialogue between Marvin’s Tully Crowe and John Wayne’s Jake Cutter in The Comancheros. Matter of fact, if guns weren’t available, he’d resort to pantomime. Safer than heavy firepower but not nearly as much fun for him. Sure, the guns in the hands of a drunken ex-Marine might be scary but hey, would you expect anything less from Lee Marvin?

On the left, Marvin in costume as British Marine ‘Hallam’ in the Broadway production of Billy Budd. On the right, in Shakespearean garb while studying at the American Theater Wing.

2. Get Drunk & Wear Period Clothing: Marvin did it for pay in his sole Broadway appearance in Billy Budd. However, bet you didn’t know he was also well-versed in the Bard, did you? The training he received after the war at the American Theatre Wing included fencing, movement, and yes, Shakespeare, which he could quote verbatim. He did so even later in his career, impressing everyone during an improvised dramatic moment on location for The Big Red One. I don’t know if he was sober when the picture in Elizabethean togs was taken but he certainly looks like he’s enjoying himself. By the way, the story concerning his fencing class is a personal favorite.

Lee Marvin ‘s Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou included this hard-to-get famous sight gag,.

3. Get drunk & Go to Work: Marvin’s professionalism was as legendary as his drinking exploits. However, tales of his drinking on the job were mostly exaggerated. There were occasions when work and drink did converge (The Killers, Sgt. Ryker, The Professionals) as covered in the book. The specific scenes are covered in the book so you can see exactly where in the given performance it occurred. His Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou had one such instance, according to director Elliot Silverstein but the famous sight gag seen here was not one of them. Got to read the book to find out, which also details how they got the horse to  ‘inebriated,’ as well.

A Jeep full of drunk Marines just before shipping out overseas, with Lee top center.

4. Get Drunk & Re-enlist:
According to director, John Boorman, Lee had done exactly that on a at least one occasion while they were making Point Blank. It certainly wasn’t a new phenomena as he admitted to doing it even shortly after the war ended. Not something to be advised for everyone, as Lee was politely turned down each time due to his disability status. Doubtful other drunk ex-Marines may be as lucky.

Lee battles SEINFELD’S Uncle Leo in Shack Out on !01.

5. Get Drunk & Start a Fight: Lee Marvin’s barroom exploits became so famous they actually earned titles like “The Robin Hood Party,” 6-foot tall Black Helen, “The Vibrator Salute,” and “The Battered Banjo player Lawsuit.” Several of theses debauches were more  legend than fact in terms of Marvin’s involvement, such as my personal favorite: The English pub that had the bad luck of being Marvin’s choice of celebratory indulgence for his birthday while filming The Dirty Dozen. Why is it a favorite? As retold by Bob Phillips, if it wasn’d for the 6-foot barmaid dubbed “Black Helen,” it’s doubtful Marvin would have gotten out alive!

Maybe it’s best to just get sober, take the pledge and buy the hardcover of Lee Marvin Point Blank. It’s also available as a Kindle and paperback with extra material. Of course, if you prefer a paperback signed by the author directly to you, there’s always Ebay. It may not be as adventurous but it’s certainly a lot safer. Besides, you can do the other five vicariously through him when reading his exploits.

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TOP TEN LIST OF THINGS YOU CAN LEARN IN LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK

"Alright, dude, are you man enough for Lee Marvin: PointBlank?"

“Alright, dude, are you man enough for Lee Marvin: PointBlank?”

Top Ten List:
What are the top ten things (at the very least) you can learn about Lee Marvin by reading Lee Marvin: Point Blank? This particular Top Ten list, partial at best, is below. The answers, in narrative form, are in the book, which naturally you are MOST encouraged to check out…..

1. DESPITE A POPULAR URBAN LEGEND, LEE MARVIN AND BOB (CAPTAIN KANGAROO) KEESHAN IN NO WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM KNEW EACH OTHER IN THE USMC DURING WWII….OR MR. ROGERS, EITHER.

2. THE ACTUAL OUTCOME OF THE INFAMOUS PALIMONY CASE THAT IS STILL MISUNDERSTOOD TO THIS DAY. READERS ARE OFTEN SURPRISED NOT ONLY BY THE OUTCOME BUT WHAT HAPPENED TO MICHELE TRIOLA THE DAY THE VERDICT WAS HANDED DOWN.

3. LEE MARVIN’S LIFE-LONG LOVE AFFAIR WITH A PARTICULAR KIND OF MUSIC YOU WOULD NOT HAVE GUESSED IN A MILLION YEARS! I KNOW I DIDN’T BUT IT WAS CONFIRMED BY HIS WIFE, SON, FRIENDS AND CO-WORKERS. STORIES ABOUND BOTH FUNNY AND POIGNANT AS TO WHY AND HOW HE LOVED THIS PARTICULAR GENRE.

4. IN SPITE OF THE TYPE OF FILMS HE MADE, THE PERSONAL POLITICS OF LEE MARVIN IS OFTEN A BIG SURPRISE TO MANY OF HIS FANS.

5. HE WAS TRAINED IN SHAKESPEARE AND WOULD QUOTE THE BARD WHENEVER THE MOOD STRUCK HIM.

6. HIS LIFE IN WOODSTOCK AFTER THE WAR LONG BEFORE THE FAMOUS CONCERT AND THE TRUE STORY OF HOW HE GOT HIS ACTING START THERE. UNLIKE CONTEMPORARY ACTION STARS, HIS TRAINING EVENTUALLY GOT HIM TO THE BROADWAY STAGE.

7. HIS EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF HIS EXPERIENCE IN WWII AS IT HAPPENED THRU NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN LETTERS HE WROTE HOME TO FAMILY & FRIENDS AT THE TIME!

8. WAS NOT ASKED TO LEAVE ST. LEO ACADEMY FOR BOYS IN FLORIDA, AND, WAS IN FACT, GIVEN AN HONORAY DEGREE IN 1969 BY HIS MENTOR AND TEACHER.

9. THE ACTUAL FATE OF HIS GREAT UNCLE ROSS MARVIN, WHO DIED DURING THE PEARY EXPEDITION TO THE NORTH POLE THAT EVEN LEE MARVIN HIMSELF NEVER KNEW.

10. WHAT HE REALLY THOUGHT OF SUCH FAMOUS COSTARS AS RONALD REAGAN, CHARLES BRONSON, MARLON BRANDO, BURT LANCASTER, PAUL NEWMAN AND MORE!

11. HOW HE CREATED THE MODERN AMERICAN CINEMA OF VIOLENCE
Okay so there’s 11 instead of ten. There’s actually a WHOLE lot more exclusive info from my nearly 20 years of research on Lee Marvin’s life and career. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention!
Lee Marvin: Point Blank by Dwayne Epstein (cover)

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