One of Lee Marvin’s best and least recognized films was director Robert Aldrich’s violent 1973 hobo opus, Emperor of the North, the production of which is detalied in Lee Marvin: Point Blank. Do you know the film’s connection to the great Jack London? Gotta read the book to find that out. Anyway….
The film failed to find an audience when it first came out, despite efforts by everyone concerned to publicize its worthiness. Below is an example of the novel lengths Marvin would go to promote the film. Although already sporting the walrus-sized mustache and extra few pounds for his next film, Spikes Gang, according to the AP Wire at the time, the picture below, from May 29, 1973, stated: “Hobo Maurice ‘Steamtrain’ Graham (left) of Toledo, Ohio, is joined by actor Lee Marvin, who stars in the film about hobos of the ’30s, Emperor of the North, outside the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. More than a score of Depression Era hobos dined at the Waldorf as guests of Marvin.”
And exactly who was Maurice “Steamtrain” Graham? “Steam Train Maury” Graham (June 3, 1917 – November 18, 2006) was best known as five-time holder of the title “King of the Hobos”, and was later known as “Patriarch of the Hobos”. Born to a broken home in Ohio, he was shunted from father to mother to aunt to married siblings. In 1931, at the age of 14, Graham began riding the rails as a hobo during the Great Depression. He settled in Toledo, Ohio with his wife Wanda in the late 1930s, and worked as a cement mason and founded a trade school for masons. During World War II, he served in the military as a medical technician. In 1969 he returned to the hobo life for another eleven years, finally retiring in 1980.
Maury Graham adopted the nickname “Steam Train” in 1969, when the “Golden Spike Special” steam train came through Ohio, returning home from the 100th anniversary of the completion of the first US transcontinental railroad. He was one of the founding members of the National Hobo Foundation. He also helped established the Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa. He died due to complications from stroke at the Northcrest Nursing Home in Napoleon, Ohio at the age of 89!