JANUARY 2021 ON TCM

January 2021 is FINALLY upon us and not a moment too soon, as far as I’m concerned. With this new month and year (hell, new decade even!), comes a new schedule of films from the good folks at TCM. Below are the films that either star Lee Marvin or has a particular link to Marvin’s life, career or legacy. So, with January 2021 upon us, let the classic films begin!
All times are Pacific Standard Time

The Sea Wolf (1941), Wednesday, January 6 (1:15 am): It’s hard to imagine that Lee Marvin might have had anything in common with the legendary John Garfield but the two men shared an appreciation of the writing of Jack London. Garfield begged Jack Warner to put him in a London biopic but instead he got to costar in this classic sea story. London was at one point the most popular writer in the English language and his 1904 novel The Sea Wolf became his most often filmed stepchild. Filmed no less than nine times since 1913, this version with Garfield, Edward G. Robinson, Alexander Knox and Ida Lupino is the best known and for my money the best of all. I could easily see Marvin playing the villianous captain Wolf Larsen as well as Robinson played it, of whom Marvin was also a huge fan. Unfortunately, the closest Marvin ever got to playing a London character was A#1 in the London inspired Emperor of the North.
By the way, frequent Marvin costar Charles Bronson took a shot at playing the title character in a cable TV movie version for Turner’s TBS station with less than stellar results.

The Big Heat (1953), Saturday, January 9 (9 am):

The attitude of Vince Stone toward his annoying girlfriend, Gloria Grahame, is shown building to a painful climax in Fritz Lang’s THE BIG HEAT (1952).

You want early Marvin sadistic mayhem? It doesn’t get any better than this. As gangster Vince Stone he terrorizes men but especially women like the screen had never seen before. Fritz Lang’s neo-noir classic stars Glenn Ford as a tough cop putting the heat on for the murder of his wife, Jocelyn Brando, you-know-who’s real-life sister.  Ford’s encounters with the city’s underbelly makes up the bulk of the film but the real stars are Gloria Grahame as Stone’s pouty-mouth moll and Marvin as Stone. Stories galore of its making in Lee Marvin Point Blank with the best being NY Times critic Vincent Canby dubbing Marvin “The Merchant of Menace.” Canby had no idea the best was yet to come.

The Searchers (1956) Saturday, January 16 (5pm):

John Wayne to Harry Carey, Jr: “What do you want me to do, DRAW YOU A PICTURE?! DON’T EVER ASK ME AGAIN!”

It’s been said that the cinematic mythology of the American western was pretty much created by John Ford and the best of his westerns  always starred John Wayne. Of their many films together, The Searchers remains their greatest for countless reasons and not the least of which is the fact that ol’ Duke Wayne was never more vicious in a movie than he was here. A shame he didn’t play more men of questionable morals as the racist Ethan Edwards but at least he did once…well, twice if you count his wonderful Captain Bligh on the cattle trail in Howard Hawks’ Red River (also airing this month on Saturday, January 23, 12:30pm) . What does all this have to do with Lee Marvin? Quite simply, Marvin loved the cinematic output of both men and luckily got to work with them both later in their careers. Watch The Searchers and discover why he admired them so much if you haven’t done so already..

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Sunday, January 17 (12:30 pm):

A young Lee Marvin as Mitch in the stage version of STREETCAR.

There isn’t much more to be said about this classic film starring the brutish young Marlon Brando, delicate Vivien Leigh, along with Oscar-winning Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. However, most people may not be aware that a young Lee Marvin played in the stage version in Summer stock. If you think he portrayed the savage Stanley Kowalski, think again. Actually, he played Mitch, Stanley’s oafish co-worker who’s smitten with Stanley’s sister-in-law, Blanche, until he sees the light, as it were. So, when watching the classic film written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Elia Kazan, pay attention to Karl Malden and picture a young Lee Marvin in the role.

Drum Beat (1954), Thursday, January 28 (5:30 am):

(L-R) Alan Ladd as Johnny Mackay and Charles Bronson as Captain Jack in DRUM BEAT.

Other than Marvin himself, the only other actor who spent a longer apprenticeship on the way to superstardom was frequent costar Charles Bronson. His scene-stealing performance as renegade Modoc warrior Captain Jack in the Alan Ladd western Drum Beat may have given hope that success might be right around the corner. Hope springs eternal. He had changed his name from Buchinski to Bronson with this film and got the best reviews of his career up to that time:
“The renegade redskin is forcefully played by Charles Bronson,” Variety.
“Charles Bronson is probably the most muscular Indian ever to brandish a rifle before the camera,” NY Times.
Alan Ladd…is dwarfed by that of Charles Bronson…proud, ruthless, magnificent,” Films and Filming.
Unfortunately, not many folks saw this fact-based color horse opera. He does outshine the nominal star, Alan Ladd, but it would be almost 20 years for audiences to appreciate Bronson’s screen image in 1973’s Death Wish. Watch him in Drum Beat to see what the likes of Lee Marvin and a handful of others had seen long ago.

The Killers (1964), Saturday January 30 (9:30pm) & Sunday, January 31 (7:00 am):

As hired killer Charlie Strom, Lee Marvin gently persuades blind receptionist Virginia Christine  to divulge vital information in Don Siegel’s THE KILLERS.

Ernest Hemingway’s five-page short story was first filmed in 1946 with a star-making debut of Burt Lancaster as the doomed Swede, an ex-boxer awaiting the title characters. The story goes that screenwriter Richard Brooks met Hemingway in a bar and asked him what he thought the reason would be the killers were coming for Swede. A drunken Hemingway apparently slurred, “Damned if I know. Probably had something to do with big money or maybe a special woman…or maybe both.” Thus, a film noir classic was born.
Almost 20 years later, Lew Wasserman of MCA had the idea of reworking it on the cheap as the first TV-movie, that is until JFK was murdered on the streets of Dallas. There is of course infinitely more to tell about the remade little thriller and I was lucky enough to get great stories about it for Lee Marvin Point Blank from such principal players as Angie Dickinson, Clu Gulager, Norman Fell and Bob Phillips. If you’ve read my book you’ll know what to look for when watching the film.

So there you have it, a summary of Lee Marvin films and interests on TCM for January 2021. Enjoy and above all, have a great new year and good riddance to 2020!
– Dwayne Epstein

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NOVEMBER ON TCM

November on TCM is upon us and as usual, they’re showing a few Lee Marvin gems. Maybe not as much as some months but there is always something worth watching in which he appears or has a connection to a given film. Regular readers here (if there are any!) know that my intention of this blog is to of course t encourage folks to read and discover my book Lee Marvin Point Blank. So coupled with that is to equally encourage folks to discover his films. With that in mind, I’ll be starting off each month with notification of his films or films he was connect with here on this site. First up, November on TCM. All times are PST:

I Died a Thousand Times airs Monday, November, 2, 10:30pm:

Ad art for I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES featuring a cowering Lee Marvin.


Since Shelley Winters is November’s “Star of the Month” on TCM, they’ll be showing her costarring with Jack Palance in this lush looking remake of High Sierra (194?). The original helped make Humphrey Bogart a breakout star and I guess Palance was hoping for the same. He did a few more sympathetic leads in the 1950s (The Big Knife, Attack!), but then quickly returned to villainous costarring status. A rare exception was his poignant turn as Lee Marvin’s buddy in Monte Walsh (1970) but Marvin had the lead that time. So, check out their earlier teaming in which Marvin plays second banana to Palance as his tough acting yet ultimately cowering henchman. More factoids about it were plumbed here.

Point Blank airs Saturday, November, 7, at 1:30pm.

The better ad art for POINT BLANK’s video release as opposed to the film’s original poster.


 






Considered the first “arthouse action film,” this stylized John Boorman thriller was largely ignored when first released but has since become a recognized classic of the genre, and with good reason. One of Lee Marvin’s first major starring vehicles is clearly also one of his best. It’s also the reason why I used it as my book’s subtitle as I explain in the introduction. If you haven’t seen the film, or even if you have, check it out again and be reminded of Lee Marvin’s gritty brilliance. Read more about it here.

The Dirty Dozen airs Wednesday, November, 11, at 11 am. 

Composite of scenes from the TCM perennial, THE DIRY DOZEN.

If Ted Turner and the good folks at TCM have a perennial favorite other than Gone With the Wind (1939), it must be The Dirty Dozen. It’s airing again as part of the Veteran’s Day line-up of classic war films and the testosterone driven classic still holds up no matter how many times you see it. The all-star male cast is one of the best ever and director Robert Aldrich gets them all to deliver the goods. No wonder TCM programmers like it so much. How much? Check this out

Honorable mentions:
Ride the High Country (1962) Sam Peckinpah’s best film besides The Wild Bunch (1969) airs November 6 and as a friend, drinking buddy and rival of Lee Marvin, it’s a definite must-see. 
Others worth viewing that Marvin doesn’t appear in this month but bears import in the man’s life and work are: the original High Sierra (11/4 & 11/29), The Hurt Locker (11/10) The Snows of Kilimanjaro (11/12), Brother Orchid (11/14), and Kiss Me, Deadly (11/21). Read Lee Marvin: Point Blank to find out their importance. Check local listing for airtime.
So there you have it! November on TCM for Lee Marvin fans. More to come next month and until then, stay safe!

– Dwayne Epstein

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ROGER FRISTOE INTERVIEW WITH LEE MARVIN

Roger Fristoe, insightful freelancer for Turner Classic Movies (TCM) contacted me a while back when I had blogged about Raintree County. At the time I hadn’t known Roger very well but have since gotten to him better via Facebook. He had good things to say about Lee Marvin Point Blank so naturally, I had to get to know him better. Well, since this week is the anniversary of the opening of Raintree County, I asked him if he’d let me run the interview he did with Marvin back in 1986 for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, KY, and he agreed.
The opening before the piece is the e-mail response I’ve included here to give a little more interesting background to Marvin’s performance. Here then, in all its glory, is the interview with Lee Marvin conducted by Roger Fristoe on the making of Raintree County

Sunday magazine cover for Roger Fristoe’s piece on RAINTREE COUNTY for the Lexington Courier that included the sidebar interview with Lee Marvin.



“Hi Dwayne,
The Marvin piece was a sidebar to the main story and ran with it. I thought that gave it more prominence. Something that didn’t get into the piece…I told him that I loved his reading of his final line, “I’m from Raintree County!” He said it was an inspiration of the moment as they were shooting the scene that he added that element of surprise: how could this son of Raintree County come to this end??? ….. ” I may have told you that I wrote to all the surviving stars at the time of the story requesting phone interviews, and he was the only one who called. I was quite startled at work that day to pick up the phone and hear that booming voice: “Hey Roger, it’s Lee Marvin, what can I do for you?”

   Hope you enjoy — all the best, Roger Fristoe”
 
Lee Marvin Remembers
“Raintree County” – and Kentucky
“‘Raintree County was the last big film of its kind from MGM and, along with “Paint Your Wagon, my only exposure to that kind of spectacular production you associate with the old days. I thought it was a great book and a great film. But Civil War stories haven’t done well in years, except for those two ‘North and South series on TV. [According to Lee Marvin:}
“Everybody was in love with Elizabeth Taylor. Even today, when you see her, she just makes you want to smile all over. But she and Monty Clift were locked into a kind of privacy that I didn’t really share. I wasn’t really a noted actor at that time and have never been a leading man in the sense of people climbing all over you and tearing your clothes off. In Danville, I immediately mixed in with the locals with no problem.
“My memory now is not so much the film as those people who were so generous and so conducive to making us feel at home there in Kentucky. And, for God’s sake, this was a Yankee story! Now, Kentucky may have been a border state during the Civil War, but it leaned toward the South, right? I got a great kick out of the whole business of all those Rebs cast as extras and dressed in the blue uniforms of the Yankee army. I told ’em, “Look at it this way: this time you’re gonna win!”

(L-R) Lee Marvin and Montgomert Clift as ‘Bummers’ during the Civil War scene in RAINTREE COUNTY.

“You have an awful lot of time to kill between setups, and you’ve got to keep the juices flowing, so I spent a lot of time talking to the extras and helping them get into the spirit of the thing. When they marched by with a flag, I’d yell, “Don’t just wave it. Snap that flag! I’d get ’em going. And they were marvelous about it.
“My memories of the whole project are absolutely stunning. I kept my nose pretty clean, and the local people accepted me very well. They showed me great courtesy and made the location one of the most pleasant I’d ever worked on. It was amazing the things they did for us, the way they opened up their homes to us, the care they took of us. Everyone there was easygoing and accepting as long as you were genteel yourself.
“My mother is from Virginia, and she had brought me up to practice a certain kind of manners. When you do things in a cordial and acceptable manner, people respond in kind.” 

(L-R) Rod Taylor, Nigel Patrick, director Edward Dmytryk (standing), Elizabeth Taylor, Montgmery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Marvin, Agnes Moorhead and Walter Abel.


– Dwayne Epstein
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