WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND…LEE MARVIN?

William Shakespeare is not usually a name associated with the likes of Lee Marvin. More is the pity as the actor had several brushes with the bard as recounted in my book Lee Marvin Point Blank. First, as a fledgling postwar acting student at the American Theater Wing (ATW), in which several hilarious anecdotes are retold by David Ballantine, a friend from Lee Marvin’s Woodstock days.

Lee Marvin (far right) cavorts  with fellow students during his American Theater Wing days in costumes from a play by William Shakespeare.


Later, on the set of The Big Red One, in which costar Kelly Ward recounted an amazing incident at sunset in an ancient Israeli ampitheater. 
Apparently, my research struck a chord with one who would definitely know more about the subject of William Shakespeare’s work than I ever would. Through the wonders of the digital age, noted actor/writer/historian David Weston sought me out to contact recently and wrote me the following:
“I was an actor for more than 50 years and I agree with all you say about Marvin’s talent and magnetism. He would have been game-changing in several Shakespearean roles..” 
 I was humbled by his words once I found out more about him via the internet. Not only does he know his stuff, he’s married to actress Dora Reisser, who knew Marvin well, ever since her costarring role as Telly Savalas’s victim in The Dirty Dozen. When I asked David if I could use his comments concerning William Shakespeare and Marvin on my blog, he sent me the following mini-essay. To call it a wonderful surprise, is an understatement. Here now is David Weston making the point better than I ever could. Enjoy….
– Dwayne Epstein

(L-R) Dora Reisser and David Weston.

Lee Marvin as a Shakespearean Actor

Shakespeare’s plays are full of violence and comedy, two things Lee Marvin revelled in. Titus Andronicus, probably the Bard’s first play, contains mutilation, rape, ripped out tongues and cannibalism. As far as I know Lee Marvin never appeared in a Shakespeare play, although he told my wife, Dora Reisser, that when he was filming The Klansman with Richard Burton, he would make up mock Shakespearean speeches and ask the inebriated Welshman to guess which plays they had come from. I will give some examples of roles in which Marvin could have excelled at various stages in his life. It could have happened. Richard Burton, like Marvin, no the weak spinner of fanciful tales, once told me that Marlon Brando had wanted to join him for a season at the Old Vic, only to be rejected by the board.

As a young actor Lee Marvin was never a Romeo, but he would have been a superb Mercutio [Romeo’s best friend], revelling in the bawdy comedy.  His catlike movement would have been ideal for the sword fights and tragi-comic death.

Richard Burton was a pretty good Petruchio [in The Taming of The Shrew], but can you imagine Lee’s drunken antics or his savage treatment of Kate – Gloria Graham’s coffee springs to mind.

Likewise he was born to play Bottom [in A Midsummer Night’s Dream]. Kevin Kline attempted it recently but he would not have touched Lee’s befuddled wonder at acquiring ass’s ears and the love of the Fairy Queen.

His lighting quick humour and savagery would have made him a terrifying yet hilarious Richard III. Kevin Spacey was a pussy cat in comparison.

Sean Connery was the best Hotspur I’ve seen [Henry IV, Part I], but Lee would have run him close.

Shakespeare could have written the part of Pistol, the bawdy braggart, with Lee in mind, but in the same plays in his more mature years he would have been one of the great Falstaffs. I can close my eyes and see him in the tavern scenes, bragging, wenching, hilarious – yet over brimming with pathos, glimpses of which we saw in Cat Ballou.

Marlon Brando was a superb Marc Antony [in Julius Caesar), in what I consider to be the second best Shakespeare film ever made after Laurence Olivier’s Henry V, but Lee Marvin would have been better.

So many actors can play King Lear in their old age – it is in fact one of Shakespeare’s easiest leading roles – but Lee’s fury would have been terrifying and his grief over Cordelia’s death heart-breaking. As a young actor he would have revelled in the sadism of the Duke of Cornwall in the terrible scene when he takes out Gloucester’s eyes.

Last of all Iago [in Othello]. Again the humorous villainy and savagery – Liberty Valence in tights.

There is something for him in every play. It is our loss he was never asked.
– David Weston

Covering McKellen by David Weston.

Covering Shakespeare by David Weston

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TCM’S 31 DAYS OF OSCAR HIGHLIGHTS LEE MARVIN

TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar is an ongoing annual event for the basic cable channel and this year Lee Marvin is very much in evidence. As the schedule shows, there are a plethora of his films on tap. No less than a half a dozen Lee Marvin gems, that’s right, a full half dozen, for most of February. If needed, here are the air dates (if you want to set your recording device for viewing, check your local listings for times). The Oscars or nominations of each film are listed below. My source? Why TCM’s own resident guardian angel, Robert Osborne from his excellent reference book, 50 Golden Years of Oscar. Okay, ready? Here are the Lee Marvin classics being shown for TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar….

THE CAINE MUTINY (1954) Airs Wednesday, February 5th. Nominated for Best Picture (Stanley Kramer, producer), Best Actor (Humphrey Bogart), Best Supporting Actor (Tom Tully), Best Screenplay (Stanley Roberts), Best Sound Recording (John P. Livadary (Sound Director), Best Film Editing (William A. Lyon & Henry Batista), Best Motion Picture Score (Max Steiner).

Marvin & shipmate Claude Akins in THE CAINE MUTINY.

CAT BALLOU (1965) Also Wednesday February 5th. Marvin won for Best Actor and the film was a also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (Walter Newman & Frank Pierson), Best Film Editing (Charles Nelson), Best Song: “The Ballad of Cat Ballou” (Jerry Livingston & Mack David), Best Score (Frank DeVol).

Marvin as Kid Shelleen one of 2-roles he enacted for his Oscar-winning performance in CAT BALLOU

THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967) Again, Wednesday February 5th. Won the Oscar for Best Sound Effects (John Poyner). Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (John Cassavetes), Best Sound (MGM Sound Dept.) and Best Film Editing (Michael Luciano).

Marvin confronts Robert Ryan in the Oscar-winning THE DIRTY DOZEN.

RAINTREE COUNTY (1957) Airs Monday, February 10th. Nominated for Best Actress (Elizabeth Taylor), Best Art Direction-Set Direction (William A. Horning & Urie McCleary; Edwin B. Willis & Hugh Hunt), Best Costume Desgn (Walter Plunkett). Best Score (Johnny Green).

Rod Taylor as Garwood Jones and Lee Marvin as Orville ‘Flash’ Perkins in RAINTREE COUNTY.

 

 

BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955) Airs Saturday, February 15th. Nominated for Best Actor (Spencer Tracy), Best Director (John Sturges) & Best Screenplay (Millard Kaufman).

Most of the cast, excluding Anne Francis, Ernst Borgnine and John Erickson in BADY DAY AT BLACK ROCK.

 

 

THE PROFESSIONALS (1966) Airs Monday, February 24th. Oscar nominated for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (Richard Brooks for both), and Best Color Cinematography (Conrad Hall).

(L-R) Woody Strode, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Burt Lancaster as THE PROFESSIONALS.

So there you have it! Further proof — as if any were needed — that Lee Marvin didn’t just make really good action films. He made some of the greatest of all-time! Don’t think you’ll be seeing any Jason Statham titles in years to come on TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar. Just saying.
And of course, rare behind-the scenes stories on all of theses films (and more!) can only be found in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
See ya at the movies.
– Dwayne Epstein

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A DIRTY DOZEN REMAKE IS IN THE WORKS

A Dirty Dozen remake is apparently in the works, according to breaking news in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood. Such pronouncements have been made in the past over the years but the urgency in which this has been green lighted by Warner Brothers is of worthy attention.  Of course, in retelling the info about the original, contemporary Hollywood beat writers got some obvious facts wrong, especially Mike Fleming of Deadline Hollywood, but more on that later.

Montage of images from the one, the only, the original, THE DIRTY DOZEN.

The man behind the project, David Ayers, has an interesting resume’ as I consider his script for Training Day (2001) to be as impressive as Denzel Washington’s Oscar winning performance. Although known mostly for Suicide Squad (2016), Ayers has also made the WWII-era tank drama Fury (2014) with Brad Pitt so I gave him a lot or room to be judged in terms of a Dirty Dozen remake.

Here’s  what I consider the intriguing part. All articles state the remake will be “updated” from it’s WWII-era roots. “Updated” to what? Korea? Vietnam? Afghanistan? Iraq? WHAT? With Ayers resume’ of other dark police dramas, maybe it’s not a war film at all. Perhaps a bunch of convicts will be released to wreak havoc on the south central street gangs of Los Angeles….except I think that’s been done before, too. Bad enough the same studio is allowing Mel Gibson to remake The Wild Bunch (1969).

And the infuriating faux pas of the Deadline Hollywood article? I’m calling out the author, Mike Fleming on this. The one person in the cast NOT listed alphabetically in the credits or  in the ads, in other words, the star of the film IS NOT EVEN MENTIONED WITH THE REST OF THE CAST! For shame, Mr. Fleming. In case you didn’t know, his name is LEE MARVIN, the subject of my book and this blog, Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Oh, and Donald Trump was impeached today.

  • Dwayne Epstein
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