IN HONOR OF Pi DAY: THE GREATEST Pi FIGHT EVER!

This being Pi Day I wracked my brain to find a connection to Lee Marvin but the closest I could come up with were the deep-dish apple pies served up in Liberty Valance. Close enough, right?…..I didn’t think so. Instead, I give you images from one of my all-time favorite films which contained probably the all-time greatest pie fight.
The Great Race was a film I didn’t see in theatres, at least not the first time. It aired on TV, in two parts and then years later 5 nghts a week on a local network. I watched it every time, and on the rare occssion it showed up at a revival theatre, I was there, front & center. It wasn’t a great film, but to me and my friends growing up, it was a whole lot of over-the-top, old-fashioned fun with Tony Curtis’s swashbuckling, Peter Falk’s buffoonry, Natalie Wood’s lusciousness and above all, Jack Lemmon’s comedic genius in dual roles. Still a favorite all these years later!
Below, are some wonderful and rare images from the book The Platinum Years by photographer Bob Willoughby. Of all the great coffee table books about movies, I reccomend it above all others. It came out in the 1970s and Willougby’s images from his life as an on set photographer are downright stunning! The images below are just a small example….

Jack Lemmon as Prince Hapnick (giddily shown far left) with Natalie Wood as Maggie Dubois and Tony Curtis as the Great Leslie (both center) assess the damage as the pi fight winds down.

Jack Lemmon as Prince Hapnick (giddily shown far left) with Natalie Wood as Maggie Dubois and Tony Curtis as the Great Leslie (both center) assess the damage as the pi fight winds down.

The havoc of the pie fight near the end of the film is shown above but better than that, this image of director Blake Edwards working on set…..

This rare pic answers that oft-asked question, WHO THREW THAT PIE? Director Blake Edwards is caught in mid-form slamming his star Natalie Wood right in the kisser. At far left,  co-star Jack Lemmon, already nailed, steps out of the scene to admire his director's form.

This rare pic answers that oft-asked question, WHO THREW THAT PIE? Director Blake Edwards is caught in mid-form slamming his star Natalie Wood right in the kisser. At far left, co-star Jack Lemmon, already nailed, steps out of the scene to admire his director’s form.

 

Soupy Sales, The Three Stooges or anybody else you can think of must have cringed with envy at the enormity and huge budget afforded the filmmakers in this pie fight to end all pie fights. Of course, Natalie Wood may have had a different opinion…..

Shown at the end of the scene, Natalie Wood smiles and shows off Blake Edwards' handy work.

Shown at the end of the scene, Natalie Wood smiles and shows off Blake Edwards’ handy work.

Even Jack Lemmon was not immune but then again, playing the villianous Professor Fate, why should he be?

A pie caught in mid-flight lands on its intended target, actor Jack Lemmon, just as he was about to propel two of his own projectiles.

A pie caught in mid-flight lands on its intended target, actor Jack Lemmon, just as he was about to propel two of his own projectiles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These terrific images are but a small sample of what fun can be had on this once-in-a-lifetime National Pi Day. It must be said that in order to stay within the spirit of this blog, one must simply ask the question, who would you least want to get a pie in the kisser from and how would he throw it? The answer is of course, Lee Marvin: Point Blank.

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RAINTREE COUNTY: RARE PIX AND QUOTES

Since TCM  will be airing Raintree County this weekend, it proved to be a perfect opportunity to post some rare images and quotes concerning the mammoth 1957 Civil War era production, but with a distinct emphasis on Lee Marvin’s contribution to it.

Based on the popular novel by Ross Lockridge, Jr., Raintree County was another one of the films Marvin thought would bring him wider recognition, espcially since he knew his performance was a standout. Unfortunately, the film’s failure made Marvin’s breakout status an impossiblity. Cast as Orville ‘Flash’ Perkins — The Fastest Man in Raintree County — Marvin practically stole the film as the brash, small-town braggart who matures into a war-hardened veteran.

Whenever Marvin would begin a role, he spent an inordinate amount of time just sitting and thinking about his character. Below, with his hair dyed red for the film, Marvin is shown doing just that on the porch of his California beach house….

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Still photographer Bob Willioughby was onset to capture the film’s production, such as this image of Marvin & co-star Montgomery Clift (pre-car accident) waiting on a soundstage to shoot the saloon scene….

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The film also had many locations throughout the southern United States and location shooting meant curious onlookers. When one such young lady brought her dog to watch the shooting, Marvin reacted approrpriately…

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Bob Willoughby also was there when the filming included this action-packed scene of Marvin (far right) capturing a Confederate officer played by future Star Trek stalwart DeForest Kelley (left, in uniform). The Willoughby images were part of his 1974 coffee table book, The Platinum Years, and is highly reccommended….

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As previously stated, Marvin’s portrayal of ‘Flash’ Perkins goes through a remarkable transformation during the course of the film as he weaves in and out of story. When first seen, he is brash and bold as a 19th century dandy…..

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Later in the film, he is a renegade Union soldier, a ‘Bummer’ whose expression goes a long to explain the character’s growth…..

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During the lengthy research of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was extremely fortunate to  interview many of the important people involved in making Raintree County, including director Edward Dmytryk, screenwriter Millard Kaufman, costar Rod Taylor, and Terry Swindol, a Danville Kenutcky resident who witnessed the filming. All of what they related to me went into the book, but a few choice tidbits remained unsued for various reasons. What follows are several such anecdotes all concerning Lee Marvin:
Rod Taylor
The thing you had to appreciate about him was his sense of humor. He had a great sense of humor but it could be very caustic because it was based on total honesty. I used to work over at Revue and I would see him there because he did the show, what was it “M-Squad”? Revue became Four Star when David Niven built it. That’s where I made The Time Machine. There was a story you may have heard because it’s been around so long. Somebody, I think it was a casting director asked Lee Marvin, “What have you done lately?,” and Marvin responded immediately, “About what?” (laughs) That’s the  kind of sense of humor he had.

Millard Kaufman
He was extremely helpful. Let me tell you about one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen on screen that was all Lee. There’s a scene in the picture…First of all, I think it was not a very good picture. The casting was great. The direction was terrible and my script wasn’t very good. My script wasn’t very good because I fell in love with the book. It went over a 1,000 pages. I had too much of it in there. I did not follow what Somerset Maughm said: “Find your theme and stick to it it like grim death.” I went off in all directions. I had found grim death. Anyway…Well, one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen on screen is in that picture. There’s a scene of a foot race. Monty could not run ten feet without stumbling over his feet. He was so awkward and so uncoordinated most of the time. He used this sort of things on screen, the way he would weave and fool around. He looked like he was almost autistic at times. But, it worked for him. He was sympathetic and charming, in his own way. This time, which called for sheer athleticism…nothing! Lee faked running in such a way that made Monty not only win the race, but look good doing it. That was all Lee. You say in any sport you can’t teach speed. Well, it’s even harder tot teach someone slowing up, which is somehow what Lee did. There was no slow motion or anything. It was brilliant. It looked like a hell of a race….[Lee] had this tremendous lust for life which made him kind of larger than life, and I think that spilled over into everything he did. You got a feeling that this was a very big and powerful and important person, as an actor and a man.

Terry Swindol
All the people who met Lee Marvin said he was really “down to earth.” Apparently, he was one of those people who never met a stranger. A story I especially like tells that somewhere in Danville, Kentucky today is a coffee table with a chip off the corner. It has stayed in this home with the same family since Lee Marvin visited the home during the making of Raintree County. After dinner, he was acting out a story about a play he had done and his boot caught the coffee table and broke off the corner. He was so apologetic and told the family to buy a new coffee table and send him the bill. They never did, and they refuse to get rid of the broken one because of the pleasant memory of Marvin in their home.

Betty Marvin [Lee’s first wife, whose former employer had been Joan Crawford]
At the the premiere, Lee and I were lined up. Big joke in those days. So there we were, and who’s behind us? Joan Crawford. She, in her wonderful style, looks right through me. Because Lee was like the next big star on the horizon and on, and on…She wants him to co-star in her next film and would he please read the script and set up an appointment at MCA. She calls the next day. Talks right through me. “Is Lee there? Why don’t you come in. We’ll go over the script in my office and read it together.” He said, “Okay.” He left about one o’clock. You know, I was a young wife. It made me very uncomfortable. What’s going on here? The whole afternoon, it was difficult for me. When he came back, he was laughing. I said, “How did he go? Are you going to co-star with Joan Crawford?” He said, “Oh, hardly.” I asked if he read the script. He was a very slow reader, as I told you. He had went into a room with the script and she was waiting. After about two hours, she said, “Well?” He said, “Listen, it takes a long time to get through this crap.” (laughs) Once again, you know? He was like, “Give me a break.” Oh, she was livid! That was Lee’s lovely way. And I’m not saying out of respect for me. He didn’t like her crappy script because she was doing a lot of garbage. It was just interesting.

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