WILD BUNCH REMAKE? DON’T FORGET LEE MARVIN!

The Wild Bunch remake has recently been announced, to be written and directed by Mel Gibson. Lots of voices are arguing over whether it should even be done but to my mind, the question is will Lee Marvin finally get the credit he so richly deserves? What credit, you may ask? Well, as I discovered in researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, he was heavily involved in the project’s creation and was set to play the William Holden role of Pike Bishop.

Lee Marvin in THE PROFESSIONALS as Henry ‘Rico” Fardan, looking a lot like….

William Holden as Pike Bishop in the original version of  THE WILD BUNCH.

I discovered this lost nugget of information thanks to the files at the Academy Library in Beverly Hills in which the notes and communications between producers Phil Feldman and Ken Hyman tells the remarkable story in detail of Lee Marvin’s involvement in Sam Peckinpah’s renowned classic.
For Marvin’s part, he told his version to Grover Lewis in a 1972 Rolling Stone interview: “Good ol’ lovable Sam. …He approached me about doin’ The Wild Bunch. Shit, I’d helped write the original goddamn script, which Sam eventually bought and rewrote. Well, I mean I didn’t do any of the actual writing, but I talked it out with these guys who were writin’ it, Walon Green and Roy Sickner. Sam said, ‘Jeez, aren’t you even interested?’ I told him I’d already done The Professionals and what did I need The Wild Bunch for? And when the picture came out I didn’t think it really succeeded. It didn’t have the — I mean, it had all the action and all the blood and all that shit, but it didn’ have the ultimate kavoom, you know? It didn’t have the one-eye slowly opening it should’ve had.”
What Marvin failed to mention was the real reason he turned it down and why he made Paint Your Wagon, instead. Career-long agent Meyer Mishkin revealed that to me, which of course, is in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank.
As to The Wild Bunch remake? I reserve judgement on Gibson’s version until I see it. Bad enough he ripped off Marvin’s Point Blank with his bizarre remake Payback. Hopefully, with The Wild Bunch remake, he’ll give the devil — in this case Lee Marvin — his due.

(L-R) Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode in a p.r. still from THE PROFESSIONALS (1966).

(L-R) Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden and Ernest Borgnine in the climatic scene in THE WILD BUNCH (1969).

Share

NEVADA MAGAZINE ON “THE PROFESSIONALS”

Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are well aware of the coverage given to the 1966 classic action film, The Professionals, which was done with much research via the likes of Nevada Magazine, for instance. On newsstands in the fall of 1966 to coincide with the film’s November release, it’s a short piece but contains some beautiful photography of the Valley of Fire State Park location used in the film. In fact, the images belie the sweltering temperatures all the participants groused about on and off camera.
The article’s author, Don Payne, does a commendable job in summarizing the film as well as its production. Being a Nevadan, he make sure to include such colorfully named locales  used in the film as Deadman’s Canyon, Coyote Pass and of course, California’s own Death Valley. It’s a p.r. piece, to be sure but after reading it, one does certainly want to see the film the author is writing about.
It’s interesting on another level, as well. Payne mentions in passing an event during the film’s production. He refers to it as “An impromptu downtown archery exhibition staged by several cast members.” Rather tame description of the event. I was fortunate to interview several individuals closely involved to the film, such as Jack Palance and producer Phil Parslow. Best of all were lengthy interviews conducted with stuntman Tony Epper and costar Woody Stroe. They were the key participants in the “impromptu exhibition” and to hear them tell it, the event was anything but staged. In fact, it practically — and it truth, should have — landed the two of them and unwitting participant, Lee Marvin in jail. The shenanigans of The Rat Pack could not hold a candle to what Epper, Strode and Marvin perpetrated. Those unfamiliar with the wild and woolly tale must read the book, of course. For those who have read the book, read the article below with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
– Dwayne Epstein

Cover of Nevada Magazine, Fall 1966.

Nevada Magazine article on THE PROFESSIONALS, page 1.

Nevada Magazine article on THE PROFESSIONALS, page 2.

Nevada Magazine article on THE PROFESSIONALS, page 3.

Nevada Magazine article on THE PROFESSIONALS, page 4.

Nevada Magazine article on THE PROFESSIONALS, page 5.

Nevada Magazine article on THE PROFESSIONALS, page 6.

Nevada Magazine article on THE PROFESSIONALS, page 7.

Share

SUPERSTARDOM: LEE MARVIN & THE LADIES

The Harvey Weinstein scandal being the main topic of conversation these days, such behavior is actually not that revelational among the power brokers and others who have reached a level of superstardom in show business. The term ‘casting couch’ is one of the oldest cliches in Hollywood, and as Claudette Colbert once famously said, “The casting couch? There’s only one of us who ever made it to stardom without it, and that was Bette Davis.”
So what does any of this have to do with Lee Marvin? Well, in researching Lee Marvin Point Blank the subject of sexual harassment never became an issue in my research, despite Marvin’s tendency towards boorish behavior on the occasion of some drunken episodes as detailed in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank. He could be loutish and embarrassing at times but thanks to his breeding, he always managed to pull himself back from the abyss. As his lawyer David Kagon said to me: “Lee Marvin was a truly Victorian character, particularly when it came to women. He always treated women extremely courteously. I never heard him use a word that you’d want to use, at that time, to qualify for usage in polite society when a woman was present. He always treated them very, almost as if he were Victorian. He was the kind of guy that would open a door for a woman. He’d stand up.”
Due to the kind of films he made, Marvin had little interaction with many of the actresses of the day. When he did, the results were unsurprisingly similar.  Basically, Marvin’s treatment of his female costars as he ascended into superstardom fell into three categories: Younger costars were protected in a fatherly way while veteran costars were given the utmost respect. The third category? Well, that was a rare category that may have fallen to more women had he worked with more women.

CAT BALLOU costar Jane Fonda learning some valuable lessons from veteran Lee Marvin.

His Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou catapulted him to stardom but during production, his treatment of the opposite sex didn’t change. In fact, costar Jane Fonda didn’t always see eye-to-eye when they made the film but in retrospect she wrote in her autobiography: “The producers had us working overtime day after day, until one morning Lee Marvin took me aside. ‘Jane,’ he said, ‘we are the stars of this movie. If we let the producers walk all over us, if we don’t stand up for ourselves, you know who suffers most? The crew. The guys who don’t have the power we do to say, ‘shit, no, we’re working’ too hard.’ You have to get some backbone, girl. Learn to say no when they ask you to keep working.’ I will always remember Lee for that important lesson.”
Following Cat Ballou, Marvin worked with the mostly all-male cast in the now classic rugged western, The Professionals. An exception to the testosterone-driven cast was Europe’s Claudia Cardinale…..

Claudia Cardinale and Marvin in Richard Brooks’ THE PROFESSIONALS (1966).

By all accounts, Marvin’s relationship with the Italian film star was, as the title suggested, strictly professional and for Marvin that meant respectful.
A good example of how he treated a younger actress is his relationship with Sissy Spacek during the making of Prime Cut. As she is quoted in her memoir about her film debut:

Sissy Spacek and Lee Marvin in PRIME CUT.

“I loved working with Lee Marvin, and he was actually very protective of me. But he was a prodigious drinker, and he warned me to avoid him when he was inebriated. When we first met on location, I blurted out, ‘Lee, you have the greenest eyes!’
‘Yeah,’ said Lee. ‘And whenever you see them turn blue stay away from me.’
“It was true. When he’d had a few too many, his eyes turned ocean blue and everybody gave him a wide berth. But mostly he was a good guy, and very professional….I was so caught up in the filming I hardly noticed the battles going on behind the scenes. [Director]  Michael Ritchie was constantly fighting with the powers that be over the tone of Prime Cut. Michael wanted it to be more of a camp satire; the studio wanted a straight gangster thriller. Lee Marvin shared the director’s vision for the film and it led to some tense moment  on location.”
Spacek is right when she said there were some fights during production, but incorrect when she said Ritchie and Marvin shared the film’s vision. In fairness, she readily admits to hardly noticing the battles going on. Lee Marvin told it plain to journalist Grover Lewis in Rolling Stone magazine shortly after the film came out: “I’ve made some mistakes I wish I hadn’t. One of them was working with Michael Ritchie on Prime Cut. Oh I hate that son-of-a-bitch. He likes to use amateurs because he can emotionally dominate them. That chick in Prime Cut, she would’ve sucked my cock on camera if Ritchie’d told her to. One night, I wanted to rehearse a scene and he didn’t want to, so he pretended to get sick. I said, ‘shit fire, Michael. ‘ll get you a fuckin’ doctor.’ Nothing worked with that guy, and the picture just fell apart before we even got started. ” The film’s other female star, Angel Tompkins, concurred with Sissy Spacek’s assessment of Marvin. Clearly, his respect for women was maintained, despite his opinion of the film’s director. As to the handful of other female costars he worked with…

(L-R) Elizabeth Ashley, Kay Lenz and Lee Marvin in GREAT SCOUT & CATHOUSE THURSDAY. Lenz told this author wonderful anecdotes about working with Marvin.

(L-R) Roger Moore, Barbara Parkins and Lee Marvin in SHOUT AT THE DEVIL. Playing Parkins’ father, Marvin was just naturally fatherly towards the actress.

Linda Evans and Lee Marvin in AVALANCHE EXPRESS.

Then there is that rarest of third categories, of which only one is actually known. Well, maybe two if you count an extra during a film. Okay, three if you want to be speculative. To put it another way, Lee Marvin was protective and respectful to his leading ladies. However, there’s absolutely no evidence that he was abusive in any way, but was he ever romantic? Stay tuned…..
– Dwayne Epstein

Share