LEE MARVIN MOVIE QUOTES: THE EARLY YEARS, PART II

Lee Marvin Movie Quotes
Writing and researching Lee Marvin Point Blank allowed me good reason to watch ALL of his films and on occasion, he proved to be the best thing to watch. Take for example his official film debut, You’re in the Navy Now (1951) with legendary actor, Gary Cooper.  Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know how he got the handful of lines he spoke in the movie and its a pretty amusing story, thanks to the chutzpah of his acquired agent, Meyer Mishkin. The very fact that he spoke on screen for the first time makes it worthy of some memorable Lee Marvin movie quotes.

Top image shows Marvin waiting to go on camera while bottom image shows hm with costars Gary Cooper and Jack Webb.

Director Henry Hathaway cast Marvin initially as an extra, allowing him to appear throughout the film as a crew member, in this case, the radio operator. Marvin later claimed him he did the voices of 5 other characters offscreen in which he actually talked to himself! Other actors also made their debut in the film, including future Marvin costar, Charles Bronson. Bronson had a bigger role in the flop later retitled USS Teakettle. Marvin’s first words on camera? “Sorry, captain. I can’t get a rise out of them.”

Another example of Marvin’s early, albeit small contribution to film was in the all-star comedy We’re Not Married (1952). Played out like an episode of Love, American Style, it told the tale of 5 different marriages discovering that the clergyman (Victor Moore) who married them was not ordained. The film boasted the likes of Ginger Rogers, Fred Allen, Eve Arden, Paul Douglas, Louis Calhern, Eva Gabor, and a young Marilyn Monroe married to David Wayne (!). The last segment starred Eddie Bracken married to Mitzi Gaynor, who is pregnant with his child but Bracken is going overseas with his Army unit. It being the 1950s, the dilemma of Bracken’s offspring not being legitimate is a major crisis. Since it is the 50s, Bracken’s buddy, Lee Marvin, informs the C.O. that, “He don’t want his kid to be no oddball.”

Marvin & Bracken in the final segment of WE’RE NOT MARRIED.

Don’t you just love that 1950s euphemism for bastard? It’s one of my personal favorite Lee Marvin movie quotes.

And then there’s The Wild One.

Marlon Brando as Johnny and Lee Marvin as Chino in the world’s 1st biker movie, THE WILD ONE (That’s cult legend Tim Carey smiling behind Marvin).

Marvin comes in the middle of the film and commits grand larceny in his scenes with then red hot 50s icon, Marlon Brando. Everything Marvin says and does in the classic is memorable, from his entrance (waving like the prom queen on his chopper as he and his gang ride into town) to his final scene sneaking out of jail when no one is looking. I was lucky to find a letter he wrote his brother before the film was cast and his take on the project is reprinted in its entirety in Lee Marvin Point Blank. Hard to pick a favorite line of his as they’re all delivered brilliantly (“Call my old lady and tell her I’m in the can! Oh, the shame of it all!”) But the one I like best is the one with cultural resonance. When Marvin tells Brando: “We miss ya, Johnny. All the Beetles miss ya.” Apparently another ‘Johnny’ liked that line, too. Any guesses?
– Dwayne Epstein

 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STANLEY KRAMER!

I always tell people that the best part of my job as a writer is talking to people whose work I admire about the work I admire. There’s no better example of that than Stanley Kramer. Today being what would’ve been his 102nd birthday, I think it the perfect time to re-share the interview I did with him a while back. He agreed to meet with me in November 1994 at the legendary Sportsman’s Lodge. The interview was, of course for Lee Marvin Point Blank so consequently, Marvin was the main topic of conversation. Most of Kramer’s thoughts on Marvin went into my book but the opportunity to speak with the pioneering producer/director naturally bled into other topics. That which didn’t go into the book is presented here for the first time. Sadly, he passed away in 2001 (on Lee Marvin’s birthday!) and what survives here are the opinions, anecdotes and cantankerous musings of a filmmaker whose value can never be overestimated.
Dwayne Epstein: As a producer, you did a film in 1952 called Eight Iron Men based on a play…
Stanley Kramer: Was Lee in that?
D: Yeah, he was. Do you remember anything about it?
S: No, not very much. But he must have impressed me because I used him several times after that.

 Pvt. Carter (Arthur Franz, seated), Sgt. Mooney (Lee Marvin) and Pvt. Coke (Richard Kiley) decide to rescue a fallen buddy against orders in producer STanley Kramer's EIGHT IRON MEN.

Pvt. Carter (Arthur Franz, seated), Sgt. Mooney (Lee Marvin) and Pvt. Coke (Richard Kiley) decide to rescue a fallen buddy against orders in producer STanley Kramer’s EIGHT IRON MEN.

D: What would be in a script that would make you think Lee Marvin could play the part?
S: My natural sense of genius. I mean why do you cast? You cast out of ego, too. You see it that way. People say to me, “Why did you use Gene Kelly?” or “Why did you use Fred Astaire in a dramatic part?” or “Why did you make the first picture with Marlon Brando?” Because I felt that I was doing something special.
D: And you were.
S: Not always.
D: You had the guts to at least try something different.
S: Try, yeah. That’s why I got into it.
D: How did Lee Marvin and Brando get along?
S: Not too well. Brando had done Streetcar and a couple of other things. I was the only one who made two films with him that didn’t make any money.
D: I always thought The Wild One (1954) was a big hit.
S: It was banned more places that it played.
D: Was there a rivalry between the two actors that transferred to the screen?
S: Since they played the heads of rival gangs, they played it that way.
D: Lee hid behind his personality?
S: He created a personality and hid behind it. He wasn’t that way, at all.
D: What was he really then?
S: Soft. Sensitive. Easy to hurt.
D: You saw that side of him?
S: I lived that side with him. I must have done about five pictures with him.

Lee Marvin, in his first leading role, opposite RIchard Kiley in producer Stanley Kramer's taut WWII drama, EIGHT IRON MEN. The working title, believe it or not, was THE DIRTY DOZEN (!).

Lee Marvin, in his first leading role, opposite RIchard Kiley in producer Stanley Kramer’s taut WWII drama, EIGHT IRON MEN. The working title, believe it or not, was THE DIRTY DOZEN (!).

D: How would that sensitive side show itself?
S: Well, sometimes with another actor or actress. Sometimes with a director. It would depend. He wanted to do a good job much more desperately than his personality indicated.
D: So there was a sense of insecurity about him?
S: Sure, but he was very talented.
D: Having worked on The Caine Mutiny (1954), would you say there was a comparison between Bogart and Lee Marvin?
S: I don’t think so.
D: How would they be different?
S: Well, Bogart was a star incarnate, from the beginning. First time I ever got together with Bogart, for example, was in Hawaii, The Beachcomber’s Restaurant. There was a bout eight of us at the table and the film was starting rehearsals the next morning. We had all been settled in there for about three or four days. Around 11:00, I looked at my watch and said, “For all the guys that have to work tomorrow, I think it’s time to turn in.” Bogart said, “Wait a minute. What do you fancy yourself to be? Who are you, the producer of this picture? For Christ’s sake, dictating the time to go to bed and everything, that’s ridiculous! What’s your function here?” Fortunately, I thought of a line. I said, “My function is to see that recalcitrant actors get to bed on time.” He looked at me and just stared at me. Then, he broke out in a laugh. He said, “Okay.” That was all just before we started The Caine Mutiny.
D: Do you remember if Lee Marvin got along with Bogart, because I know he was enamored of Bogart?
S: Right, he was. I don’t remember. Too many other things going on.
D: The first film you directed, Not As A Stranger with Robert Mitchum, Lee Marvin had a small part in that. What was it like working with him then? It was a pretty volatile cast with Sinatra, Mitchum, Broderick Crawford….
S: I don’t recollect. You’ll have to make it up.
D: [laughs] I won’t do that. Some critics said Gene Kelly was miscast in Inherit the Wind (1960). I thought he was wonderful in that.
S: I did, too. It’s hard to find reasons for that failure of that movie except I know some of the reasons. United Artists never went all the way down the line with it, to open it and do it, exploit it. It needed that. I thought Tracy and March would carry it, you know?
D: They were like titans.
S: They were titans, too. They had respect. That was a wonderful experience for me. Sometimes it goes, sometimes it doesn’t. When I was working on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), everybody said, “Christ, this will fold like an accordion.” Yet, they stood opposite each other. The guy kissed the girl in the opening scene.
D: The world didn’t come to an end.
S: No, maybe if it had we’d have made more money. If you have any personal questions, feel free to ask me.
D: What do you look for in a script? Obviously, you have a certain style of filmmaking like all great directors do…
S: No I don’t.
D: I think you do. I think you have a film that says Stanley Kramer on it.
S: How do you…That’s why I made a picture, the picture I made was It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, World (1963). That’s not a Stanley Kramer picture.
D: Right, since every now and again, you got to break the mold. No question about that. But chances are, if there’s a film that says Stanley Kramer on it, it’s not going to be a light piece of fluff. You tackled tough subjects mostly…
S: I didn’t think they were so tough when I tackled them. I made them because I believed in them and visualized it and thought, “Well, I could do this. Make a great thing out of it.” Doesn’t always turn out that way. That’s what makes a Christian out of you.
D: What do you look for in a script when you read it?
S: I don’t look for anything in particular. Surprise me! Shock me! Stun me! Intrigue me! Do something! I don’t know whether it jumps off the page but maybe I can visualize something. Chances are, if it jumps off the page, it wouldn’t be very good.
D: Did you ever think of directing a play instead of just films? You seem to be a very good actor’s director.
S: Who told you that?
D: No one. That comes just from watching your films. You give great showcases for actors in your films.
S: Well, then the film would be the showcase. But, nobody ever offered me a play script and I never thought of one so…I’ve directed stage productions, workouts, locally and so forth.
D: Interesting. When you cast Burt Lancaster as the judge on trial in Judgment at Nuremberg, was there a chance of casting Lee Marvin in that or any role in the film?
S: I’m sure I did along the way. Maybe there was some reason why he wasn’t in it. See, I had Tracy near the end of his life, since it was an all-star cast, I did that so I could get try to get an audience where it all jelled, because it never did sufficiently. We got an audience but not enough. Lancaster was a replacement. That part was set and agreed to and all negotiated out for Olivier to play. He got married. He married Joan Plowright. He said, “Unless you can postpone the picture for four months, it’s out.” I couldn’t. At any rate, Lancaster was one of those nasty…It didn’t work entirely because everybody else had a background of being German; Schell and all the defendants. But Lancaster read it and wanted it. I didn’t like the accent he played with.
D: He tried.
S: He tried and he performed pretty well.
D: You produced John Cassavetes’ first studio film, A Child is Waiting (1963). I’m guessing he preferred his own independent projects so he wasn’t crazy about the experience.

Producer Stanley Kramer making a point to director John Cassavetes on the set of A CHILD IS WAITING. The look on Cassavetes' face betrays the looming storm.

Producer Stanley Kramer making a point to director John Cassavetes on the set of A CHILD IS WAITING. The look on Cassavetes’ face betrays the looming storm.

S: He wasn’t crazy about the experience because of me, probably. We had difficulties. He was a talented fellow. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have put him in the job. But I had a self-centered idea about films. There can only be one dominant and you can’t do it by conference, by agreement. One guy has the concept and the driving force. That’s what I always felt to be true, anyhow. Cassavetes was young, unregimented, not accustomed to listening, and I was in his ear a lot. It was a project I would have done. I was busy on something else. The reason I didn’t direct it is I made the project go up to that point but it was the kind of subject most people wouldn’t be interested in, anyhow. We used a lot of people from the hospital.
D: Burt Lancaster played the head of the hospital but would you have considered Lee Marvin for Lancaster’s role as the lead?
S: Yeah, I would have considered Lee Marvin for anything. I thought he was a hell of an actor.
D: Do you recall if you did or not for that role?
S: Probably not because Lancaster was a much bigger name. Some of those subjects needed a symphony of names. It’s always a confining thing. See, in the early days, Marlon Brando had never made a film, and that was good. Kirk Douglas hadn’t done anything, and that was good. There were other people. Jose Ferrer was not known in films. Gary Cooper was but Grace Kelly hadn’t. I had used a lot of people exciting in those days. Then, I began to switch cast, vis a vis Astaire or Gene Kelly, that kind of thing…dancers [laughs].
D: On Ship of Fools (1965), how did Lee Marvin get along with Vivien Leigh?

The climatic 'shoe fight' in SHIP OF FOOLS in which Vivien Leigh beats Lee Marvin for misaking her for a prostitute. Marvin kept the shoe as a treasured memento.

The climatic ‘shoe fight’ in SHIP OF FOOLS in which Vivien Leigh beats Lee Marvin for misaking her for a prostitute. Marvin kept the shoe as a treasured memento.

S: I don’t know if there was anything personal going on between them. I would be the last one to ask about that. But, he got along very well. After all, he was a queer duck. Meeting him for the first time, for an actor who’s supposed to be playing with him, it must have been an experience for her, too. I’m sure it was.
D: Would you say there was a mutual respected for each other’s talent?
S: The respect that he had for her was unbelievable. What her respect was for him, I don’t know.
D: How did Lee Marvin get the part in Ship of Fools?
S: I picked him. If you ask me on what basis, I don’t know. Usually, casting is a feeling. [pause] I can’t stress enough that he was really two people. He had an outer facade and this terrible, sensitive, introspective underneath. How do you deal with that, as an actor? It’s not easy. He was very respectful of Vivien Leigh. The first scene they played together I remember very well because of Marvin. He came into the dining room, crossed the room and sat down at the table.

A disheveled Lee Marvin as ex-ballplayer Bill Tenney in director Stanley Kramer's SHIP OF FOOLS.

A disheveled Lee Marvin as ex-ballplayer Bill Tenney in director Stanley Kramer’s SHIP OF FOOLS.

D: That’s right.
S: How do you know that’s right?
D: I’ve seen the movie several times. Wasn’t it the scene where he’s at the table and she comes in and he doesn’t get up for Vivien Leigh who sarcastically says ‘don’t get up.’?
S: You’ve seen it more recently. At any rate, he worked out the lines, how to cope with it and then did me the honor of discussing it. He often did that, very often. This was always deep with him because either he had something profound to say which people ought to listen to — he always seemed to be so surfacely amuck or rough. When you bear that, when you lifted the curtain and looked behind it, there was a lot to see.
D: So you’re saying there was much more depth to the man then people realized?
S: Not only much more depth but he was sensitive underneath. His sensitivity he protected as best he could. I always gave him credit of his intelligence. I remember…let me think a minute. I constantly had a feeling he left too soon. I think he had a lot more to say and do, I really feel that. I don’t think he ever crested, is what I mean
D: Have you seen a film in recent years and thought Lee Marvin could’ve done it?
S: Well, it wouldn’t be that obvious. I made a picture once called On the Beach (1959). Fred Astaire played a scientist in it. Everyone said, “What the hell is Fred Astaire doing in this? Can’t visualize it.” I visualize it somewhere along the line. I think he came through very well. It would be the same with Marvin. If Marvin, for example, played a hard…I often look for a role for something like a football coach or a college instructor so I could use him and stand out from that.
D: Well, Anthony Quinn in RPM (1970) was a college instructor. Did you consider Marvin for that role?
S: I don’t remember that. It was a gigantic failure. That’s what I remember most.
D: It was a game effort.
S: Unfortunately, you don’t get points for that. I’ve had a lot of game efforts [laughs].
D: During Ship of Fools, anything else in particular about it that stands out in your mind?
S: Well, I had a conglomeration of people in the film, as you know. It was the one and only experience I had with an actor named Oskar Werner. He happened to be one of the great actors of all time. He and Spencer Tracy, but I only made one picture with Oskar…He was very difficult for everybody. I made a pact with him. If our objectives, our high objectives were up there and clear to both of us, he’d get rid of all this crap and go for it, which he bought and did. Many times he would do something and say to me something he never said to anybody: “What do you think?” That was a big concession for him.
D: How did he get along with the other actors?
S: Fairly well. He and Signoret, I got together and made a pact with both of them. They made a pact with each other: Drop the resentment and the dislike and let the roles dominant.
D: Seemed to work. Their love scenes seemed very believable.
S: Of course. So many other things I was satisfied with most of the way. I remember one day I had a scene with Vivien Leigh and she was drunk, she was playing it. It occurred to us, on her walk down the ship’s corridor, do something, the Charleston. Just suddenly broke into it like it was on her mind. And she did it and went off quickly. Then she went on her way to the cabin. That was my idea. I want credit for that one!
D: What are you doing with yourself, lately?
S: I’m preparing to make a picture, yeah. That’s one of the things I’m doing. I also wrote another book.
D: Anything you can tell me about the upcoming film?
S: Well, I can tell you it’s present time. I have two projects. The first one, I’d like to be the story of modern Soviet Russia: After the fall of the Soviet Union. It’s a good love story. I got to bring it up to date. Changes every month.
D: Any casting in mind?
S: Well, the guy who’s dogging me the most is Max Schell. Last time Max Schell and I got together, he won the Oscar. This is very special, too. Good love story.
D: You mentioned a new book. Is it on filmmaking or your own experiences?
S: Well, running through it is film anecdotes, motivations, agonies, prejudices.
D: Any of the later films that weren’t necessarily hits with critics or audiences, say, The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969) that you may have reconsidered casting?
S: I don’t recall, maybe. In terms of casting, you have to have a big enough ego and I had it. You visualize something, you get an idea, a thought, and you follow it through against the current. If it comes off, great. If it doesn’t, you made a mistake.
D: So, you’re saying casting against type worked for you a lot better?
S: No, it didn’t work a lot better but it worked, sometimes. Not always.
D: Can you think of an example where it failed?
S: Yeah, but I won’t tell you.
D: [Laughs] Okay, that’s fair. That seems like a good note to end on.
S: All right. Hope you got enough.
D: I sure did.

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SOME QUOTES ON THE WILD ONE AIRING THIS FRIDAY ON TCM

With The Wild One airing this Friday on TCM, it seems like a good excuse to post on this blog some previously unpublished thoughts. Readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank are already familiar with Lee Marvin’s thoughts on the role; producer Stanley Kramer’s thoughts on the film’s controversy; the headache of working with Brando AND Marvin and most interesting of all, what the actual bikers depicted in the film thought of Lee Marvin’s performance.

Original ad for The Wild One in which 4th billed Lee Marvin is shown (barely) but not mentioned.

Original ad for The Wild One in which 4th billed Lee Marvin is shown (barely) but not mentioned.

The film has indeed held up fairly well over the years, thanks in large part to Marvin’s performance. It’s legacy has become even greater thanks to the influence it has had creating the genre of biker films, the emulation by Hell’s Angels founder Sonny Barger, and a strange effect it had a young British musical group that would become the most famous rock band of all time.

Another ad campaign for the film, with some actual dialog ("After a while you got to have a ball") and some dialog that makes no sense at all ("And if Someone gets hurt that's just tough!").  Oh, and exactly what is Brando supposed to be looking at?

Another ad campaign for the film, with some actual dialog (“After a while you got to have a ball”) and some dialog that makes no sense at all (“And if Someone gets hurt that’s just tough!”).
Oh, and exactly what is Brando supposed to be looking at?

Lee’s first wife, Betty, was one of my earliest and most influential interviews and her observations and experiences were amazing. Below, are a few previously unpublished thoughts on her ex-husband and his then co worker, Marlon Brando from 1995…..

In the re-release pressbook for The Wild One, some publicity ideas (above) offer a way to ballyhoo the film locally.

In the re-release pressbook for The Wild One, some publicity ideas (above) offer a way to ballyhoo the film locally.

Betty: I found similarities in what Brando was saying about acting and what Lee felt. I know the time we spent together, Brando, Lee and I, I would be hearing them, they were very much in accord. Personally, there was also a mutual respect there.
Dwayne: I heard, depending on who you talked to, they either showed respect for each other or they didn’t like each other, there was a rivalry.
Betty: Brando lived next door to us. When they did The Wild One, he was our son’s babysitter. We were together all the time. Brando taught me to play bongos on the peanut butter jars. We did things together. They were different in some ways in that Brando, compared to Lee, was very childlike. Brando was the one who would make Lee laugh. He’d tell me that they would drive to the studio and he’d tell me later, “Do you know Bud was trying to pick up a girl at the red light?” He was like a kid, flirting.
Dwayne: He’s still like that. Did you see him on Larry King?
Betty: I liked him on Larry King because I liked his honesty. I also think he’s very bright. He’s precocious. He’s very bright and..
Dwayne: Very manipulative too.
Betty: Oh he always did.
Dwayne: In the The Wild One, I think Lee was one of the few actors who wasn’t blown off the screen by Brando.
Betty: Not at all…..You just saw that adrenalin pumping. Also, They were both young actors, but Lee had a maturity that Brando didn’t have yet. Brando was kind of a kid next to Lee. Lee was like the adult in that gang. Remember, he was like the older guy.
Dwayne: A lot of critics felt he was to old for the part..
Betty: He was perfect.

From the book LIFE GOES TO THE MOVIES, the image above depicts how Lee Marvin's character of Chino came from the actual events in Hollister, Calif. back in 1947, despite the critics at the time saying Marvin was too old for the part.

From the book LIFE GOES TO THE MOVIES, the image above depicts how Lee Marvin’s character of Chino came from the actual events in Hollister, Calif. back in 1947, despite the critics at the time saying Marvin was too old for the part.

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