The Lives of Robert Ryan, by author J.R. Jones, is one of many sources sought out by yours truly in my research effort of Killin’ Generals. In so doing, I came across this little tidbit concerning the making of The Iceman Cometh (1973)….

Lee Marvin (Hickey), Robert Ryan (Slade) and Tom Pedi (Rocky) watch as Fredric March takes his first walk outside in years among the new-fangled automobiles.

As he [Cheyney Ryan, p.272] later told author Dwayne Epstein, Marvin showed up one day at 8 AM with a case of beer and proceed to get hammered. “He got into a thing about what a big star he was,” Cheyney recalled. “It was really unpleasant…He said, “Your father’s not a big star anymore. I’m a big star. He used to be a big star and now I’m the big star.” This went on and on and on.” [Director John] Frankenheimer took Marvin aside later and read him the riot act about his drinking...
   Yes, Cheyney Ryan did tell me that, but he also told me that the next day Marvin apologized profusely and stayed sober as he worked with the cast whether he was needed or not. This important factor was left out by author Jones.

Marvin and Ryan, men of a certain age and time, in The Professionals.

In an earlier section of The Lives of Robert Ryan, author J.R. Jones recounts the tale of ‘Vegas Vic’ while filming Richard Brooks’ The Professionals (1966) in Nevada. Unfortunately he tells the version Woody Strode explained in his memoir, Goal Dust, which is vastly different than what Strode told me in person. I was also fortunate enough to interview fellow culprit and stunt double Tony Epper and his memory of that night is not only impeccable but utterly believable. Want to know what really happened? Read Lee Marvin Point Blank. Until then, in the immortal words of Robert Aldrich: “Onward!”

The Lives of Robert Ryan by J.R. Jones.

– Dwayne Epstein

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Vegas Vic, the iconic smiling, waving, giant cowboy towering over the streets Las Vegas is again back in the news and the legendary run-in Lee Marvin had with him is part of the story. Of course, since it’s been more than fifty years since Marvin tangled with the neon cowpoke, some of the facts have been skewed, as they were five decades ago.

Vegas Vic, as he looked at the time Lee Marvin and company decided to take him on.

A local Nevada news broadcast decided to highlight the the signs history last week and its fascinating history could not be told without mentioning the showdown he had with Lee Marvin. The text of the broadcast featuring Lee is below:
The booming voice continued until 1966 when a decision was made to go silent, though the circumstances behind the decision have changed and grown over time.
“That Lee Marvin story might be apocryphal,” says [Nevada State Museum Director, Dennis] McBride with a laugh. “I don’t know. He was staying downtown in one of the hotels. And he’d been filming a movie here and he was tired, trying to sleep.”
Marvin and his fellow actors and crew members had been based out of Las Vegas while shooting the movie “The Professionals” a couple of hours away in Death Valley.
“Legend has it that during the 1960s, movie star Lee Marvin got angry over Vic’s booming welcome,” News 3’s Denis Rosch reported some three decades after the original incident.
“He opened up his window. Shot arrows at the sign,” finished up then-Pioneer owner Marc Curtis. “Stuck several arrows in Vegas Vic and shortly thereafter, the city council decided to silence Vegas Vic.”

“Hey, Woody! What do you say we go into Vegas tonight and have a little innocent fun….”

Mr. Curtis got most of the story correct but there were several important details he left out. Having interviewed both the late Woody Strode and Tony Epper for Lee Marvin Point Blank, Marvin’s co-conspirators in Vegas, I can attest that there was infinitely more to the story than what Nevada’s news station printed. By the way, you can watch the video and read Vegas Vic’s full history here. You can also get the REAL story (Not what Lee Marvin told the cops at the time) only in Lee Marvin Point Blank. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein.


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Mass shootings throughout the country has been a major hot button issue due to its constant recurrence in the news for months and seemingly years on end. Nothing in terms of legislation has been done to curb this nightmarish scenario and there’s a sad truth to the reason for this in a link at the end of this blog entry.
In the mean time, since this is a blog concerning Lee Marvin’s life and career, it got me to wondering how he would have reacted to such current events. In my initial research, I was always impressed with Lee Marvin’s stance on such social topics as Gay Rights, feminism and Civil Rights.
Unfortunately, we parted company when it came to the issue of gun rights. Turns out he was a firm believer in the unquestioned power of the 2nd Amendment: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Never mind the legal challenges to the phrase “well-regulated.” He believed the 2nd Amendment to be sacrosanct.
According to the late stuntman and close Marvin friend, Tony Epper, “We’d talk about the fear of disarming our country like they did in Poland. We’d talk about that. This had been in the air for a long time. Lee and I collected guns and things. I fear that myself because the right to bear arms is what keeps us who we are. You’re not going to disarm the people like in Poland.”
However, in response to such a point of view, that philosophy existed at a time BEFORE the creation of handheld Glocks that can fire 33 deadly rounds in 15 seconds, high-capacity magazines, Bump Stocks, the presence of military assault weapons on the streets of America, the rise of White Supremicists and other hate groups, and infinitely more unsavory developments that has given rise to constant mass shootings.

Lee Marvin in PRIME CUT, toting the most powerful gun available at the time (1972), which pales in comparison to current firepower.

It’s for that reason I’d like to think that if he were alive today, Marvin would definitely have evolved his thinking. I found it in encouraging that in the same conversation, Tony Epper told me this about Lee Marvin: “He would die if he knew what was happening with the NRA and the gun laws. He was a strong supporter of the Bill Of Rights. I know that much he did talk about.”
Why the NRA? Well, for anyone who doesn’t know the impact and influence the gun lobby has on stonewalling overwhelmingly popular gun control legislation, I implore you to watch the one hour Frontline special linked here.


And after that, if you haven’t done so already, read Lee Marvin Point Blank to get the full understanding of Lee Marvin’s stand on guns and gun violence and why it probably would be different today.
– Dwayne Epstein

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