VEGAS VIC VS. LEE MARVIN

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: WHERE LEE MARVIN WOULD’VE STOOD

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.

Montage of images from FRONTLINE’s GUNNED DOWN: INSIDE THE POLITICS AND THE POWER OF THE NRA.

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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LEE MARVIN: IN COLD BLOOD

I recently watched the 1967 classic true-crime thriller In Cold Blood on TCM and it still packs one hell of a wallop. Writer/Director Richard Brooks was at the peak of his game in his stark tale of the horrific murders of the Clutter family at the hands of ex-con drifters Perry Smith (Robert Blake) and Dick Hickox (Scott Wilson). As readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know, Marvin himself came pretty damned close to being in the film.
How close? From the IMDb: “Lee Marvin wanted the role of Alvin Dewey but director Richard Brooks gave it to John Forsythe instead. Brooks had worked with Marvin on the extremely successful, The Professionals.  but Marvin had proved to be a handful on the set.”

L-R: Veteran character actor James Flavin, Robert Blake, Gerald S. O’loughlin, John Forsythe (in the role Marvin was to play) & Scott Wilson in Richard Brooks’ true crime thriller, IN COLD BLOOD.

I’m not quite sure where the IMDb got its information from but I had interviewed stuntman Tony Epper, who had worked very closely with Brooks and Marvin on The Professionals. His version of why Marvin was not in the film was quite different. While it’s true Marvin and Brooks did not always get along, both men were well aware of each other’s  personality traits and it was Marvin, not Brooks, who did not want to work with the other. Marvin thought of Brooks as a martinet who may have been a military veteran, but having not seen actual combat, he considered Brooks a phony and a bully. Unfortunate really as it was another golden opportunity that Marvin missed in being a part of portraying the horror of violence on film as never seen before at that time.

Lee Marvin as Detective Frank Ballinger on M Squad, or, as I like to think of it, how he would have appeared in the John Forsythe role for IN COLD BLOOD.

Tony Epper: “I’ll tell you what Lee did. I came over and Lee said ‘Go get some of that good wine at the liquor store.’ It was a different label, that’s all. Other than that, after the third drink, you know. Anyway, I get a phone call. I lived down in the valley in those days. It’s Richard. I remember Tommy Shaw, who was the production manager, in those days. He was a good production manager. Anyway, Brooks wanted to get the script of In Cold Blood to Tommy. He had called Tommy and Tommy couldn’t come. I took it, because his wife had a liver problem. That’s where the money went. Anyway, I went over and that’s when Brooks was still with Jean Simmons. He and I were good friends. Nothing but good friends…Anyway, I go in the house and there’s Richard. He says, ‘I want you to do me a big favor.’ I said ‘Do you want me to kill somebody?’ (laughs) He gives me the script. Lots of seals all over it. I stopped by Lee’s with the script and the bottle he wanted. Anyway, this part was Lee’s idea. He saw the sealed script I was to deliver to Shaw, and since he knew Brooks was so paranoid about anybody reading his script, he came up with this idea. He said, ‘Let’s just break the seal before giving it to Shaw.’ I asked Lee if he wanted to read it first. We never read it, just broke the seal. Brooks, until the day he died, kept asking me if we had ever read the script to In Cold Blood. I think that’s why he changed his mind about offering the role to Lee.”
– Dwayne Epstein

IN COLD BLOOD writer/director Richard Brooks (behind the camera) and cinematographer Conrad Hall behinds Brooks.

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