The Dirty Dozen, the biggest box office hit Lee Marvin had in his career, was released in theaters June 15, 1967 and in the 50 years since, fans have speculated what Marvin really thought about the film. Despite social media comments to the contrary, in my nearly 20 years of researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, nowhere have I found any reliable quotes attributed to the actor in which he claimed to dislike the film. How that got started I have no idea, but I do know that Marvin had his opinion of the film and it was not a negative one. As late as 1986, a year before he died, he told the L.A. Daily News in his own inimitable style: “Here I am a reclusive major going no place in the military, and they really want to court martial me. So rather than do that they say, ‘Let’s kill him doing something good for the movement.’ They get me all these baddies and we go over and blow ourselves up getting the German generals. So that’s it — the American underdog, right?” Does that sound like someone who didn’t like the film and did it only for the money? By the way, it may not seem like it looking at the final products, but Marvin never did a film just for the money, and that includes such bombs as Paint Your Wagon, The Klansman, Pocket Money, and more. The script is what ignited his interest, but of course the sizable paydays helped. So, for the record, Marvin was as proud of The Dirty Dozen as he was of any of the films he ever made.
The making of the film provided some of the best anecdotes I ever encountered in researching his life — the tales of costar and Marvin crony Bob Phillips (Cpl. Morgan) being a prime example — but for that, you must read the book!
In the meantime, here’s a rare 1967 British magazine heralding the film’s release. Enjoy and all hail The Dirty Dozen on its 50th anniversary!