Lee Marvin’s 1972 film, Pocket Money, has been largely dismissed almost since the day it was released. Rather unfortunate, I think, as the film really isn’t all that bad and actually has some things to recommend it.
The botched production is covered exclusively in Lee Marvin Point Blank via a rare interview with the novel’s original author, JPS Brown. Not mentioned, however, is how Marvin and his famous costar, Paul Newman, got along during and after production. According to Marvin’s son, Christopher, who was on set for the film’s production, there was simply no chemistry between the two men. As he related to me in 1995: “When I was living with my dad later on Pocket Money, Paul Newman came over one day. He had a coffee can full of red wine that he was holding. He was like [drunk voice] ‘You’re old man here?’ I said, ‘Yeah, man.’ He came in and they were just talking AT each other drunk for like two hours [bangs fists together]. Oh god, no repore whatsoever. It was funny.”
After it was completed and Marvin was asked what the film was about, He’d snarkily, respond, “Paul Newman.” If pressed, he would add, “It never worked out. It was Paul Newman’s production company. By the time they cut the footage, Newman was the star. I dunno. I guess the old ego got the best of him. What can you do?”
Later, when Paul Newman was told that Marvin claimed he was ‘finessed’ out of the picture, he told Rolling Stone: “I finessed him? I never even looked at the picture. Well, no, now I made some recommendations about the ending — two voice-overs that the two of us — but that was the only comment I made. Did he really say that? Well, it’s absolutely not true. I mean, Redford and I have got operational egos, but you never see that in terms of performance. Pocket Money didn’t make it, for sure, but I was delighted to play the character, the adolescent. I think the picture was too repetitious in terms of the humor, and it didn’t really know where it was going. It was fey and artificial.”
To his credit, Marvin made every effort to keep the sad production watchable. He used every trick in the book, while Newman spent the film looking bewildered and dumbfounded. Playing two not-too-bright cattlemen, in a script by novice filmmaker Terence Malick, just never seemed to jell, other than watching Marvin’s hijinks. Carole King contributed a catchy tune and the first half the film is interesting but it just rambles into incoherence. Well, the saving grace may just be something entirely incidental. Terry O’Neill photographed Marvin in what I consider the best picture of the actor I’ve ever seen. I’d have made it the cover of my book if the rights were not so cost prohibitive. What do you think?