MARCH 2022 ON TCM: 31 DAYS OF OSCAR!

March 2022 on TCM means the annual salute to the Academy Awards with their month long program of 31 Days Of Oscar. Previous years had TCM programming it’s Oscar show in February but the pandemic has moved the actual award show to March 27th, hence TCM’s showcase airing March 2022.
This being a website/blog maintained to promote the life & work of Lee Marvin, I’ve gone through the TCM schedule for March 2022 to highlight several films for both the potential and dedicated Lee Marvin fan. Of course, all these films won Oscars thru the years, while previous schedules included films that were also nominated.  Wouldn’t it be nice to include films that SHOULD have been nominated? If they did, then we movie fans would be treated to such Marvin classics, as Point Blank (1967), Hell in the Pacific (1968) Monte Walsh (1970, Emperor of the North (1973)  and more! Might be something TCM schedulers could consider in the future. By the way, Only one film listed below actually stars Lee Marvin so the reason the others are listed is explored to a much greater extent in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Until then, below are the days and times (PST) of films Lee Marvin followers can look forward to this month. 
The Dirty Dozen
(1967), Thursday, March 10th, 3:15 p.m.

Composite of scenes from the TCM perennial, THE DIRY DOZEN.

I don’t think it’s possible for me to write any more about The Dirty Dozen than I already have….oh, wait! There certainly is more, as I’m in the midst of researching “Killin’ Generals: The Making The Dirty Dozen, The Most Icon WWII of All Time” to be published by Kensington Press on Father’s Day, 2023, so stayed tuned for that as I’ve already acquired a staggering amount of exclusive research that no one as ever seen before! 

The Longest Day (1962), Thursday March 10th, 5:00 pm.

Original ad art for the all-star production featuring an international cast for THE LONGEST DAY..



Producer Darryl Zanuck’s mammoth tribute to D-Day still holds up after all these years and the Oscars it won were well-deserved. Rarely known factoid: It’s believed that Zanuck wanted Lee Marvin for the John Wayne role but Marvin was briefly repped by MCA at that time and turned it down. Proved to be one of the myriad of reasons the actor went crawling back to Meyer Mishkin and stayed with him for the remainder of his career.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Monday, March 14th, 5:00 p.m.

(L-R) Lew Ayres as the innocent your soldier with Louis Wolheim as wizened sergeant in Lewis Milestone’s anti-war classic, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT.


The first and still one of the best anti-war films to ever come out of Hollywood, it was the only film to win Best Picture for Universal Pictures for many a decade. Lee Marvin is on record as calling it one of his favorite films from his childhood on. He was especially enamored by Louis Wolheim’s war-weary Sgt. and the way in which he cared for his charges. Marvin claimed to have based his performance in The Big Red One (1980) partially on Wolheim’s, as well as his own father, Monte Marvin. Check it out and see for yourself. By the way, frequent Marvin costar Ernest Borgnine played the role in a TV-movie remake.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Mostly in shadow, Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt battle big Barton MacLane for the money he owes them.


(1948) Tuesday, March 15th, 10:00 p.m.
Legendary director John Huston’s classic tale of greed among professed friends earned the director’s father, Walter Huston, a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and with good reason.  Why is it listed here? Well, according to Lee Marvin, it also contained one of his favorite realistic fight scenes ever put on film as I related here

Rashomon

Toshiro Mifune in Kurosawa’s 1950 classic, RASHOMON.


(1950) Wednesday, March 16th, 1:15 a.m.
In the postwar years of the early 1950s, the United Sates opened up the distribution of foreign films to America, forever changing the face of international cinema. A foreign filmmaker who led the charge was Japan’s Akira Kurosawa with a plethora of amazing productions starring Toshiro Mifune. Rashomon is listed here as some may know that Mifune was Lee Marvin’s favorite actor, mainly for his Samurai films. In this film, though, Mifune is a thief who commits a heinous act which is depicted from the various points of view of the people involved. As with many of Kurosawa’s films, Rashomon was later Americanized as the Martin RItt Film The Outrage (1964) starring Paul Newman, but with much less success. Mifune on occasion dabbled in American films but Kurosawa never did. He came close once with his original screenplay of Runaway Train (1985) which was eventually made by others. Who was his choice for the role played by Jon Voight? None other than Lee Marvin. 

A wonderful line-up of films for March 2022 are presented so feel free to check out the full calendar
Curious, in the current climate of international events, think TCM may show some Sergei Eisenstein films any time soon? I didn’t think so. 
– Dwayne Epstein

 

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THE WILD BUNCH

The Wild Bunch was Kathryn Bigelow’s choice to write about for the Serious Pleasures project, although in truth, it’s hardly a film in need of rediscovery as the project required.
However, her reasons for choosing it makes infinitely more sense than Steven Spielberg’s choice of Lawrence of Arabia (1962), simply based on the fact that it’s his favorite film (!)  Bigelow clearly proves how the film changed her life and as importantly, that the film is about honor, NOT violence. I completely agree.
So, with that in mind, here’s the final entry from my contributions to Bill Krohn’s Serious Pleasures (Previous installments are Point Blank, The Sand Pebbles, The Hill, One-Eyed Jacks and White Heat) Bigelow’s piece in italics followed by my research. All of which took place while I was researching Lee Marvin: Point Blank.
God, I so love the movies!

Shattering The Hall of Mirrors
Kathryn Bigelow on The Wild Bunch

The New York art world in which I was entrenched in the mid-Seventies was struggling to free itself from the art object. Groups such as “Art & Language” were attempting to challenge the notion of art in social and political context. They were challenging the notion of art in the marketplace. They reduced art to text: Art becomes more and more only about itself in endless reflexivity, a found object in a world reflecting itself in an endless hall of mirrors. It was as if art had run out of content — so it was left to reflect itself; it was not reflective of the world outside the art world.

I left New York briefly for the west coast of Africa where I discovered the primal exquisite beauty of cultures in which visual experience and experience itself, were genuine raw, tactile and immediate: art reflecting long historical traditions that still meant something, traditions still very much alive in in the culture. Art was tied to a living culture, reflecting political and emotional concerns of people.

Upon returning to New York I happened into a late-night screening at the Bleecker Street Cinema of The Wild Bunch. As I stared at the play of flickering light, I was breathless, transformed. Like Goya in his “Disasters of War” series, using paint to expose the darker aspects of human nature, Peckinpah pierces the screen, lets it run with blood to illuminate his subject, which is honor, NOT violence. I was in its thrall from the opening image of the scorpions onward. Suddenly a sensuous violence shattered the hall of mirrors. It was a summing up of all that had come before, laying claim to all that follows. Up until that point I had never thought of making films, but with The Wild Bunch, I saw it was possible to to make something have within the SAME text the visual, cathartic and the sensual — along with the cerebral and reflexive. It’s a film about film as well as its own content, For me the flickering light in that lat-night screening was a moment where my history was irrevocably altered. 

Title page from the chapter on THE WILD BUNCH in SERIOUS PLEASURES.



THE WILD BUNCH
The history of The Wild Bunch began when Roy Sickner, a stuntman working on the Marlon Brando film Morituri! (1965) showed a treatment for a western containing an exciting train sequence and a climatic shootout to the film’s dialogue coach Walon Green. Green had previously been involved with successful television documentaries and was looking for a western to write that would be truthful in its depiction of the Old West.

Sickner’s treatment “was sort of based on Butch Cassidy,” recalls Green, “but I had never heard of Butch Cassidy when I wrote the movie. I called it The Wild Bunch — I didn’t know that there was a real Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. We wrote a treatment and then had to find a backer to put up $5,000 to write the screenplay.” Green showed the script to his drinking buddy, Lee Marvin, and Marvin showed it to Sam Peckinpah, who rewrote Green’s first draft. Marvin is also rumored to have worked on the screenplay, since he intended to play the protagonist, Pike Bishop. 

Lee Marvin in THE PROFESSIONALS, as he might have looked as Pike Bishop in THE WILD BUNCH.



The screenplay was submitted to producer Phil Feldman, who pitched the idea to Warner Brothers/Seven Arts executive, Kenneth Hyman. An August 1967 memo [from Feldman to Hyman] explains, “The reason for the enclosure is that a friend of Lee Marvin’s called Roy Sickner wrote s story some time ago which Marvin wants to do….Sam tells me he spent several hours with Lee just the other day on it.” Hyman liked what he read and negotiations ensued. 

Marvin was kept from participating by his agent Meyer Mishkin, who felt it would be a mistake for his client to star in another violent film. “I have been advised, among other things, by Meyer Mishkin, that Lee Marvin has accepted the Paint Your Wagon book…” wrote Feldman to Hyman in a December 12 memo. “That makes him totally unavailable in the year 1968.” 

The initial casting ideas followed in a memo Feldman had written to Peckinpah the previous month stating: “Pike would have to be a good eight to ten years older than Dutch, and therefore it would be Lee Marvin combined with George Peppard, or we could use Burt Lancaster combined with Steve McQueen or Paul Newman.” Other names bandied about included Jimmy Stewart and James Coburn, as well as Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck.

The week after Marvin dropped out, William Holden signed to play Pike Bishop. He was followed quickly by Ernest Borgnine (who was certainly not ten years younger) as Dutch Engstrom, and a cast of veterans including Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien and Albert Dekker, alongside Peckinpah regulars Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones. Holden and Ryan had been major stars but hadn’t had a hit in years — like the characters they were to play, they were men in the twilight of greatness looking for one more chance to prove their worth.

An odd coincidence happened during the location scouting Mexico, according to Walon Green. The first location scouted was Parras de Madera, Mexico. The company had combed Mexico and Peckinpah still wasn’t satisfied. As they drove back they saw a sign that said ‘Parras’ and someone said, “There’s a town named that in the script.” It turned out to be exactly as described, Green remembers: “They called me and said, ‘Why didn’t you tell us you wrote it to a specific town? You could’ve saved us all this running around.’ I said, ‘I didn’t.’ I’ve never been in that town in my life. I just picked he town that revolutionary Francisco Torreon was born in.”

Many stories of Wild West behavior have been told about the making of The Wild Bunch. Peckinpah often infuriated his co-workers, and during filming his main adversary was producer Phil Feldman. L.Q. Jones, who worked with Peckinpah on nine films, commented: “The greatest mistake you could make was becoming a good friend with Sam. I was probably his best friend. It was a mistake.” 

Peckinpah had numerous initial run-ins with cast members, particularly the veterans. William Holden appeared on the set several days before he was needed and watched as Peckinpah reshot one scene over and over, putting the cast through grueling paces. “Is that how you’re going to direct this movie?,” asked Holden. When Peckinpah answered in the affirmative, Holden announced that he was going home, but returned three days later. There were no further conflicts. 

(L-R) Sam Peckinpah and William Holden square off  during production of THE WILD BUNCH.



Robert Ryan wanted a brief vacation to work on Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign; Peckinpah told him he couldn’t be spared and kept him hanging around ten days in make-up and costume without shooting a scene. Ryan, a former boxing champ at Dartmouth, eventually grabbed Peckinpah’s shirt front and said, “I’ll do anything you ask me to do in front of the camera because I’m a professional. But you open your mouth to me off the set, and I’ll knock your teeth out.” The director never provoked him again. 

Ernest Borgnine’s “testing” was briefer. The actor’s car constantly got stuck on the dusty road to the set. When Peckinpah drove by in his limo, Borgnine told him, “Get this road watered down or I’ll beat the shit out of you.” Two water trucks followed in short order. When Holden asked how he did it, Borgnine told him, “I just said the magic words.” 
While Peckinpah wrestled with the film, a marathon poker game was in progress. “We were playing one on The Wild Bunch that I think we started on Major Dundee [1965],” recalls Jones. “Probably between eight and ten thousand dollars on the table.” Holden, who had a reputation as a drinker, had vowed to drink only beer while filming The Wild Bunch, but in the middle of one game, he gave a startling “Whoopee!,” threw his bottle in the air and announced: “I’ve been drinking this godamn beer for five weeks and at last, I’m drunk!”

Once the film was completed, Peckinpah took a full year to edit. Angered at Phil Feldman’s suggestions about cuts, Peckinpah at one point called the Jewish Feldman a Nazi, but he did accept one important suggestion from the producer: Peckinpah planned on ending the film with Ryan waiting outside the gate of the recently massacred Fort Mapache: Feldman suggested adding flashback footage of The Wild Bunch, and to his surprise, Peckinpah walked into Feldman’s office and said, “You’re right.”

Walon Green has said that he wrote the now-famous slow motion action scenes into the script, but the final 128-page script dated February 12, 1968, contains no such notation. Like Green, Peckinpah was an admirer of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai [1954], which uses slow motion in its action sequences. 

(L-R) Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden and Ernest Borgnine in the climatic scene in THE WILD BUNCH (1969).



An inebriated Lee Marvin showed up at a much-anticipated screening of a preview at Warner Bros., heckled the film throughout the projection and, at one point, was even seen crawling down the aisle of the theatre. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Peckinpah put him up to the whole thing,” mused L.Q. Jones. “It’s just the kind of thing they would do.”

The film was released June 25, 1969, to extravagant praise and scathing attack. William Holden was criticized for an interview in which he said film violence could purge the psyche, but Peckinpah took most of the brickbats. Throughout the controversy he maintained: “I wanted to show people what the hell it felt like to be shot.”

While it is true that the director’s credit appears at the beginning of the film right after William Holden says, “If they move, kill’em!” as if Peckinpah were taking his audience hostage, joining in his vision of blood-drenched romanticism is a matter of choice. As Edmond O’Brien says near the end of the film, “You wanna come along? It ain’t like it used to be, but it’ll do.” 

– Dwayne Epstein

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