MEMORIAL DAY MARATHON

Memorial Day Marathon of classic war films has become a TCM staple these last several years and this year in no exception. This three day Memorial Day marathon of 39 films runs from Friday May 27th to Monday May 30th and includes some of the greatest war films ever made. Naturally, it would be impossible to show every great war film ever made — Lewis Milestone’s All Quite on The Western Front (1930) and Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H (1970) come to mind — but the films they are showing represent a pretty good cross-section of some of the best and most intense war films of all time. Driving home the point is a well-written Memorial Day Marathon essay that can be read here.
Most of these Memorial Day Marathon films I’ve seen (several times), while some I’m very much looking forward to seeing for the first time, such as the underrated Jeffrey Hunter in Hell to Eternity (1960) in the true story of a Marine veteran at the Battle of Saipan. Those interested in Lee Marvin’s experience at Saipan and the USMC’s Island hopping campaign in the Pacific can read it in his own words in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Lee Marvin & fellow Marines in the Pacific during WWII.

All times listed below for the TCM Memorial Day Marathon are Pacific Standard Time….

 

                                         FRIDAY, MAY 27
5:00 PM Twelve O’Clock High (1949) The head of a World War II bomber squadron cracks under the pressure. Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Dean Jagger, Gary Merrill.
7:30 PM The Young and the Brave (1963) Three American POWs fight to escape from North Korea. Rory Calhoun, William Bendix, Richard Jaeckel.
9:15 PM Battleground (1949) American soldiers in France fight to survive a Nazi siege just before the Battle of the Bulge.  Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban, James Whitmore.
11:30PM Go for Broke! (1951) The true story of World War II’s all Japanese-American Nisei unit. Van Johnson, Lane Nakano, George Miki.
                                              Saturday, May 28th
1:15 AM Torpedo Run (1958) A submarine commander is forced to blow up a Japanese prison ship carrying his family. Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, Diane Brewster.
3:00 AM Darby’s Rangers (1958) An Army Major leads his men behind enemy lines during World War II. James Garner, Etchika Choureau, Jack Warden.
5:15 AM Flying Leathernecks (1951) A World War II Marine officer drives his men mercilessly during the battle for Guadalcanal. John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Don Taylor.
7:15 AM Thunder Afloat (1939) An old sailor is duped into joining the Navy, where he runs into a longtime rival. Wallace Beery, Chester Morris, Virginia Grey.
9:00AM For Me and My Gal (1942) Judy Garland (in her first adult role) and Gene Kelly (in his film debut) star in the classic WWI-era musical directed by Busby Berkeley. Judy Garland, George Murphy, Gene Kelly.
11:00 AM See Here, Private Hargrove (1944) A green recruit has a series of madcap adventures in the Army. Robert Walker, Donna Reed, Keenan Wynn.
1:00 PM Up Periscope (1959) A U.S. frogman infiltrates a Japanese-held island during World War II. James Garner, Edmond O’brien, Andra Martin.

3:00 PM Attack! (1956)

Lee Marvin as Col. Clyde Bartlett & Eddie Albert as Capt. Erskine Cooney in Robert Aldrich’s Attack!

Based on the play “Fragile Fox,” a cowardly captain leads his men into danger in WWII Belgium. Jack Palance, Eddie Albert, Lee Marvin, Willian Smithers, Buddy Ebsen, Richard Jaeckel, Robert Strauss.

5:00 PM From Here to Eternity (1953) Enlisted men in Hawaii fight for love and honor on the eve of World War II. Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine.
7:15 PM Fighter Squadron (1948) A dedicated flyer pushes himself and those around him during a perilous World War II campaign. Edmond O’brien, Robert Stack, John Rodney.

9:00 PM Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Henchmen Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin watch as Spencer Tracy gets off the train and prepare to confront him in John Sturges’ Bad Day at a Black Rock.

A one-armed veteran uncovers small-town secrets when he tries to visit an Asian-American war hero’s family. Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, Dean Jagger, John Ericson.

10:45 PM Breakthrough (1950) An American infantry unit moves from basic training to combat in Europe. David Brian, John Agar, Frank Lovejoy.

                                                Sunday, May 28th

12:30 AM Hell to Eternity (1960) A young man adopted by Japanese-Americans becomes a hero in World War II. Jeffrey Hunter, David Janssen, Vic Damone.
3:00 AM Ace of Aces (1933) After he’s branded a coward, a sculptor travels to France to help fight World War I. Richard Dix, Elizabeth Allen, Ralph Bellamy.
4:30 AM They Were Expendable (1945) After a demonstration of new PT boats, navy brass are still unconvinced of their capability. Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed.
7:00 AM Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) Repeat of Saturday’s broadcast.
8:45 AM The Great Escape (1963) Drama based on Paul Brickhill’s factual account of the efforts of Allied P.OW.s daring escape. Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, James Garner, David McCallum, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, James Donald.
11:45 Am The Steel Helmet (1951) Americans trapped behind enemy lines fight off Communists during the Korean War. Gene Evans, Robert Hutton, Steve Brodie, James Edwards, Sid Melton.
1:15 PM Action in the North Atlantic (1943) A Merchant Marine crew fights off enemy attacks at the start of World War II. Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Massey, Alan Hale.
3:30 PM December 7th (1943) After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. fights to survive the early days of WWII.  Walter Huston, Harry Davenport, Dana Andrews.
5:00 PM Destination Tokyo (1943) A U.S. sub braves enemy waters during World War II. Cary Grant, John Garfield, Alan Hale Sr., Dane Clark, Robert Hutton.
7:30 PM The Red Badge of Courage (1951) A young Union soldier fights to atone for a moment of cowardice during the Civil War. Audie Murphy, Andy Devine, Robert Easton Burke, Douglas Dick.
9:00 PM The Big Parade (1925) In this silent film, a young innocent enlists for World War I service but soon learns the horrors of war. John Gilbert, Renee Adoree, Hobart Bosworth.
11:45 PM The Cranes Are Flying (1957) A Russian woman is tormented by fears that her boyfriend has been killed in World War II. Tatyana Samoilova, Alexei Batalov, Vasili Merkuriev.
3:00 AM Till the End of Time (1946) A returning World War II veteran falls for a troubled war widow. Dorothy Mcguire, Guy Madison, Robert Mitchum.
5:00 AM Battle of the Bulge (1965) A crack Nazi unit holds off the Allies during World War II. Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, Pier Angeli, James MacArthur, George Montgomery.
8:00 AM One Minute to Zero (1952) A U.S. colonel in Korea tries to evacuate American civilians. Robert Mitchum, Ann Blyth, William Talman.
10:00 AM Merrill’s Marauders (1962) Burma, 1944: The 5307th commanded by Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill is deep behind Japanese lines in the Burmese jungle. Jeff Chandler, Ty Hardin, Peter Brown, Claude Akins.
12:00 PM The Naked and the Dead (1958) A green lieutenant comes up against incompetent officers and a sadistic sergeant. Aldo Ray, Cliff Robertson, Raymond Massey. L.Q. Jones.
2:30 PM Sergeant York (1941) True story of the farm boy who made the transition from religious pacifist to World War I hero. Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias.
5:00 PM The Longest Day (1962) The Allied forces launch the D-Day invasion of German-occupied France. John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Peter Lawford, Eddie Albert, Sean Connery, Sal Mineo, Richard Burton, Richard Beymer, Robert Ryan, Rod Steiger, Red Buttons, Stuart Whitman, Steve Forrest, Mel Ferrer, Roddy McDowell.
8:15 PM Bataan (1943) Thirteen U.S. soldiers risk their lives to hold a bridge against the Japanese. Robert Taylor, George Murphy, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Nolan, Desi Arnaz.

10:30 PM The Dirty Dozen (1967)

An Angry Col. Breed (Robert Ryan) confronts rebellious Col. Reisman (Lee Marvin) in The Dirty Dozen.

A renegade officer trains a group of criminals for a crucial mission behind enemy lines. Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Robert Webber, Richard Jaeckel, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker, Trini Lopez.

Tuesday, May 31st

1:15 AM Take the High Ground! (1953) A tough drill sergeant prepares green recruits for service in the Korean War. Richard Widmark, Steve Forrest, Maurice Jara, Robert Arthur, William Hairston.
3:00 AM Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) General Jimmy Doolittle trains American troops for the first airborne attacks on Japan. Spencer Tracy, Phyllis Kirk, Van Johnson, Robert Walker, Tim Murdock, Robert Mitchum.
5:30 AM The Letter (1940) A woman claims to have killed in self-defense, until a blackmailer turns up with incriminating evidence. Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson, Gale Sondergaard.
7:30 AM Objective, Burma! (1945) An elite team of paratroopers lands deep behind Japanese lines in the jungles of Burma. Errol Flynn, James Brown, William Prince, Henry Hull.
10:00 AM The Bridge on the River Kwai(1957) The Japanese Army forces World War II POWs to build a strategic bridge in Burma. William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins,  Geoffrey Horne, Sesue Hayakawa.

There you have it, TCM’s Memorial Day Marathon salute via some terrific films. Think of it as just one way to commemorate the holiday by honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice. As they say in The Dirty Dozen: “Those ho gave their lives in the line of duty.”

– Dwayne Epstein.

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WWII MOVIES: THE BEST?

WWII movies, one of the most popular sustained genres of film, is the subject of a recent online article I happen to come across. Naturally, everybody’s opinion is different, but if the subject is “20 of the Best,” there’s bound to be conflict. Actually, I agree with a lot of the choices in the article, but of course, there are exceptions. 
   As the author of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was heartened to see two of the actors best WWII films on the list. However, I of course think they should be ranked a little higher.
   The fact that the British author of the piece included some British films is to be expected, as well some underrated WWII movies worthy of rediscovery. But if he’s going to do that, he should have included the criminally underrated Attack!

The tag lines aside, the powerful artwork spoke volumes for the film WWII ATTACK!, one of the most criminally underrated WWII movies ever made.



(1956), which, like The Dirty Dozen (1967), was harrowingly directed by Robert Aldrich. By the way, the mention of the film Overlord (1975) also has a Dirty Dozen connection in that it was directed by Stuart Cooper who played Roscoe Lever. 
   Back to the list, itself. One problem I see in the choices is if you going to make the point about the prolific writing of Alistair MacLean why choose Where Eagles Dare over the much better Guns of Navarone (1961)? Weird!  
   Also, since WWII had so many varied aspects to it, why not break up the list by sub-genres? After all, if you put the legendary Casablanca on the list in terms of the effect the war had on civilians, there should be a place for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), The Best Years of Our Lives (1948), The Tin Drum (1979), Hope & Glory (1987), The Men (1950, Since You Went Away, (1944), So Proudly We Hail (1943) and several others. In doing so, it would include another Lee Marvin classic: Bad Day at Black Rock (1955). Just saying.

Henchmen Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin watch as Spencer Tracy gets off the train and prepare to confront him in John Sturges’ Bad Day at a Black Rock (1955).


   As far as sub-genres are concerned, there should be one for biopics and if so, it is absolutely appalling not to include the likes of Patton (1970). George C. Scott’s performance (turned down by Lee Marvin) is one of the greatest in movie history! 
  It can also be determined by branches of the service, which would include the likes of the navy in Mister Roberts (1955), They Were Expendable (1945), or the Marines via The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)…well, you get the idea. 
   Basically stated, if you’re going to write a list of “The Best…” anything, be prepared to be corrected, debated and possibly duck some brickbats as the cinema of WWII is a pretty big subject to ever narrow down to just 20. In the mean time, watch a Lee Marvin movie and then find out how they were made in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

– Dwayne Epstein



 

 

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: AN OP-ED

The ongoing controversy surrounding the candidacy, election, and then presidency of Donald Trump has raised the question a while back (in my mind at least), what would Lee Marvin had thought of him? Before I go any further with that thought, allow me to give an important disclaimer: I never met Lee Marvin personally, therefore I am no expert on his politics, nor am I any kind of political expert, per se. In the words of Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers.
However, while researching and writing Lee Marvin Point Blank, I think I can come to some logical conclusions. Granted, there were not any candidates like Donald Trump when Lee Marvin was alive, but there is a way of confirming Marvin’s political viewpoint which is stated in detail in the book.
All that said, President Donald Trump is well on his way to become arguably the single worst commander-in-chief this country has ever seen. There are a plethora of examples given in the daily news cycle since he’s been in office. Most recently, and most devastating is the effect his administration has had on the COVID-19 pandemic. He knew about it as far back as January/February of this year and did nothing to stem its tide. Now,over six months into this nightmare, he continues to do nothing as tens of thousands of citizens continue to get sick and die and the economy implodes.
On top of that, it’s recently been reported that Russian president Vladimir Putin has offered bounties to Afghan soldiers who kill American soldiers in that ongoing war. Trump claims he was not aware of such intelligence info during any briefings. However, since it’s been reported, the Trump Administration has done nothing to condemn the Russian government, nor retaliated in any way. His Democratic rival, former vie-president Joe Biden has called Trump’s reaction, whether he was aware of it then or since, “A dereliction of duty.” He was being diplomatic. It’s quite simply treason in the face of a foreign enemy.

What do any of these horrific revelations concerning President Donald Trump have to do with Lee Marvin? I think the answer can be found in the 1956 Robert Aldrich directed film, Attack! in which Marvin costarred. The underrated WWII drama was quite controversial in its day, as I had blogged previously. The star of the film was Jack Palance, in a rare sympathetic role.

(L-R) Lee Marvin as Col. Clyde Bartlett and Eddie Albert as Capt. Erskine Cooney in Robert Aldrich’s ATTACK!

However, I think it can be seen that the characters portrayed by both Marvin and Eddie Albert may be the two sides of Donald Trump, candidate and president. Marvin is Colonel Bartlett, a platoon leader with political aspirations after the war. His cunning and wily ways are shown to be similiar to that of candidate Trump as his ultimate goal is purely selfish. He enlists the aid of his friend, Captain Erskine Cooney to help plan an attack as the Battle of Bulge looms. Bartlett’s history with Cooney goes back to their childhood, when Bartlett clerked for Cooney’s politically powerful father, hence Bartlett’s postwar aspirations.
Then there is Cooney, as brilliantly and frighteningly portrayed by Eddie Albert. He is without question a bully and a coward masquerading as an officer, consequently putting his men’s lives in danger. I won’t spoil it for anyone who has not seen the film but to my mind, Cooney’s actions rival the recent ones of President Donald Trump. See the film and draw your own conclusions.
What brought it to mind for me was the publication of the book by Trump’s niece, Mary Trump. I have not read it yet but the many revelations being reported about it concerning Trump’s father treatment of his son and that of Captain Cooney’s revelation about his own father are quite remarkable.

The cover of Mary Trump’s new book about her uncle: TOO MUCH AND NEVR ENOUGH.

The book’s cover is Trump’s military school photo. The last time I saw that image was in the New York Daily News and it had served a different a purpose. But the very image is what brought to mind Trump in the first place….

Cover of New York’s Daily News when Trump was still a candidate.

The comparison for me is undeniable. Cunning political manipulator like Col. Bartlett and candidate Trump — or cowardly military leader endangering the lives of American soldiers, like Capt. Cooney and President Trump? A little of both or more one than the other? I have my own opinion and I’m pretty sure in light of recent revelations, Lee Marvin would agree with me.
– Dwayne Epstein.

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