COREY LUECK

Corey Lueck, Canadian blues veteran and frontman for The Smoke Wagon Blues Band is also a rather muscular Lee Marvin fan. I can also add that thanks to the miracle of social media, specifically Facebook, he is also a friend. It came about thru the good graces of Google allowing me to discover his band’s song, “The Ballad of Albert Johnson.”

Bronson & Marvin on the set of their last film together, DEATH HUNT.

The song is based on a the true story of the largest manhunt in Canadian history, which later proved to be the inspiration for the Lee Marvin/Charles Bronson film, Death Hunt (1981). Upon its release, Roger Ebert & Gene Siskel reviewed the film in an opinion I pretty much agree with to this day. What they liked about the film I agree with as well, making it still worthy of multiple viewings. Their review runs from the 7:30 to 11:45 mark and you can view it here.
As for Corey Lueck, he read my book and went on to tell me, “I was reading it at work and not getting much work done!” With that said, I asked him if he’d be willing to write a review of it on Amazon’s Canadian website. He wrote the following:

I can’t tell you how much I loved this book, my only gripe was that it was over too fast even though it’s not a short book! I feel like Lee Marvin was one of the pivotal “greatest generation” actors that just doesn’t get enough credit in the realm of movie stardom and cultural icons. From growing up to his time in World War 2 to his drunken on set episodes “Point Blank” has it all and doesn’t pull any punches. Dwayne elegantly and brilliantly lets the stories almost tell themselves in Lee Marvin’s own words in a truly timeless biography. By the time you’re done you’ll want to revisit Lees entire movie catalog.

The result of his review boosted sales in Canada as shown here:

Canadian sales numbers for paperback of Lee Marvin Point Blank thanks to Corey Lueck.

Can’t thank you enough, Corey for those encouraging words! By the way, Corey informed me that he and his bandmates won several awards for the song and title album of The Ballad of Albert Johnson at the Canadian Blues Society Awards.  It’s also up for several more awards at the Independent Blues Awards to be held in Atlanta, Georgia in the Fall. Voting is open until August 31st, so feel free to give the boys some love by doing so on their website.
In the mean time, feel free to check out the nominated video that is truly kick ass!
Also, anyone still not familiar with my book can always find Lee Marvin Point Blank on Amazon.
Until then, Keep kicking ass in the free world!
– Dwayne Epstein

Clockwise from the botom: Bandmate Ron Roll, with Summer Reid, Corey Lueck and unidentified. Ahh, the tough life of Bluesmen (!).

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SMOKE WAGON BLUES BAND & ALBERT JOHNSON

Smoke Wagon Blues Band, a veteran Canadian blues band has a new album entitled “The Ballad of Albert Johnson,” and as the author of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I had to find out more about them. According to a quote from the band’s harmonica-playing lead singer, Corey Lueck:
“When I was a kid I saw the American movie about it (“Death Hunt”) with Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin. I thought it was a cool story and then when I found out it was a Canadian story, I read up on it even more. We wrote the song and then we ended up naming the whole album after it.” 
 The quote came from an online article I came across in which the the band’s 25 year history and influences are recounted in a lively piece that can be read here. Personally, I love the look and the sound of these guys and the band name is terrific. I highly recommend viewing the animated video made to accompany the song as it’s a pretty imaginative retelling of the story Marvin as Edgar Millen and Bronson as Johnson enacted. 

Lee Marvin as Edgar Millen in DEATH HUNT.

One of the rare times Lee Marvin played a real-life character on film was RCMP’s Edgar Millen in DEATH HUNT.

I had a little trouble understanding all the lyrics but after multiple viewings of the video I got into it and liked it a lot. If I could describe it in one word that word be one often used to described Marvin and Bronson themselves: KICK-ASS!
Who knew Canada had such a rocking blues/jazz scene going on? I certainly didn’t! 


That said, I wish the talented gentlemen of Smoke Wagon Blues Band all the luck in the world on the upcoming award show to take place on February 22nd. 


In the mean time, feel free check out the computer generated video they made for the album’s title track as animated by Patrick Politowski. I think it’s a hoot!
Enjoy!
-Dwayne Epstein


 

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JANUARY 2021 ON TCM

January 2021 is FINALLY upon us and not a moment too soon, as far as I’m concerned. With this new month and year (hell, new decade even!), comes a new schedule of films from the good folks at TCM. Below are the films that either star Lee Marvin or has a particular link to Marvin’s life, career or legacy. So, with January 2021 upon us, let the classic films begin!
All times are Pacific Standard Time

The Sea Wolf (1941), Wednesday, January 6 (1:15 am): It’s hard to imagine that Lee Marvin might have had anything in common with the legendary John Garfield but the two men shared an appreciation of the writing of Jack London. Garfield begged Jack Warner to put him in a London biopic but instead he got to costar in this classic sea story. London was at one point the most popular writer in the English language and his 1904 novel The Sea Wolf became his most often filmed stepchild. Filmed no less than nine times since 1913, this version with Garfield, Edward G. Robinson, Alexander Knox and Ida Lupino is the best known and for my money the best of all. I could easily see Marvin playing the villianous captain Wolf Larsen as well as Robinson played it, of whom Marvin was also a huge fan. Unfortunately, the closest Marvin ever got to playing a London character was A#1 in the London inspired Emperor of the North.
By the way, frequent Marvin costar Charles Bronson took a shot at playing the title character in a cable TV movie version for Turner’s TBS station with less than stellar results.

The Big Heat (1953), Saturday, January 9 (9 am):

The attitude of Vince Stone toward his annoying girlfriend, Gloria Grahame, is shown building to a painful climax in Fritz Lang’s THE BIG HEAT (1952).

You want early Marvin sadistic mayhem? It doesn’t get any better than this. As gangster Vince Stone he terrorizes men but especially women like the screen had never seen before. Fritz Lang’s neo-noir classic stars Glenn Ford as a tough cop putting the heat on for the murder of his wife, Jocelyn Brando, you-know-who’s real-life sister.  Ford’s encounters with the city’s underbelly makes up the bulk of the film but the real stars are Gloria Grahame as Stone’s pouty-mouth moll and Marvin as Stone. Stories galore of its making in Lee Marvin Point Blank with the best being NY Times critic Vincent Canby dubbing Marvin “The Merchant of Menace.” Canby had no idea the best was yet to come.

The Searchers (1956) Saturday, January 16 (5pm):

John Wayne to Harry Carey, Jr: “What do you want me to do, DRAW YOU A PICTURE?! DON’T EVER ASK ME AGAIN!”

It’s been said that the cinematic mythology of the American western was pretty much created by John Ford and the best of his westerns  always starred John Wayne. Of their many films together, The Searchers remains their greatest for countless reasons and not the least of which is the fact that ol’ Duke Wayne was never more vicious in a movie than he was here. A shame he didn’t play more men of questionable morals as the racist Ethan Edwards but at least he did once…well, twice if you count his wonderful Captain Bligh on the cattle trail in Howard Hawks’ Red River (also airing this month on Saturday, January 23, 12:30pm) . What does all this have to do with Lee Marvin? Quite simply, Marvin loved the cinematic output of both men and luckily got to work with them both later in their careers. Watch The Searchers and discover why he admired them so much if you haven’t done so already..

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Sunday, January 17 (12:30 pm):

A young Lee Marvin as Mitch in the stage version of STREETCAR.

There isn’t much more to be said about this classic film starring the brutish young Marlon Brando, delicate Vivien Leigh, along with Oscar-winning Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. However, most people may not be aware that a young Lee Marvin played in the stage version in Summer stock. If you think he portrayed the savage Stanley Kowalski, think again. Actually, he played Mitch, Stanley’s oafish co-worker who’s smitten with Stanley’s sister-in-law, Blanche, until he sees the light, as it were. So, when watching the classic film written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Elia Kazan, pay attention to Karl Malden and picture a young Lee Marvin in the role.

Drum Beat (1954), Thursday, January 28 (5:30 am):

(L-R) Alan Ladd as Johnny Mackay and Charles Bronson as Captain Jack in DRUM BEAT.

Other than Marvin himself, the only other actor who spent a longer apprenticeship on the way to superstardom was frequent costar Charles Bronson. His scene-stealing performance as renegade Modoc warrior Captain Jack in the Alan Ladd western Drum Beat may have given hope that success might be right around the corner. Hope springs eternal. He had changed his name from Buchinski to Bronson with this film and got the best reviews of his career up to that time:
“The renegade redskin is forcefully played by Charles Bronson,” Variety.
“Charles Bronson is probably the most muscular Indian ever to brandish a rifle before the camera,” NY Times.
Alan Ladd…is dwarfed by that of Charles Bronson…proud, ruthless, magnificent,” Films and Filming.
Unfortunately, not many folks saw this fact-based color horse opera. He does outshine the nominal star, Alan Ladd, but it would be almost 20 years for audiences to appreciate Bronson’s screen image in 1973’s Death Wish. Watch him in Drum Beat to see what the likes of Lee Marvin and a handful of others had seen long ago.

The Killers (1964), Saturday January 30 (9:30pm) & Sunday, January 31 (7:00 am):

As hired killer Charlie Strom, Lee Marvin gently persuades blind receptionist Virginia Christine  to divulge vital information in Don Siegel’s THE KILLERS.

Ernest Hemingway’s five-page short story was first filmed in 1946 with a star-making debut of Burt Lancaster as the doomed Swede, an ex-boxer awaiting the title characters. The story goes that screenwriter Richard Brooks met Hemingway in a bar and asked him what he thought the reason would be the killers were coming for Swede. A drunken Hemingway apparently slurred, “Damned if I know. Probably had something to do with big money or maybe a special woman…or maybe both.” Thus, a film noir classic was born.
Almost 20 years later, Lew Wasserman of MCA had the idea of reworking it on the cheap as the first TV-movie, that is until JFK was murdered on the streets of Dallas. There is of course infinitely more to tell about the remade little thriller and I was lucky enough to get great stories about it for Lee Marvin Point Blank from such principal players as Angie Dickinson, Clu Gulager, Norman Fell and Bob Phillips. If you’ve read my book you’ll know what to look for when watching the film.

So there you have it, a summary of Lee Marvin films and interests on TCM for January 2021. Enjoy and above all, have a great new year and good riddance to 2020!
– Dwayne Epstein

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