DOMESTIC LEE

Domestic Lee Marvin is not something witnessed onscreen very often. Even more scarce is Father Lee. However, this being Fathers Day, it’s a good time to explore those rare occasions of domestic Lee in which, to my mind, only occurred twice on film and in both instances, they were not the classics the filmmakers intended.

A rare domestic Lee shown in THE KLANSMAN (1974) with Wendell Wellman playing his son Alan and Richard Burton as neighbor Breck Stencill.

In The Klansman, he’s Sheriff “Big” Trak Bascomb, married with a grown son preparing for college. A simple side plot to the rather unsavory and racially charged film that’s probably the worst film Marvin ever starred in, with costar Richard Burton fairing even worse. Unfortunately, the originally script by Sam Fuller was truncated which is a shame since it had a devastating un-filmed sequence in it involving Marvin’s son Alan Bascomb that I was able to get a copy of and write about here. In any event, the less said about the embarrassing film, the better.

(L-R) Lee Marvin as Flynn O’Flynn protects and defend daughter Barbara Parkins in SHOUT AT THE DEVIL (1976).

The other instance of Marvin playing a paternal character was the action/adventure film from AIP entitled Shout at the Devil. Costarring Roger Moore and Ian Holm, the film takes place in WWI-era Africa with Marvin as a big game poacher protecting daughter Barbara Parkins and battling her betrothed (Moore), as well as the Germans, in this weak entry in the actor’s canon of films.
Obviously, the type of films Marvin made did not often make for a domestic Lee audiences could appreciate. He played married characters in The Professionals (1966) in the film’s back story as well as in Point Blank (1967). In both films, however, his spouses did not fair well, in the screenplay.
There were instances in which characters in his films acted paternally towards supporting characters, such as the gentle way in which treated Sissy Spacek in Prime Cut (1972) and the mentoring he administered to the novice bank thieves of Spikes Gang (1974).
These symbolic examples aside, Lee Marvin was just not cut out for domestic bliss, once again, on screen and off. Of his four grown children, none of them were willing to go on the record with me for Lee Marvin Point Blank with the sole exception being his son, Christopher. His poignant afterword was a worthy and surprising addition to the text. So, with Fathers Day in mind, feel free to check out the book’s afterword and then watch a better Lee Marvin movie to enjoy.
With dad, of course.
– Dwayne Epstein

 

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LIBERTY’S WHIP

Liberty’s Whip may not sound like an apt title for a classic surf music instrumental but for a short time it actually was. According to an article I recently read online, the surf music craze of the early 1960’s included the monster hit “Pipeline” by The Chantays which reached #4 on the Billboard pop charts. According to a quote in the L.A.Times by The Chantays’ Bob Spickard:
“When we wrote it after school, just plugging our guitars in and doodling, we originally called it ‘Liberty’s Whip’ because we were big Liberty Valance fans,…Then we went to a surf movie at high school–I’m sure it was one of Bruce Brown’s–and they had a big shot of the Pipeline (one of Hawaii’s best but most dangerous surf breaks), and we went, ‘Wow, far out!'” 

Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance & Edmond O'Brien as Dutton Peabody.

Lee Marvin brandishes his quirt, a.k.a. Liberty’s whip, as Shinbone Star editor Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien) dramatically awaits Valance’s next move.


  Not earth-shaking news, but just a little tidbit I never knew and recently discovered. I still think the title “Liberty’s Whip” sounds pretty cool and might even make a great name for a rock band. 
 As to the more famous musical incarnation of the film, as most fans of the film know, Gene Pitney’s song was never used in the film and no one is quite sure why. Rumor has it the film’s director, John Ford, heard it and hated it. Kind of a shame I think as I feel it fits pretty well, especially since the music by Burt Bacharach has a western tweak and the lyrics by Hal David does an impressive job of dramatically setting up the climax of the film without giving away the twist. Oh well. I know fans of the film who agree with Ford’s assessment which is why there’s no mention of it in Lee Marvin Point Blank. There is, however, several great anecdotes about the film, such as the hilarious one Christopher Marvin told me about the time his father introduced him to John Wayne. It’s a personal favorite. 
In the mean time, posted below is the lyrics to Gene Pitney’s hit song, followed by a YouTube music that DOES give away the twist ending so don’t click it if you haven’t seen The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance….

When Liberty Valance rode to town,
the women folk would hide, they’d hide.
When Liberty Valance walked around,
the men would step aside.

Because the point of a gun
was the only law that Liberty understood.
When it came to shooting straight and fast,
he was mighty good.

From out of the east a stranger came,
a law book in his hand, a man. 
The kind of man the west would need
to tame a troubled land.

‘Cause the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood.
When it came to shooting straight and fast,
he was mighty good.

Many a man would face his gun
and many a man would fall.
The man who shot Liberty Valance,
he shot Liberty Valance,
he was the bravest of them all.

Now the love of a woman can make a man stay on when he should go, stay on.
just trying to build a peaceful life where love is free to go.

But the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood.
When the final showdown came at last,
a law book was no good.

But the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood.
When it came to shooting straight and fast, he was mighty good.

Alone and afraid she prayed that he’d return that fateful night, that night.
when nothing she said could keep her man from going out to fight.
From the moment a girl gets to be full grown 
the very first things she learns
when two men go out to face each other
only one returns

Everyone heard two shots ring out,
one shot made Liberty fall.
The man who shot Liberty Valance,
he shot Liberty Valance
he was the bravest of them all.

What the hell, just for the heck of it, here’s Bob Spickard and friends performing Pipeline, aka Liberty’s Whip. Great little ditty, ain’t it?

– Dwayne Epstein

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DADS & GRADS? LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK!

Dads & grads have always had a special designation for Father’s Day. Why that is, I have no idea. Always reminds me of corny ads from my childhood to this day….

Not too imaginative, I grant you, but you get the point. At least such ads aren’t nearly as gaudy and off-putting as the ones for Memorial Day and President’s Day sales. What does any of this have to do with Lee Marvin? Well if it helps, Lee Marvin had a dad and also was a dad.

(L-R) Lee Marvin’s father, Monte, Lee, and Lee’s son, Christopher, holding the family dog, Liberty.

It may or may not be as well known but Lee was not a grad. He left school a year before graduation to join the USMC during the war and never did get his diploma. After the war he attended night school briefly to try to get his high school diploma but never finished any of the necessary classes.
However, in 1969, he did receive an honorary degree of fine arts from the school that would have been his alma mater, St. Leo in Florida. It had become an accredited university and as such, extended an invitation of an honorary degree to the Oscar-winning actor.

Lee Marvin, 2nd from right, receiving his Honorary Degree from St. Leo, along with then Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, 2nd from left.

So, when it comes to such things as dads & grads, Lee Marvin sort of qualifies. Now, the bigger question is what exactly is the point of this blog entry? Well, if you’re looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift or a nice little something for the graduate in life, look no further than Lee Marvin Point Blank. Most dads are familiar with Lee Marvin’s work and are fans while most graduates can become a fan by learning more about him. Makes sense now, doesn’t it? Available on Amazon at a half-priced soon to be extinct hardcover, reduced price Kindle and trade paperback with lots of extras. Feel free to check it out. You’ll be glad you did.
Oh, and happy Father’s Day!
– Dwayne Epstein

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