Roger Ebert, the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times until his death in 2013, was one of the few film critics I respected. I dd not always agree with his opinions but unlike most film critics, he seemed to truly love movies and it showed. Despite some wince-inducing spoilers in his on-air reviews with Gene Siskel (1992’s The Crying Game review comes immediately to mind), Roger Ebert seemed to prefer praising a film more often then damning it. 
   Case in point is his recently revived list of the ten best films of 1973 I discovered online a few days ago. The full list is interesting but naturally, I like his choice for number five. When the film came out most critics who admired it, considered Lee Marvin miscast or worse, not up to the role of Hickey. Not so with Ebert. Read his capsule review below…



There isn’t a bad performance in the film, but there are three of such greatness they mesmerize us. The best is by the late Robert Ryan, as Larry, and this is possibly the finest performance of his career. There is such wisdom and sadness in his eyes, and such pain in his rejection of the boy Don (who may possibly be his own son), that he makes the role almost tender despite the language O’Neill gives him. It would be a tribute to a distinguished career if Ryan were nominated posthumously for an Academy Award. Lee Marvin, as Hickey, has a more virtuoso role: He plays a salesman who has been coming to Harry’s saloon for many years to have a “periodical drunk.” This time he’s on the wagon, he says, because he’s found peace. We discover his horrible peace when he confesses to the murder. Marvin has recently been playing in violent action movies that require mostly that he look mean; here he is a tortured madman hidden beneath a true believer.

You can read all of Ebert’s capsule reviews of the ten films here. Click on any review on the list to read it in its entirety. As for the making of The Iceman Cometh, there are some fascinating behind-the-scenes tales told firsthand to me by the likes of Jeff Bridges in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
– Dwayne Epstein

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Celebrate the 4th with the dozen, a Dirty Dozen, that is. Such is the game plan I came across on line, recently.

Celebrate the 4th with he one, the only, the original, DIRTY DOZEN (1967)

A writer at the venerable Chicago Tribune (former home base for the late Gene Siskel) came up with the interesting concept of what all-American films would be worthy of Independence Day. Some obvious ones were included, such as 1776, and some were a bit of a stretch, like his first choice of The Godfather. Surprisingly, he didn’t include my go-to choice each 4th of July which is Yankee Doodle Dandy with the great James Cagney in his Oscar winning role as George M. Cohan.
The Tribune writer, Rex Crum, explains his concept here. If you don’t care to scroll the entire article, here’s his reasoning to celebrate the 4th with the Dozen:

“Did you know that in addition to leading Jim Brown, Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland and nine other American military convicts on a crazy raid against the Nazis, Lee Marvin actually fought in World War II and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery? If that doesn’t just scream “AMERICA!” then nothing does.
How To Watch: Invest $2.99 and stream “The Dirty Dozen” on iTunes. You’ll be glad you did.”

…..And there you have it. Interesting idea, don’t you think? Could even make a drinking game out of it. How you ask? How about this: every time a Nazi gets killed, you do a shot. Of course, by the explosive finale, you might as well just shake up a bunch of beers and spritz everyone in the room like a winning world series ball team.

Better yet, have a more relaxing time this 4th of July avoiding the crowds and noisy fireworks by reading Lee Marvin Point Blank. You can’t get more American than that.
– Dwayne Epstein

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I just read that there’s a remake in the works of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and it’s going to be updated to 1980s urban America. The source is reliable so the news comes as no small surprise. Having covered the making of this classic pretty thoroughly in Lee Marvin Point Blanknaturally through the prism of Lee Marvin’s participation in it ( at least I think I did), there’s very little to add about that other than my opinion of this upcoming remake.

Why would Lee Marvin wear a bandana over his face in his opening scene in Liberty Valance? Readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank know why.

Why would Lee Marvin wear a bandana over his face in his opening scene in Liberty Valance? Readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank know why.

Then again, there may be a few tidbits left, such as this quote from Rolling Stone magazine in which Marvin talks about the film’s legendary director: “John Ford. Fucking Ford. You’ll never see skillets and steaks like that in anybody else’s picture. He’s like Dickens. It’s all larger than life. That’s what the old guys  understood about movies. If its not bigger than life, put it on television.”
Or, Marvin’s opinion of the film’s leading actor, John Wayne: “Now there is a legend. I liked him. But films were his whole life. I tried not to let that happen to me. I’ve never had any desire to die in the saddle.”

Lee Van Cleef (far left) watches as Lee 'Liberty Valance' Marvin holds his own up against film legends Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne.

Lee Van Cleef (far left) watches as Lee ‘Liberty Valance’ Marvin holds his own up against film legends Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne.

That all said, the obvious question becomes why in the Wide World of Sports would Paramount want to remake this classic western? Yeah, the easy answer is always money but if that’s the case why remove the element that made the film so enigmatic and get listed on the National Registry? Film critic Gene Siskel used to expound on how classic films shouldn’t be remade but bad ones should so they can improved. I partially agree with him but who want to make a bad film? There’s no money in it. It is possible that the remake could open the original up to a new audience of younger viewers but successful DVD sales have already done that.

Cover image for the extremely popular deluxe 2-disc DVD release of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Cover image for the extremely popular deluxe 2-disc DVD release of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

So the question still resonates: WHY???? Is contemporary Hollywood so bereft of originality they have to remake EVERYTHING?? Pretty disheartening thought, I know, but here’s an idea. If any Hollywood producer, director, actor, or screenwriter is genuinely interested in a terrific property worthy of screen adapation, contact ME here or my agent, Mike Hamilburg. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover what a worthy project Lee Marvin Point Blank would be on the big screen. After all, like the man said, if it’s not larger than life, put it on televsion.

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