CINEMA’S GREATEST VILLAINS

CINEMA’S GREATEST VILLAINS! Pretty bold statement, wouldn’t you say? Well, that’s what I found when doing a Google search and came up with this clickbait entry. Granted several of the choices are right on the money, such as Robert Mitchum In Cape Fear (1962) and Night of the Hunter (1955) and of course, Lee Marvin in many of his earliest roles but he also made a terrific return to villainy in Gorky Park (1983). 

Lee Marvin as nefarious sable dealer Jack Osborne in 1983’s Gorky Park.

Just to make the point as in the case of the likes of Marvin, Mitchum and other leading men who have sauntered occasionally into the realm of classic villainy, sometimes the best of them are actors you wouldn’t associate with cinema’s greatest villains, such as Laurence Olivier in Spartacus (1960) or Gregor Peck in The Boys From Brazil (1978). It’s one of the reasons I always felt it was a shame John Wayne never played an out and out bad guy, just once. He came close a few times with his characters being pretty close to the edge in such films as The Searchers (1956) and Red River (1948) but never a complete villain, sadly.
Speaking of John Wayne movies, Bruce Dern was one of the great bad guys of all time in The Cowboys (1972). 

Basically stated, I believe in order to be an especially memorable bad guy that can rank among cinema’s greatest villains, you probably need to have a little of what it takes off-screen, as well. I’m not alone in that belief, either. To quote Lee Marvin himself, as I do often in Lee Marvin Point Blank:

“You know as character actors we play all kinds of sex psychos, nuts, creeps, preverts and weirdoes. And we laugh it off saying what the hell it’s just a character. But deep down inside, it’s you baby.”
 – Dwayne Epstein

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DECEMBER ON TCM

December on TCM is upon us and with it, comes a rather paltry amount of entries for Lee Marvin fans. In fact, from what I can tell, they’re not airing a single one of his films this December. However, there are a couple of little gems being aired during the month that might be of interest in terms of Lee Marvin’s life and legacy. All times are PST….

The Snow of Kilimanjaro (1952) Thursday, December, 3rd at 12:45am

Susan Hayward comforts gangrene-stricken Gregory Peck in the overblown SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO.


Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know the importance of this Hemingway tale to the Marvin oeuvre, despite this bastardized version Hollywood did to this poignant short story. Starring Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner, this lush looking Twentieth-Century Fox production bears almost no resemblance to what the author wrote, which is why he hated so many of the films made of his stories. Of course, in fairness, Lee Marvin’s The Killers, based on Hemingway’s short story suffered the same fate which might be rather Karmic in its own way.

On Dangerous Ground (1952) Thursday, December 3rd, 3:00am

Marvin costar Robert Ryan as psycho cop Jim Wilson near opening of ON DANGEROUS GROUND.


Frequent Marvin costar Robert Ryan could be pretty villianous when he had to be and I personally don’t think he was ever more frighteningly so than in this taut little thriller directed by cult filmmaker Nick Ray and costarring Ida Lupino and Ward Bond. It’s on in the wee small hours but if interested in watching any part of it, by all means watch the scene early on when Ryan threatens an informer and then follows through on his threat (“Why do you make me do it?!”) He’s never been scarier. As for Ryan’s thoughts on Lee Marvin. I was privileged to get some insight into that from his daughter, Lisa Ryan.

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) Tuesday, December 15th, 9:45am

Gloria Grahame appreciating her Oscar for THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.



Lee Marvin’s The Big Heat costar Gloria Grahame won her only Oscar for Best Supporting actress in this wildly overrated expose’ of a Hollywood cad that everybody hates and loves at the same time. Kirk Douglas plays the cad with Barry Sullivan, pouty-mouthed Lana Turner and Dick Powell as satellites to Douglas’s burning sun. Grahame plays Powell’s smalltown pouty-lipped wife who craves the attention of hollywood glamor. Director Vicente Minelli won many plaudits for this behind-the-scenes expose’ but I found it to be just okay. Watch and see for yourself if you think Grahame was more deserving of an Oscar for this or for her role as Debbie, Lee Marvin’s scar-faced moll in The Big Heat. My opinion is obvious.

Susan Slept Here (1954) Saturday, December 19th, 11am & Christmas morning, 9:15am.

(L-R) Glenda Farrell, Alvy Moore and Debbie Reynolds.


Speaking of Dick Powell, he stars in this bit of froth that has almost no connection to Lee Marvin at all….almost. Powell’s last screen appearance has him playing a middle-aged writer who gets the surprise of his life on Christmas Eve in the person of juvenile delinquent Debbie Reynolds. The Marvin connection? One of the film’s supporting players is Alvy Moore, better known as Mr. Kimble, “Green Acres” befuddled county agent. Moore was also a decorated WWII Marine and very good friend of the young Marvin who told this author that the buzz on him for this film actually got him more roles and talk of an Oscar nomination. Watch and see if the buzz was worthy as he said which had his buddy Marvin more than a little envious.  
Well, there you have it, A rather dismal holiday feast for Lee Marvin fans but some interesting nuggets, none the less. Hopefully, January and 2021 will bring some better viewing choices. Anything has got to be better than 2020.
– Dwayne Epstein

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