REVISIONIST WESTERNS ON TCM

Revisionist Westerns is a worthy theme this June 2022  and with it comes a month long slate of films from the good folks at Turner Classic Movies. Sadly, there are no Lee Marvin films this month but there are still some interesting subjects also worth checking out. This month includes a 100th birthday salute to Star of the Month Judy Garland, a tribute to cinematographer Gordon Willis, a theme of costumes in the movies and best of all, the aforementioned Revisionist Westerns.
   The films being aired as Revisionist Westerns are good choices but I’d like to lodge a personal complaint. In the interest of finding films worthy of rediscovery, why not include Lee Marvin’s underrated but poignantly elegiac Monte Walsh (1970) to the line-up? 

Monte Walsh, 1970

I realize of course you cannot show all the modern day westerns and as I said, they are showing some good ones, but c’mon! Monte Walsh is just begging to be rediscovered! Several critics bemoaned the timing of its release at the time stating that if had been,  released later in the year it would have scored several Oscar nominations, including Best Actor for Lee Marvin. Yeah, he’s that good in it! I wrote about it extensively in Lee Marvin Point Blank as I was fortunate enough to gain insight on its production from exclusive interviews with costars Mitch Ryan and Jack Palance, among others. Ahh well, Maybe next month.
   In the mean time, there are some worthy films to catch within the revisionist theme June 2022. To start with, on Thursday June 9th beginning at 6:45 pm PST are several Sam Peckinpah classics: Ride The High Country (1962), The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), The Wild Bunch (1969), and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973). 
   Also in the month are a couple of other westerns with Lee Marvin connections. Bad Company (1972) costars a young Jeff Bridges pre-Iceman Cometh (1973) as a draft dodger turned outlaw during The Civill War in a very worthy film airing June 2nd at 9:15 pm PST.
    Alan Ladd stars in Drum Beat (1954) Monday June 20th but the real draw is Charles Bronson in a scene-stealing performance as a rebellious native American named Captain Jack of the Modocs.
   Last but not least is director Jim Jarmusch’s off beat western Dead Man (1996) starring Johnny Depp on Thursday, June 30th. As a devout Lee Marvin fan, Jarmusch went so far as to name two lawmen in the film Lee and Marvin.  
    And so there you have it, the worthy films on TCM for the month of June. Next time, the programmers should check with me as I can clue them in on some great films worthy of rediscovery…..Yeah, that’ll happen.
– Dwayne Epstein

 

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THE PASSING OF MITCH RYAN

The passing of Mitch Ryan occurred recently but in the midst of such harrowing headlines as Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, the stubborn pandemic and record-setting inflation, the death of a veteran character actor may not get much media attention. However, to this writer it certainly bears attention as I got to know the man, albeit briefly, and found him to be warm, personable and most of all, one hell of an actor. My experience with the man had been blogged about previously here, as well as here,
I was extremely fortunate to get him to go on the record with me about his friendship with Lee Marvin as he proved to be a most valuable source concerning Marvin’s final days, having visited him in the hospital on the last day of his life, all detailed here in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
His passing at the ripe old age of 88 has been chronicled sufficiently on entertainment news websites, citing his work in such films Letha Weapon (1987) and 1960s TV’s “Dark Shadows.” However, I thought he was hysterically funny as the deadpan dad of Greg on TV’s “Dharma & Greg.”
However, the performance I felt was his personal best was the tragically poignant ‘Shorty’ in the criminally underrated Monte Walsh (1970).

Monte Walsh cast

(L-R) Lee Marvin, Mitch Ryan and Jack Palance in MONTE WALSH.

Here’s a spoiler alert warning if you haven’t seen the film but if you have, consider this a rarely known anecdote defining the brilliance of both Marvin and Ryan. The film’s finale consists of former friends Monte (Marvin) and Shorty (Ryan) facing down each other in a gunfight for Shorty’s murdering of Chet (Jack Palance). According to Ryan, it was Marvin’s idea that just before they were to draw on each other, Ryan should drop his arms and open his hands, as an admission of guilt for killing Chet. Director William Fraker clearly liked the idea and did a close-up of Ryan’s hands a split second before Marvin draws on him. What follows is an even more poignant moment as Marvin cradles the dying Ryan in his arms and gives a touching requiem to his fallen comrade. See it again with this new perspective and it just might get even better than you may have remembered it.
And so with the passing of Mitch Ryan the world has again become a little less interesting place. Thank you, Mitch, for your time, generous nature, but most of all your extremely impressive talent.

(L-R) My girlfriend Barbara poses with Mitch Ryan, her hero from “Dark Shadows” at my book signing at Larry Edmunds. Right after I took this, photo, Ryan kissed her cheek (!)

-Dwayne Epstein

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JUNE 2021 ON TCM

June 2021 is almost upon us and with it comes a new month of films on TCM. Unfortunately, the line-up is rather sparse when it comes to Lee Marvin but thankfully, thee are a few (rather redundant) choices. 

Ship of Fools (1965): June 12th, 2021.

Lee Marvin off camera as Bill Tenney in SHIP OF FOOLS. Anyone know who the Annette Benning look-alike is helping Marvin adjust his tie?


This Stanley Kramer directed classic has aired on TCM more than a few times but it’s well worth multiple viewings. Diehard Lee Marvin fans are not particular enamored with it as he’s not toting any heavy firepower. In fact, the only firepower he totes is his racist southern accented dialogue. There are many interesting facts behind the scenes concerning Lee Marvin’s involvement in the film that I’ve blogged about in the past, but the best and most intimate revealing details are of course in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Lee Marvin and the diminutive Michael Dunn share a laugh between scenes.



The film is not entirely successful in its melodrama but if you do choose to watch it having not done so before, be sure to hang in for the great scene between Marvin and Michael Dunn, as well as the climax between Marvin and Vivien Leigh. 

The Bat (1959): June 23rd, 2021.
No, Lee Marvin is not in this Vincent Price thriller but he was, believe it or not, in a stage version of the play early in his career. It’s not known which part he did play but it’s a pretty safe bet it was the Vincent Price role. So with that in mind, watch it….if you dare! 
Ahem, sorry.

I Died a Thousand Times (1955): Junes, 25th, 2021. 
Jack Palance took a stab at leading man status in the scene-for-scene remake of Humphrey Bogart’s High Sierra. Marvin’s scenes are minimal as one of Palance’s goofy henchmen but he did leave an impression on a young Shelley Winters as I wrote about previously.

That’s it for June, 2021, Lee Marvin fans. As I said in the beginning, the choices are sparse but I figure ANY Lee Marvin is better than none. 
– Dwayne Epstein

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