Writer/director Richard Brooks has not been as historically lauded as many other directors but he’s always been a personal favorite of mine. I’ve been an admirer of many of his films long before I began researching Lee Marvin Point Blank and unfortunately, he passed away before I really started that research. A shame really as I would have liked to have gotten his take on working with Marvin on one of the best films either of them ever made: The Professionals (1966).

(L-R) Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Richard Brooks and Woody Strode discuss a scene for THE PROFESSIONALS.

As an aside, I recently found out that one of Brooks last and highly underrated films, Bite The Bullet (1975), was originally going to be a prequel of sorts to The Professionals, with Gene Hackman and James Coburn playing the characters Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster played in The Professionals. By the way, if you haven’t seen Bite The Bullet, I highly recommend it.

Writer/director Richard Brooks pictured in Maureen Lambray’s photo book, AMERICAN FILM DIRECTORS and as he looked at the time I met him.

One night, back in the early 1980s, a friend and I went to the Nuart in Santa Monica to see a Brooks double feature of Elmer Gantry (1960) and The Professionals, in which Brooks did a Q&A following both films. Knowing that the Oscar-winning writer/director had a penchant for adapting successful books and plays, I asked him about that, which allowed for the following exchange in the crowded theater:

Me: Knowing that in the stage version of Sweet Bird of Youth Paul Newman’s character is castrated, what did you think of the criticism the film got when you changed it to Newman getting beat up?
Brooks: What do I think of the castration of Paul Newman? Oh, I’m all for it!

The crowded theater roared with laughter followed by applause. It didn’t bother me that he avoided answering my query. I was glad to be able to feed him such a well used straight line. A group of us followed him out to the parking lot to continue the discussion when a little red sports car convertible came screeching in front of him. The female driver emphatically asked Brooks, “How can I get in touch with Burt Lancaster? HE IS SO HOT!” Everyone laughed and Brooks chuckled, “Sorry, dear. I haven’t seen or heard from Burt in years.”

The program from the double feature retrospective honoring writer/director Richard Brooks that he graciously signed for me.

….And then there was the time I got Robert Altman mad at me….oy!
– Dwayne Epstein

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Urban legends have a way of never fading into permanent obscurity no matter how great the effort is to exterminate them. You all know the ones: The faked moon landing, the origins of AIDS, the scuba diver scooped up by the water helicopters and then burned when dumped in a wildfire. My personal favorite has to do with Neil Armstrong and what he may have actually said when he stepped on the moon’s surface, but that, as they say, is another story.
Believe it or not, there are actually several such urban legends with Lee Marvin as the central focus.  Google the following words or phrases and you’ll see what I mean:
– Lee Marvin’s life was saved in WWII by Bob “Captian Kangaroo” Keeshan.

Bob Keeshan, aka Captain Kangaroo (L) and Lee Marvin probably never even met, despite urban legends to the contrary.

Magnificent Seven co-star James Coburn is Lee Marvin’s brother.
– Marvin had his sciatic nerve severed when wounded on Saipan which earned him the Navy Cross.

Within the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank, readers will not find any reference to these myths, for the simple reason that they are not true. Simply denying them is not enough for some folks, which I guess is the reason the website Snopes came into existence. One of the things that keep such rumors alive (or at least believable) is the amount of details they are given to make them seem true. I can’t tell you the amount of people I’ve heard say to me, “I know it’s true about Captain Kangaroo because I saw Marvin tell it on Johnny Carson.” As they say, the devil is in the details.
As for James Coburn, well there is indeed a certain resemblance, but that’s as far as it goes. Lee Marvin did have a brother, though, Robert, who bore no resemblance to James Coburn.

Lee Marvin & James Coburn looking brotherly on an episode of M SQUAD.

(L-R) Actors Lee Marvin, James Coburn, Katy Jurado and director Sam Peckinpah enjoying themselves in the late 70s.

  • I remember once many years ago being in the great memorabilia shop, Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, when I overheard an argument about the very same subject. The owner walked over to me to settle it, calling me the resident Lee Marvin expert. A simple shake of my head may have lost somebody a very big bet. Of course, that won’t stop such popular badly written searches on the internet as “Lee Marvin’s brother, who played in Magnificent Seven.
    As to Marvin’s war wound, that’s harder to disprove as Wikipedia and elsewhere still repeat it. I have seen his service record which includes a medical report. His sciatic nerve was NOT severed and he did NOT win the Navy Cross. Purple Heart, yes, but not the Navy Cross.
    I’m sure such urban legends will continue no matter how great the effort is to squelch them. Instead of wondering whether they’re true or not, I have a better idea. Read Lee Marvin Point Blank. The real story of Lee Marvin is infinitely better than any urban legend.
    – Dwayne Epstein

Urban legends aside, in LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK yours truly DOES  write about these two miscreants and get the inside scoop on their “related” lineage to Lee Marvin.

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Well, dear readers, your humble narrator has come to the fifth and final entry in this series I created of my favorite movie fight scenes. I stopped at 1980 as the quality of filmmaking, especially when it comes to fight scenes, fell off dramatically from then on. If you missed any of the previous entries (Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4) click on the linking numbers in blue. As for the remaining choices, I wanted to include some Lee Marvin, of course, but there just wasn’t anything worthy of his films in this time period that was a favorite. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know why. For the rest, read on…


Reporter Warren Beatty (left) orders a glass of milk to entice deputy Earl Hindman (right) into a brawl and of course it works in The Parallax View.

Reporter Warren Beatty (left) orders a glass of milk to entice deputy Earl Hindman (right) into a brawl and of course it works in The Parallax View.

The 1970s was my favorite period of American filmmaking for many reasons, not the least of which was due to the advent of the paranoid political thriller. One of the best was The Parallax View, which is a recognized classic of the genre. There is so much greatness in this taut thriller it’s almost impossible to narrow it down: From star Warren Beatty’s believable turn as a dogged reporter to the standout supporting cast of veterans (Hume Cronyn, Kenneth Mars, Anthony Zerbe, Paula Prentiss, William Daniels, Earl Hindman, Jim Davis, Walter McGinn, Kelly Thordsen); Amazing editing, especially in the ‘test’ sequence; Wonderful touches of dark humor; Director Alan Pakula’s use of silence to ramp up the suspense as he had in Klute and later All The President’s Men; All these elements are so phenomonal that the purposeful barroom brawl almost gets lost in the mix. Almost. What I love about it is that once it commences (hilariously, by the way) and Beatty’s character looks finished, he keeps charging back! No matter what. Talk about never say die. He even crashes through a window to get BACK into the brawl. The film itself is a stunner but for me, that fight scene is another all-time favorite. And whatever you do, DO NOT GIVE AWAY THE FILM’S ENDING!

22. HARD TIMES-1975


A rare smile from Charles Bronson as Chaney (center) as his manager James Coburn as Speed (right) and Strother Martin as his cutman Poe (left) prepare him for his fight in Hard Times.

Of all the films Charles Bronson made in his late life ascent into stardom few were liked by the critics that his fans loved (The Death Wish series), and fewer still were liked by fans that critics praised (From Noon Til Three). Only one it seems was able to please both fans and critics alike, and with good reason. Hard Times gave fans the action they’ve come to expect, while critics rubbed their eyes in astonishment to see Bronson in a film of value and depth. He plays a mysterious stranger in Depression-era America whom professional gambler James Coburn manages into the premiere street fighter of his day. The story was straightforward but the time, place and style of director Walter Hill’s direction proved the perfect marriage for Bronson’s minimalist acting. As the ads for the film wryly stated, “During the Depression, words didn’t buy much.”
A lot of the regular blog readers here may know that Bronson is the subject of my next project — tenatively titles Charles Bronson: American Samurai — and as such, this is one of my favorite film of his, as well. Saw it the theater when it first came out and even though there are a number of well done fight scenes throughout the film (has anybody ever rattlled off so many rapid fire punches as Bronson does in this film?), my favorite fight is Bronson’s first. If you’ve seen it, you know why. If you haven’t be prepared as it’s excellent. In his 50s, aged and lined, when he takes off his shirt for the first (and subsequent) fight, brother, look out!


Robert Redford (Joseph Turner) fights assasin postman Hank Garrett (Mailman).

Robert Redford (Joseph Turner) fights assasin postman Hank Garrett (Mailman).

I am in no way, shape or form a fan of the spy film genre. There are exceptions of course (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold), but the overly complicated plots, sometimes needlessly so, are a complete turn-off to your humble narrator. Even this film, Three Days of the Condor, is hardly a favorite for the same reason. However, since the purpose of this blog is about favorite fight scenes, it definitely fits the bill. The opening of the film is now legendary (and justifiably so) but the fight scene later between good guy Robert Redford and “mailman” Hank Garrett,  is one for the books. It moves faster than most fight scenes I’ve ever witnessed and yet the viewer is able to keep up with who’s doing who.
When the first Christian Bale Batman film came out that was one of my biggest complaints and why I didn’t care for it. Not the case here. It moves so dangerously fast it ADDS to the suspense, NOT the confusion. Worth watching just for that tremendous scene. After that, meh, not so much.

13Turning point

Suburbanite Shirley MacLaine (left) challenges waning Prima Ballerina Anne Bancroft (right) to a rooftop battle in Herb Ross’s The Turning Point.


No, it’s not because it’s a catfight. It’s for a lot of reasons that the battle between Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft is a favorite fight scene of mine. Chiefly, it’s the one and only time two of my all-time actresses ever worked together, and it should have happened more often. Known mostly as the screen acting debut of both Leslie Browne and Mikhail Baryshnikov, the film is at its best as a wonderful exercise in female relationships rarely seen in movies. MacLaine left the ballet maybe too early and Bancroft stayed maybe too late and between them is MacLaine’s daughter whom they both battle over. When it comes to a head it’s classic movie bitchiness (yes, it starts with Bancroft tossing a drink in MacLaine’s face) and then…we’re off! They scream, chase, slap, curse, pull hair and end uproariously. Doesn’t matter if it’s a cliche or not. Two talents at the top of their game reaching a physical pinnacle is ALWAYS worth watching…and sadly, not seen enough.


Military psychiatrist Stacy Keach prepares to confront a gang of bizarre bikers, and ultimately, his true self, in William Peter Blatty’s, The Ninth Configuration.


William Peter Blatty, best known for penning The Exorcist, wrote, directed, produced and even co-starred in this strange mediation on good/evil, sane/insane, god/godlessness (and more!) that is in dire need of rediscovery. It also goes by the title Twinkle, Twinkle Killer Kane and has what I consider to be an all-star cast headed up by the underrated Stacy Keach. There are various cuts floating around but it doesn’t matter. Any version should be seen by one and all. Keach is a military psychatrist in charge of a group of misfit soldiers hidden in a castle in the great northwest to determine if they are really insane or merely malingering. A flimsy plot, I grant you, but the execution will blow you away. Razor-like dialogue, multi-layered subplots, inter-connected relationships and, as the ads stated at the time, “A film that will keep you on the edge of your mind.” It culminates with one of the strangest and yet completely significant barroom brawls I’ve ever seen. Once again, it must be seen to be believed and once you do you’ll find yourself answering the question, why am I cheering all this bloodshed? I know I did.

And there you have it! My choices for favorite fight scenes. Just to keep it fair, I added some honorable mentions: Cape Fear (finale, either version), The Godfather (James Caan & Gianni Russo), Raging Bull, Gentlemen Jim, Somebody Up There Likes Me (tire stealing scene), Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, The Cincinnati Kid (the opening), 48 Hours, From Here to Eternity (several scenes), Straight Time (car scene), The Young Lions, My Favorite Year, Tom Horn (opening), Edge of the City (Jack Warden & Sidney Poitier), and Stalag 17.
Any readers have choices of their own? Quibbles? Complaints? Hey, leave a reply as I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.

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