Johnny Carson, the once and future king of late night talk shows, had Lee Marvin on The Tonight Show as a guest fairly frequently whenever the actor was promoting an upcoming project. In the summer of 1980, he did just that when The Big Red One was about to be released (the clip they show of it is terrific!)

Lee Marvin’s dapper entrance on Johnny Carson’s TONIGHT SHOW gives his customary greeting to Doc Severinsen and the band.

I discovered the entire show was posted on YouTube thanks to frequent blog follower, Shawn Marengo, god bless her. As she aptly pointed out to me, Marvin looked quite dapper in his 3-piece, apparently custom-made suit. May have been one of the handful of suits he purchased for the infamous palimony suit, according to his lawyer, David Kagon.

Screen grab showing Johnny Carson & Lee Marvin discussing THE BIG RED ONE.

Marvin and Carson were good friends, although I don’t know if they ever socialized outside of the show. Not that it matters as they have a very easy report with each other, as shown in the way Marvin subtlety corrects Carson on the pronunciation of the film’s title. They also joke amusingly about WWII reunions with former Marine Colonel Ed McMahon brought into the conversation. Marvin does fib a bit when he says he never goes to such reunions as his first wife gave details of his presence at such reunions to this author in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
Since the show was still in its one and a half hour format, feel free to do as I did and skip over the segment of Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes to get to Lee Marvin at around the 51 minute mark. Ironically, although he probably isn’t aware of it, Marvin’s good friend James Whitmore is in a commercial during his segment to hawk dog food. There’s also a humorous segment with Buck Henry that Marvin sticks around to participate in. Remember when talk show guests used to do that?

Anyway, without further ado, I give you The Tonight Show, circa June 25, 1980. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein

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James Whitmore
One of the many people I was lucky enough to be granted an interview with for Lee Marvin: Point Blank was the late, great James Whitmore. Best known for his one-man show performances as Harry Truman, Will Rogers and Teddy Roosevelt, the versatile actor kept active up to the end of his life, stirring audiences with his performance in The Shawshank Redemption. Although his quote did not make the final cut of my manuscript, I present it here — along with a rare photo of Marvin & Whitmore together back in the 50s — the extended quote Whitmore agreed to give me expressing his thoughts on his friend, co-worker and fellow WWII-era Marine, Lee Marvin.

James Whitmore: “I met him in 1953. Did “The Rainmaker” with Lee in La Jolla. Impressed me as a talented, thorough going professional. I played Starbuck. Lee played Noah and he was great. We partied a lot.
As an actor, he had great intensity and focus. Great onstage presence. We had both been in the war as Marines, and just told the usual tall tales. We also both admitted to being scared. What were Lee’s greatest attributes and flaws? Honesty, for both. What stands out most about him in my mind was his energy and lust for life. He was a hell of an actor and a man!”

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