DWAYNE HICKMAN

Dwayne Hickman, venerable costar of TV’s “Love That Bob” and star of “Dobie Gillis”, recently turned and impressive 87-years-old on May 18th. In honor of that milestone, I present excerpts from the interview I conducted with him way back in 1995. I met him at one of the Hollywood Collector’s Show and he could not have been more cordial or forthcoming. So, below are the unpublished insights of Dwayne Hickman on his experiences working with Lee Marvin on Cat Ballou (1965) and how Marvin interacted with the rest of the cast. The majority of what he had to say went into the narrative of Lee Marvin Point Blank, which were some of my favorite anecdotes. In the mean time, I give you, Dwayne Hickman. Enjoy…

(L-R) Lee Marvin as Kid Shelleen and Dwayne Hickman as Jed in CAT BALLOU.



Dwayne Epstein: What do you think of when you think of Lee Marvin?
Dwayne Hickman: To me, Lee seemed kind of self-destructive with the drinking and the smoking. How old was he when he made Cat Ballou?
E: I guess he was in his early forties.
H: I thought he was an old man. I liked Lee. I liked him a lot but there was a kind of a distance about him. During the movie I thought he was close but he always kept a little of himself hidden. Don’t get me wrong, I had a ball working with him. I was his straight man. All I had to do to set him off was say something like, “What do you think about that Lee?” That would get him going for hours. As a friend, though, I sensed some reticence.
E: Well, he was going through a rough time personally and professionally during the filming of that movie.
H: That’s true. It didn’t stop him from having a good time.
E: Were was the location shooting done?
H: We shot in Canyon City which is just at the foot of the Rockies. We stayed in this little motel and drove an hour to the location.
E: How did he get along with Jane Fonda?
H: Badly. She didn’t like him because of his crudity and language. She didn’t care for him and he definitely didn’t care for her. In all fairness, she didn’t care for him. Her boyfriend at the time, who she eventually married, Roger Vadim came to Colorado, rented a car and moved in with her. I’ll tell you an interesting story. He drove her to work everyday and the teamsters got upset because they didn’t want him doing that. They threatened to pull out which would have shutdown the production. She thought it was silly. The producers went to her and eventually she buckled under. I don’t think Jane was happy with the film. In fairness, she had a thankless role in the movie. Everybody else was funny around her and she had to carry the plot. Also, I think she may have thought Lee was overacting.
E: How did Vadim get along with Marvin?
H: Vadim walked over and introduced himself to Lee during the filming and Lee said, “I know you. You’re that fucking Frenchman.” I don’t think that sat well. When Vadim and Jane would speak French during lunch, at the picnic tables we sat at on, Lee got up and moved away. Lee was rude to Jane. Jane didn’t really want to be there. She was basically just working off her contract requirement with Columbia.
E: As an actor, what was Lee Marvin like towork with in a scene?
H: He was a very skilled, interesting actor. He’d stretch the limits of credibility. I’ll give you an example. There’s the scene in the movie after he shot Tim Strawn — the other part he played — and then came back to tell us about it. I asked him “How was it?’ And he says with a broad smile, “It was just swell.” I asked him before hand, “Are you really going to do that?” Lee said, “Yeah, it’ll be fun.” He was a very innovative and creative actor. He would always downplay his talent, though. But he took a lot of chances. He was never what you would call a safe actor. A safe actor never takes chances with his character. Lee always took chances. There’s the scene in the movie where we’re sitting around planning the train robbery and he pipes in, “I’ll drink to that!” Well, he gave it a different reading every time. Each time he’d emphasize a different part of the sentence so it never sounded the same way twice. He was very bold that way. Never blended it because of his willingness to try.
E: How would Silverstein direct him?
H: Silverstein would say to him, “It’s too big Lee. Play it softer.’ Lee would say, “Got it, sweetheart.’ Then he would play it the same way every time. He had a hundred moves on screen. He also had that deep voice and big face. He could combine that with his big style and way of handling props that was really swift.
E: Do you recall when you first met him?
H: The first time I met him was during a reading at the Beverly Hilton one Saturday afternoon. The whole cast met for the first time. He seemed subdued and well-behaved. It sounds strange because that’s a term you usually use for a child but it could really apply to Lee. I was looking forward to meeting him and he said he was a fan from my t.v. work. he was a lot of fun and had a great sense of humor.
E: Can you recall any examples of his sense of humor?
H: He was like a kid in school who causes all the trouble. I remember one lunch break, he turned to me as we were passed the producer’s office and said, “Watch me make’em crazy.” The producer was named Jack Fier and there was an old line in Hollywood that went, “There is nothing to fear but Fier himself.” Anyway, Lee says real loud, “Haven’t got a shot all morning.” When I asked him why he said it, he said, “Watch, I betcha he’ll show up on the set.” When we came back from lunch, sure enough, he was there. That’s the kind of thing that made him endearing to some of us. E: How would Jane Fonda react to that kind of thing?
H: What bothered Lee about Jane was that she was kind of pretentious. Jane was a product of Henry, and finishing schools in Europe and was a proponent of the method. She was very serious about acting. One thing Lee was not, was pompous. Jane was very serious. Lee was serious in his own way but also a bit outrageous. So, she was his target. Of course, she was very good too, but approached her role in a different way. He was crude and bawdy and kind offended her sensibilities.
E: I get the feeling she must have thought of him as a Neanderthal.
H: Yeah, but Lee was a very talented, bright guy. He knew what he was doing. People generally liked him. 
E: Can you give an example of how his intelligence would show itself?
H: No, but it would be in his general behavior. He was a very smart actor. He was always thinking of his next move. Lee wasn’t an intellectual like Jane. He worked by instinct.
E: I’ve heard conflicting reports from people like Michael Callan and others about whether Marvin drank during filming. Do you know if he did or not?
H: Well, I don’t know if he was necessarily drunk but I knew he was drinking. That first day o n location when he made the driver stop so he could get a bottle of vodka told me he was drinking.
E: I read in your book a great story about leaving Colorado with Lee. Can you expand on that a little?
H: Sure. We were about to leave Canyon City and we had to pack and get ready. The night before, he must have gone and started drinking instead. The next day when we went to get him, he was passed out in his room. He was still dressed in the clothes he must have been wearing from the night before. When we finally got him up, he put on a terry cloth robe, a hair net, a pair of dark glasses and a put a bottle of vodka in his pocket. The assistant director put his bags in the station wagon while Lee carried a little napsack. There was crazy Lee sitting in the front seat and turned to us asking, “Would you like a drink?” We said, “It’s 6:30. That’s a little early.” Well, Lee starting pouring tonic in his vodka, or vodka in his tonic, and began drinking. He pulls out this .45 automatic and started working it like he d id in the movie. He rolled down the window and started shooting at the road signs. Well, in this little place in Colorado, that’s bad news. We could have all been arrested. At one point, there was some cattle grazing and Lee shot into them. He shouted out, “Hot damn! I got a me a cow.” We drove to a little airfield in Colorado Springs for the flight to Burbank. Lee got in the back of the plane and played poker the whole flight back. When we got back, they tried to tell him he had to work and he got all bent out of shape because in truth he was in no condition to work. They took Lee from the plane to the ranch and into wardrobe. They had to do the scene in the whorehouse where he’s looking for his brother. They did about twenty or thirty takes. I think eventually, they had to reshoot it. 
    […] We listened to him on stuff like that because like I said, Lee was like a father figure to us.
E: Was it that way for Tom Nardini, as well?

(L-R) Dwayne Hickman, Lee Marvin and Tom Nardini on location in Canyon City, Colorado.


H: Lee used to kid Nardini. He used to say things to him like him, “Been in show business ten minutes and your already a pro, huh kid.” He would kid him but he was really good to Tom. 
E: Did anybody get mad at Marvin for all his scene stealing?
H: You can’t really get mad Lee. He went for broke. He was a risk taker as an actor and you couldn’t help but admire that. There was always a fifty-fifty chance what he was doing wouldn’t work.
E: Did you have any contact with him after the film was over?
H: No, not at all. It’s kind of strange because when you work on a movie you’re part of a team. You’re like family, then when it’s done, you just move on.
E: How did he get along with John Marley?
H: They didn’t really relate much with each other. He was also very serious about acting because he came out of working with Kazan in America, America. Lee provided an easier atmosphere. He acted like he didn’t take it very seriously but he really did.
E: Any last thoughts you want to add about Lee Marvin that you think most people wouldn’t know?
H: Like I said, there was that part of Lee that’s private. No matter how much you thought you knew him, he always kept a part of him at a distance. Actually, I ran into him in, I think, 1985 or ‘86. It was the People’s Choice Awards. He seemed to be in a kind of a fog. I think he was drinking. … Well, he recognized me. He said something like, “You were the preacher,” and that was pretty much it. I was kind of disappointed, to tell you the truth. He didn’t say anything like, “Hi, how are you? How have you been?” It was kind of sad to see him like that. I think it was because of his age. He was deteriorating at an alarming rate.
E: You know all that liquor and five packs-a-day smoking can do that to you. 

Bob Denver and Maynard G. Krebs and Dwayne Hickman as Dobie Gillis.

Long live Dwayne Hickman!



– Dwayne Epstein

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SUPERSTARDOM: LEE MARVIN & THE LADIES

The Harvey Weinstein scandal being the main topic of conversation these days, such behavior is actually not that revelational among the power brokers and others who have reached a level of superstardom in show business. The term ‘casting couch’ is one of the oldest cliches in Hollywood, and as Claudette Colbert once famously said, “The casting couch? There’s only one of us who ever made it to stardom without it, and that was Bette Davis.”
So what does any of this have to do with Lee Marvin? Well, in researching Lee Marvin Point Blank the subject of sexual harassment never became an issue in my research, despite Marvin’s tendency towards boorish behavior on the occasion of some drunken episodes as detailed in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank. He could be loutish and embarrassing at times but thanks to his breeding, he always managed to pull himself back from the abyss. As his lawyer David Kagon said to me: “Lee Marvin was a truly Victorian character, particularly when it came to women. He always treated women extremely courteously. I never heard him use a word that you’d want to use, at that time, to qualify for usage in polite society when a woman was present. He always treated them very, almost as if he were Victorian. He was the kind of guy that would open a door for a woman. He’d stand up.”
Due to the kind of films he made, Marvin had little interaction with many of the actresses of the day. When he did, the results were unsurprisingly similar.  Basically, Marvin’s treatment of his female costars as he ascended into superstardom fell into three categories: Younger costars were protected in a fatherly way while veteran costars were given the utmost respect. The third category? Well, that was a rare category that may have fallen to more women had he worked with more women.

CAT BALLOU costar Jane Fonda learning some valuable lessons from veteran Lee Marvin.

His Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou catapulted him to stardom but during production, his treatment of the opposite sex didn’t change. In fact, costar Jane Fonda didn’t always see eye-to-eye when they made the film but in retrospect she wrote in her autobiography: “The producers had us working overtime day after day, until one morning Lee Marvin took me aside. ‘Jane,’ he said, ‘we are the stars of this movie. If we let the producers walk all over us, if we don’t stand up for ourselves, you know who suffers most? The crew. The guys who don’t have the power we do to say, ‘shit, no, we’re working’ too hard.’ You have to get some backbone, girl. Learn to say no when they ask you to keep working.’ I will always remember Lee for that important lesson.”
Following Cat Ballou, Marvin worked with the mostly all-male cast in the now classic rugged western, The Professionals. An exception to the testosterone-driven cast was Europe’s Claudia Cardinale…..

Claudia Cardinale and Marvin in Richard Brooks’ THE PROFESSIONALS (1966).

By all accounts, Marvin’s relationship with the Italian film star was, as the title suggested, strictly professional and for Marvin that meant respectful.
A good example of how he treated a younger actress is his relationship with Sissy Spacek during the making of Prime Cut. As she is quoted in her memoir about her film debut:

Sissy Spacek and Lee Marvin in PRIME CUT.

“I loved working with Lee Marvin, and he was actually very protective of me. But he was a prodigious drinker, and he warned me to avoid him when he was inebriated. When we first met on location, I blurted out, ‘Lee, you have the greenest eyes!’
‘Yeah,’ said Lee. ‘And whenever you see them turn blue stay away from me.’
“It was true. When he’d had a few too many, his eyes turned ocean blue and everybody gave him a wide berth. But mostly he was a good guy, and very professional….I was so caught up in the filming I hardly noticed the battles going on behind the scenes. [Director]  Michael Ritchie was constantly fighting with the powers that be over the tone of Prime Cut. Michael wanted it to be more of a camp satire; the studio wanted a straight gangster thriller. Lee Marvin shared the director’s vision for the film and it led to some tense moment  on location.”
Spacek is right when she said there were some fights during production, but incorrect when she said Ritchie and Marvin shared the film’s vision. In fairness, she readily admits to hardly noticing the battles going on. Lee Marvin told it plain to journalist Grover Lewis in Rolling Stone magazine shortly after the film came out: “I’ve made some mistakes I wish I hadn’t. One of them was working with Michael Ritchie on Prime Cut. Oh I hate that son-of-a-bitch. He likes to use amateurs because he can emotionally dominate them. That chick in Prime Cut, she would’ve sucked my cock on camera if Ritchie’d told her to. One night, I wanted to rehearse a scene and he didn’t want to, so he pretended to get sick. I said, ‘shit fire, Michael. ‘ll get you a fuckin’ doctor.’ Nothing worked with that guy, and the picture just fell apart before we even got started. ” The film’s other female star, Angel Tompkins, concurred with Sissy Spacek’s assessment of Marvin. Clearly, his respect for women was maintained, despite his opinion of the film’s director. As to the handful of other female costars he worked with…

(L-R) Elizabeth Ashley, Kay Lenz and Lee Marvin in GREAT SCOUT & CATHOUSE THURSDAY. Lenz told this author wonderful anecdotes about working with Marvin.

(L-R) Roger Moore, Barbara Parkins and Lee Marvin in SHOUT AT THE DEVIL. Playing Parkins’ father, Marvin was just naturally fatherly towards the actress.

Linda Evans and Lee Marvin in AVALANCHE EXPRESS.

Then there is that rarest of third categories, of which only one is actually known. Well, maybe two if you count an extra during a film. Okay, three if you want to be speculative. To put it another way, Lee Marvin was protective and respectful to his leading ladies. However, there’s absolutely no evidence that he was abusive in any way, but was he ever romantic? Stay tuned…..
– Dwayne Epstein

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THE OTHER KID SHELLEEN(S)

Believe it or not, Lee Marvin’s Oscar-winning turn as Kid Shelleen in the film Cat Ballou (1965) has had more than one incarnation. In spite of the fact that the original film was a headache to make for almost all involved and was not thought to be successful before its release, Hollywood jumped at the chance to remake it once its success was solidified.
Marvin was asked about making a sequel and/or remake but logically passed on the idea as I discovered in my interview with the film’s director (Lee Marvin: Point Blank).
That didn’t stop Hollywood from trying to cash in on the film’s hard-earned success. According to the IMDb, “NBC developed two pilots based on Cat Ballou with completely different casts and crews. They were aired on consecutive evenings in September of 1971. Neither pilot was picked up as a series.”
The first of these 2 was set to air in the 1969-70 season but sat on the shelf for 18 months before finally airing literally just one day before another version with Jo Ann Harris in the title role and Forrest Tucker as Kid Shelleen. That version could at least boast Tom Nardini reprising his role from the film as Jackson Two Bears, seen below in a recent photo…..

A recent photo of Lee Marvin's reclusive Cat Ballou costar, Tom Nardini.

A recent photo of Lee Marvin’s reclusive Cat Ballou costar, Tom Nardini.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other version of Cat Ballou starred Lesley Ann Warren in the Jane Fonda role and veteran character actor Jack Elam as Kid Shelleen. Apparently, the makers went so far as to attempt a recreation of Marvin’s famous sight gag from the film, but with less than spectacular results. Below is the original image on the left and the TV-movie version with Elam on the right. Ahh, Hollywood, won’t you ever learn?
– Dwayne Epstein

Lee Marvin as the original Kid Shelleen on the left and the remake with Jack Elam on the right.

Lee Marvin as the original Kid Shelleen on the left and the remake with Jack Elam on the right.

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