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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ROGER EBERT: TOP TEN OF 1973

Roger Ebert, the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times until his death in 2013, was one of the few film critics I respected. I dd not always agree with his opinions but unlike most film critics, he seemed to truly love movies and it showed. Despite some wince-inducing spoilers in his on-air reviews with Gene Siskel (1992’s The Crying Game review comes immediately to mind), Roger Ebert seemed to prefer praising a film more often then damning it. 
   Case in point is his recently revived list of the ten best films of 1973 I discovered online a few days ago. The full list is interesting but naturally, I like his choice for number five. When the film came out most critics who admired it, considered Lee Marvin miscast or worse, not up to the role of Hickey. Not so with Ebert. Read his capsule review below…

5. THE ICEMAN COMETH

Cast of THE ICEMAN COMETH.

There isn’t a bad performance in the film, but there are three of such greatness they mesmerize us. The best is by the late Robert Ryan, as Larry, and this is possibly the finest performance of his career. There is such wisdom and sadness in his eyes, and such pain in his rejection of the boy Don (who may possibly be his own son), that he makes the role almost tender despite the language O’Neill gives him. It would be a tribute to a distinguished career if Ryan were nominated posthumously for an Academy Award. Lee Marvin, as Hickey, has a more virtuoso role: He plays a salesman who has been coming to Harry’s saloon for many years to have a “periodical drunk.” This time he’s on the wagon, he says, because he’s found peace. We discover his horrible peace when he confesses to the murder. Marvin has recently been playing in violent action movies that require mostly that he look mean; here he is a tortured madman hidden beneath a true believer.

You can read all of Ebert’s capsule reviews of the ten films here. Click on any review on the list to read it in its entirety. As for the making of The Iceman Cometh, there are some fascinating behind-the-scenes tales told firsthand to me by the likes of Jeff Bridges in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
– Dwayne Epstein

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JULY 2021 ON TCM

July 2021 on TCM is upon us and with it comes some watchable Lee Marvin classics, as well as a few other goodies within the theme of neo-noir. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank will appreciate these films as they certainly fit the oeuvre of the man’s work. Even the film’s in which he doesn’t appear are ones he certainly could have and it’s interesting to consider him in the roles while watching. Check local listings for air time. First up:

Point Blank (1967): Friday, July 2nd. 

Point Blank, 1967


Lee Marvin as Walker based on the book in which his name is Parker written by Donald Westlake using the pen name Richard Stark directed by England’s John Boorman in quintessential American locales such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. Confused? Don’t be as TCM could not have picked a better film for their July 2021 launch of their theme of neo-noir classics, as this is the one that started it all. It’s what I like to call the first arthouse action film. See it again and you’ll see what I mean.



Warning Shot (1967): Friday July 2nd. 

Original ad art for WARNING SHOT (1967).



Hot from his success as Richard Kimble on “The Fugitive,” David Janssen stars in this film with a similar theme, only this time he’s a cop wrongly accused of murder. Janssen heads an all-star cast of cameos including Lee Marvin’s good friend and Point Blank costar, Keenan Wynn as well as Carroll O’Connor. Along for the ride are George Grizzard, Joan Collins, Lillian Gish, Steve Allen, Ed Begley, Sam Wanamaker, George Sanders, Eleanor Parker, Walter Pigeon and Stefanie Powers and a terrific score by Jerry Goldsmith. It’s a forgotten classic as far as I’m concerned and July 2021 is all the better for it.


The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973): Friday, July 9th.

Criterion cover for the DVD of THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE.



In the 1970s Robert Mitchum underwent a sort of renaissance in his career with three outstanding crime thrillers: The Yakuza (1975), Farewell, My Lovely (1975), and the best of them being The Friends of Eddie Coyle. This is yet another movie in dire need of rediscovery and thankfully, a few years back Criterion chose to give the film the blue ribbon treatment it deserves. Yes, it’s dark and depressing and yes rather unrelentingly so but I like to think of it as haunting as once seen you’ll never forget it. Seriously. Mitchum heads an all-star cast of rugged faced veteran character actors on the dirty streets of Boston as he himself gives the performance of his career. Once again, don’t take my word for it. See it for yourself and be amazed. As costar Peter Boyle told Rolling Stone Magazine at the time: “You know what the 2001 theme is? That’s the sound of Robert Mitchum waking up.”

The Wild One (1953) Saturday, July 10th.

Original ad for The WILD ONE in which 4th billed Lee Marvin is shown (barely) but not mentioned.



The seminal film that started the biker film craze of the late 1960s was actually based on an event in the 1940s and starred Marlon Brando as Johnny, titular leader of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC). He’s challenged at one point by a scene-stealing, hilariously over-the-top Lee Marvin as Chino. Great and exclusive stories abound about the making of this classic in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank, including a letter Lee wrote to his brother about what he thought of the character in hopes of winning the role. As for his opinion of Brando? Read and discover!

Night Moves (1975) Friday, July 23rd.

Alternate cover art for NIGHT MOVES.


Gene Hackman is at the peak of his long and amazing career as Harry Moseby, a former football star working as a private detective hired to find the daughter of a burned out movie star.  He’s also dealing with the break-up of his marriage and the oncoming strains middle-age. Along the way he encounters some unsavory characters, such as sexy Jennifer Warren, a young an creepy James Woods (isn’t he always creepy?) and more. The style and performances of this film is required viewing in my opinion as Hackman is rarely better than in the hands of the great Arthur Penn. Enjoy!

Cutter’s Way (1981) Friday, July 23rd. 

DVD cover for CUTTER’S WAY.



Hollywood was still making films such as this in the early 1980s but sadly, few people wanted to see them. It’s a terrific character study in the guise of a thrilling whodunit. Jeff Bridges is Richard Bone, a Santa Barbara boat salesman by day and a “gigolo” by night (male prostitute, let’s be honest) who may have witnessed a murder committed by the riches man around. Enter John Heard as Alex Cutter, a disabled and embittered Vietnam veteran who wants to blackmail the suspected killer in a performance that reaches beyond the cliche description. It’s a performance worthy of countless acting awards but didn’t receive any. Ivan Passer’s direction, Jeff Bridges’ appearance (according to my girlfriend he never looked sexier!) John Heard’s riveting performance, the Santa Barbara locations and a chilling climax make this one a definite contender as a lost classic. Kudos to TCM for rediscovering it!

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) Saturday, July 31st. 

Montage of scenes and characters from John Huston’s ASPHALT JUNGLE. Can you name them all?



It’s a bit of a shame that this classic noir was made in 1950 as that’s the same year Lee Marvin began working in film as a glorified extra. Had he been a little better known by that time he would have fit right in with the cast of this hardboiled heist thriller in any of several different roles. The lead role by Sterling Hayden as the hooligan known as Dix would have been a perfect fit for the young Marvin. The ensemble cast as it is remains one of the best of all time. It also includes my personal favorite quote of all noir films when Hayden tells worrisome Marc Lawrence: “Why don’t you quit crying and get me some bourbon!”  A film brimming with double-crosses, subplots and believable characters, it’s one for the ages. Oh, and look quick for Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Arthur Miller in the film’s opening line-up of suspected mugs. Honest!  


So there you have it. A plethora of terrific films for TCM’s calendar of July 2021. August brings even better fare for Lee Marvin fans. TCM is doing their regular installment of “Summer Under the Stars,” saluting one actor all day and on the 28th, they FNALLY get around to honoring Lee Marvin. July 2021 is pretty good. August will sure to be even better!

  • Dwayne Epstein 
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