Redbook Magazine once did something rather extraordinary. Apparently, when Johnny Carson was still in the comparatively early stages of hosting The Tonight Show, he had Lee Marvin on as a guest and enjoyed the conversation so much, he invited Lee to his house to continue the chat and allowed Redbook to print it.
I got the idea to post this blog entry of the Redbook article after recently posting a late life video of Lee’s appearance on the Carson show to promote The Big Red One in 1980 (that can be viewed here). It’s interesting in that the Redbook article is a result of Marvin’s first appearance on Carson while the video may very well have been his last appearance.
I discovered the article during my research for Lee Marvin Point Blank and quoted from it profusely. Clearly, Carson and Marvin had a natural report which allowed them to open up with each other in a much more candid way then they would have on television. Keep in mind, this article is from November, 1967, when such subjects as sex, sex education and the like were considered taboo for national television.
Friends of Lee Marvin had told me that the actor so enjoyed chatting with Carson he felt comfortable enough to sometimes prank the host. He once appeared on the show acting drunk but when they came back from commercial break, both men were laughing uproariously as Marvin let Carson in on the joke.
I should point out that the original article was in color and what I was able to scan below is a Xerox copy. Since the magazine ceased publication in 2019, enjoy this rare gabfest between two icons of popular culture.
– Dwayne Epstein

Lee Marvin shown successfully flipping a cigarette in his mouth on the first page of the article.

An amused Johnny Carson at Lee Marvin’s antics on page 2.

Page 3 of the Redbook article.

The conclusion of Redbook’s candid conversation.

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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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Marvin, Rickles & Ali is not a law firm but the participants of a an early 1970s talk show. Insult comic extraordinaire Don Rickles was sitting in for Johnny Carson one night and was in top form as he skewered guest Lee Marvin, who got an assist from legendary boxing champ Muhammad Ali.  Marvin appeared to promote Prime Cut (1972) apparently on his way to Hawaii. He comes off rather laid back but still on his toes as he was an old hand at such doings. I always enjoy his talk show appearances and have blogged about them before, such as the Dick Cavett Show and Merv Griffin Show.  However, if you think Marvin talks about Prime Cut think again. He just apparently was not in the mood but you can read al about it in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Screen grab of Marvin, Ali & Rickles.

  It should be said that Marvin did not always appear sober when interviewed but he seemed to be sober here. I also want to apologize in advance for the quality of the video as I had nothing to do with the transfer since it was uploaded to YouTube by someone else. Mavin shows up at around the 35 minute 8 seconds mark, having followed Ali and comedian Don Adams along with Carson stalwart Ed McMahon. Adams and McMahon, like Marvin, were also in the Marines.
Later on the same video is another clip of a show with Rickles and James Caan along with Karen Black which is pretty funny. Oh, and the clip before Marvin, Rickles & Ali is of Flip Wilson hosting Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows and poker great Amarillo Slim…..if you’re interested, if not, fast forward to Marvin, Rickles & Ali as they are all on their game and VERY funny, especially Ali!
Oh, and a special “thank you” to regular blog follower Shawn Marengo for bringing it to my attention.

– Dwayne Epstein

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