Martin Scorsese, the legendary director of legendary films has become associated with great gangster films as much as John Ford has been associated with great western films. He’s also a well-renowned film enthusiast so the combination of those two factors makes for the invetiable list of his all-time favorite gangster films. It was recently unvieled this week in an online British periodical that was called from an interview Scorsese did in 2010 (The British article can be read here). The obvious question, stated with tongue firmly in cheek, becomes what took so long? The list is whittled down to a mere fifteen films, which is surprisingly short considering the breadth of Scorsese’s film knowledge and passion. I had known of his appreciation of Lee Marvin’s film work as I wrote about it in the last chapter of Lee Marvin Point Blank, citing Harvey Keitel’s great speech in Martin Scorsese’s first film, Who’s That Knocking At My Door(1968). I had also blogged about it previously.
The poster for an upcoming film on the right as shown in Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS.
I was naturally glad to see Marvin’s Point Blank on the list despite the rather strange definition Scorsese gives the film: “Lee Marvin is Walker, the man who may or may not be dreaming, but who is looking for vengeance on his old partner and his former wife. Like Burt Lancaster in the 1948 I Walk Alone, another favourite, he can’t get his money when he comes out of jail and enters a brave new corporate world.” Not quite accurate to say Walker ‘Comes out of jail,’ as if he was paroled the way Lancaster was in I Walk Alone. Just saying. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955) on his list, another film in which Lee Marvin contributed. Not included was The Big Heat (1953) which was equally surprising. Not in a bad way, however, as it has been heralded by others quite a bit but Pete Kelly’s Blues is worthy of some new and more positive reconsideration.
Jack Webb (left) and Lee Marvin (right) blow some hot jazz in PETE KELLY’S BLUES,Webb’s tribute to the Roaring 20s.
So, there you have it. The great Martin Scorsese gives his thoughts on his favorite gangster films, with Lee Marvin making the count not once, but twice. By the way, to be fair, he made the list based on chronology and not in order of importance. If you can’t see it, the list is below and the choices are impressive. Thank you, Martin Scorsese.
Smoke Wagon Blues Band, a veteran Canadian blues band has a new album entitled “The Ballad of Albert Johnson,” and as the author of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I had to find out more about them. According to a quote from the band’s harmonica-playing lead singer, Corey Lueck: “When I was a kid I saw the American movie about it (“Death Hunt”) with Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin. I thought it was a cool story and then when I found out it was a Canadian story, I read up on it even more. We wrote the song and then we ended up naming the whole album after it.” The quote came from an online article I came across in which the the band’s 25 year history and influences are recounted in a lively piece that can be read here. Personally, I love the look and the sound of these guys and the band name is terrific. I highly recommend viewing the animated video made to accompany the song as it’s a pretty imaginative retelling of the story Marvin as Edgar Millen and Bronson as Johnson enacted.
Lee Marvin as Edgar Millen in DEATH HUNT.
One of the rare times Lee Marvin played a real-life character on film was RCMP’s Edgar Millen in DEATH HUNT.
I had a little trouble understanding all the lyrics but after multiple viewings of the video I got into it and liked it a lot. If I could describe it in one word that word be one often used to described Marvin and Bronson themselves: KICK-ASS! Who knew Canada had such a rocking blues/jazz scene going on? I certainly didn’t!
That said, I wish the talented gentlemen of Smoke Wagon Blues Band all the luck in the world on the upcoming award show to take place on February 22nd.
In the mean time, feel free check out the computer generated video they made for the album’s title track as animated by Patrick Politowski. I think it’s a hoot! Enjoy! -Dwayne Epstein
The Simpsons, Fox’s long-running prime time animated series, may not seem like a suitable blog post for all things Lee Marvin, but fans of the show may know different. Rolling Stone magazine posted a list of the shows best episodes and the musical clip episode from the show’s ninth season ranked among them. What does this have to do with Lee Marvin?
Lee Marvin & Clint Eastwood animated on The Simpsons.
As I said, long standing fans of the show probably know why and it’s good to know that Rolling Stone feels the same. The clip below says it all and is a wonderful example of what the show did best when it was at its best. To set up the episode that consisted of musical clips from past shows, The Simpsons had gone out to rent a video but argue over what to watch, with Marge and Lisa preferring a rom-com, while Homer and Bart naturally prefer something a little more macho. They land on Paint Your Wagon (1969), since it stars Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood, which Bart and Homer assume would fulfill their masculine viewing needs. As an aside, I first watched this episode with my best friend, one Mike Barrow, another Lee Marvin fan and diehard aficionado of The Simpsons. He had come to visit me in my new apartment in Long Beach but before we caught up on old times he said a new episode was on and we HAD to watch it. I was in the earliest stages of researching Lee Marvin Point Blank so we had much to talk about…AFTER viewing the episode. We turned on the TV to catch the episode and imagine our immense surprise when we see the opening!
Mike Barrow and the author back in the day.
Naturally, after it aired, we had even more to bond over! Keep in mind, this is the guy with whom I watched The Dirty Dozen (1967) with on video so often, it got to the point that he would just call me up and start to hum the the film’s main theme and I would respond, “Sure, come on over.” Now that’s a buddy. All that said, for those who may have missed it, below is the clip in question. Watch. Enjoy. And remember, “Thank god for Lee Marvin! He’s always drunk and violent!” – Dwayne Epstein