James Garner wrote about Lee Marvin in his 2011 memoir The Garner Files. Since they never worked together, I never thought to use it as a source for Lee Marvin: Point Blank. However, once I read Garner’s book, I figure his take on Marvin deserves to be recounted here.
It’s interesting to note that the TV & movie star belies his easy going charm as his experiences but mostly his point of view are both anything but easygoing. A better word to describe what he writes would be curmudgeonly. Not surprisingly, his cowriter, Jon Winokur, is the author of The Portable Curmudgeon. I get the feeling that Garner sought Winokur out based most likely on that fact. Don’t get me wrong, the book is a great read, mostly for just that reason. His takes on his life, work, costars, the culture and society-at-large are a lot of fun. Brett Maverick or Jim Rockford he is not. Well, maybe a little. One minor correction to his comments below. To make his point, he states Lee Marvin’s salary went up to a million dollars a picture after Cat Ballou (1965) and he worked less because of it. Not true. Marvin first got a million for Paint Your Wagon (1969) and as most fans know he worked a lot after his Oscar winning role. Well, Garner certainly has a right to his opinion and I am a fan of some of his work. It’s just that the facts don’t support his point of view. No matter.
As to his main point about Marvin, of that, I guess he should be taken on his word as others have recounted similar encounters as stated in my book….
“In Hollywood you have to ‘defend you quote’ — keep your fee as high as possible and never accept less. Lee Marvin raised his quote to a million dollars a picture after he won an Oscar for Cat Ballou and had trouble getting parts.
“I never worked with Lee, but I thought that as an actor he was very colorful. As a guy, he was a pain in the ass. He just didn’t care. He was a drinker. One night in a limousine on our way to a function, he made moves on my wife. That’s a little more than I can handle and almost decked him.
“Anyway, Lee wanted to work but couldn’t take a salary cut. I didn’t want to fall into that trap, so I never let my quote get too high. Actors are paid more than they’re worth anyway. Producers are idiots for paying the ridiculous prices we ask. We make so much money, the majority of pictures never make a profit. I think movies would be a lot better if more actors waived their big salaries in order to do worthwhile pictures.
“I don’t think actors today are well served by their agents and managers, who aren’t as good as they used to be. They just want their 10 percent and let their clients do things they shouldn’t. They have one hit and three flops and their careers are over.”
Oh and for what it’s worth, Garner didn’t like Charles Bronson, either.
– Dwayne Epstein