Aaron Sorkin, the talented writer of multiple mediums, was the recent subject of an ongoing project dedicated to creative inspirations. The entertainment news website Deadline Hollywood started an interesting series of video interviews entitled “The Film That Lit My Fuse,” with such previous subjects as Russell Crowe, Edward James Olmos and Oliver Stone. I like the concept as well as many of the responses I’ve seen. However, the recent one with Aaron Sorkin bears special mention here.
Why the special mention? Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are aware of several of the bibliographies I constructed in the back of the book and one of the ones that I was most proud of was “Films Lee Marvin Could Have Made” in which I speculate on roles he would have played had he lived. Since Aaron Sorkin had his breakout success with the stage and film version of A Few Good Men (1992), I could not help but speculate what Marvin would have been like in the role of Marine Col. Nathan R. Jessup.

Lee Marvin n THE DIRTY DOZEN, or how he might have looked in A FEW GOOD MEN.

Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessup in director Rob Reiner’s film version Aaron Sorkin’s AFEW GOOD MEN.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Nicholson was superb in the role. I just think it would have been interesting to see what Marvin would have done with it. When I saw it in the theater when it first came out, I remember thinking that I could easily hear Marvin bark that famous line: “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”
In the video, which I’ve linked below, Sorkin’s response to the questions and his anecdotal remembrances are fascinating. Like him, I enjoy a good courtroom drama and also consider the T.V. show “M*A*S*H” to be the best of the best. I also consider William Goldman one of the all-time greats and was pleasantly surprised to discover he was a coach and mentor to Sorkin.
One minor quibble, though. He’s incorrect when he says 12 Angry Men (1957) has only one set consisting of the jury room throughout the film. The film opens in the courtroom with the jury receiving their instructions from the judge and closes with an exterior shot of the courthouse with two jurors exchanging good byes. Minor quibble, I grant you but worth mentioning.
Oh, and speaking of courtroom dramas, Lee Marvin was no stranger to the genre, having taken the witness stand in The Caine Mutiny (1954), The Rack (1956) and as the title subject seen below……

Lee Marvin as Korean War era defendant Paul Ryker in SGT. RYKER.

  • Dwayne Epstein.


The Film That Lit My Fuse: ‘The Trial Of The Chicago 7’ Writer-Director Aaron Sorkin

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Johnny Mandel, the veteran composer of many a film score, passed last Monday, June, 29th at the ripe old age of 94. His obituary is a fascinating read in terms of how prolific he was for decades in both film and the music industry.
As the obit states, he was probably best remembered for his score to M*A*S*H (1970), as well as the Taylor/Burton vehicle, The Sandpiper (1965), and their accompanying title songs. Beyond that, his heavily jazz-influenced music remained largely in the background of most films and not nearly as memorable as say the scores of John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith. In the long run, that’s probably a good thing as film scores are meant to enhance the mood of a film, not necessarily stand out and distract from it.
Fortunately, one of his scores that actually did both, enhance AND standout, was his score for John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967). I was not a fan of the film the first time I saw it as I felt it was pretentious in its obvious ‘arti-ness.’ But, like most great films, it grew on me with every successive viewing. In fact, by the time I first came to write about it and later research and write Lee Marvin Point Blank,  I was enthused enough about it to create some interesting perspectives on the production.
One aspect I think is clearly overlooked is the moody score Mandel created. I am a huge fan of film music but not knowledgeable enough about it to write with any discernable skill. Luckily, a limited release CD of the score was put out by the good folks at Turner Classic Movies in conjunction with Film Score Monthly. The results included some great and detailed liner notes I believe was penned by the late, great Nick Redman. So, below is his detailed description, scene by scene, of Johnny Mandel’s haunting score.
SPOILER ALERT: The details are so exact, that if you have yet to see the film, be forewarned as the film’s entirety is given away in the notes. If you have seen it, then enjoy this belated tribute to a Johnny Mandel score ripe for rediscovery. Rest in Peace, Mr. Mandel, your work will not be forgotten.
– Dwayne Epstein


1st page of POINT BLANK liner notes.

2nd pages of POINT BLANK liner notes.

3rd pages of POINT BLANK liner notes.

4th pages of POINT BLANK liner notes.

concluding page of POINT BLANK liner notes (Johnny Mandel pictured).

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