Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are well aware of the very strange events that took place during the making of 1965’s Ship of Fools. If you haven’t read it, then by all means, please do so as you’re in for quite a surprise! I was fortunate to interview such participants as Producer/Director Stanley Kramer and others who told unimagined tales of the film’s strange production.
Original ad for Ship of Fools with critics praising the individual performances, even if Christianne Schmidtmer’s is a little less lofty.
With such a huge and eclectic cast, strange events are bound to happen and I couldn’t get them all in the book. Such as this little anecdote from Lee’s then wife, Betty:
A p.r. still of Lee Marvin for Ship of Fools looking strangely like Boris Karloff.
“Here’s a very good example. Who was that wonderful dwarf? Michael Dunn? Yes! Michael came over. They had done Ship Of Fools together. The only one to dance with me….He’d put his head in my belly. Lee didn’t mind but he thought it looked funny. Michael always wanted to hold hands with me. Michael was also a wonderful sculptor. Michael came through my studio one time. I think he took the wrong door. He came through my studio. He was like this little wild rooster. He saw this one piece and he fell in love with it. He brought it in. ‘I love this. Who did this?’ Lee said, ‘I don’t know. Where did you get it?’ I’m very modest. I know I may not seem that way but it when it comes to my work,..so, I said, ‘Michael, it’s mine.’ I also had a sculpting studio. So the two of us went out. He’s molding this wonderful head and..we had the best time. It lasted about two hours. It was very funny.”
Lee Marvin on the railing with costar Vivien Leigh in what would be her last film.
This anecdote, told to me by costar Barbara Luna is a hoot. Sorry it didn’t make it in the book but that which did make the cut, is even better!
“One afternoon, Lee called me into his dressing room and he proceeded to give me a pep talk. I mean, a pep talk! He was a bit inebriated. He was angry with me. He was angry with me because..well, I realized later that he was projecting because, often times, if you’re not where you want to be as a human being, you recognize it easily in others. He started to tell me that I was not doing with my talent what I ought to be doing. I wanted to hear it but I didn’t want a lecture at that moment. Yet, I admired him dearly for doing it and wanting to do it because he cared enough. After about maybe 45 minutes to an hour, I thought ‘Geez!’ I could see that he was really tipsy. I tried to get up to leave and…
Actress Barbara Luna as she looked in Ship of Fools.
He wasn’t flirting with me. Not by any means. He was seriously giving me a pep talk about why I am not utilizing my talent….I think maybe the biggest culprit was because it took him so long to get his career off the ground. I think he just identified so strongly with my talent or what ever it was. He was identifying strongly. I finally couldn’t sit there any longer and plus, I probably had to get out on stage. He wouldn’t let me out! I was starting to get peeved. So, I finally got out the door. He probably turned his back for a second. He chased me! Now he was really drunk. Oh, he chased me around the stage! What stopped him, finally, he was barreling after people. He got his foot caught in you know, those butt buckets? They’re bucket they keep around for cigarettes. He tripped and he got his foot caught in one. Then he really got mad. He started to run with the bucket, I must have..Maybe I ran out the door. I don’t know where I ran. Everybody was sitting around because we had to be there everyday. Simone Signoret and Vivian Leigh and..So, that’s my biggest memory of Lee. It was so funny. You know how he was.”
Lee as Bill Tenney in Ship Of Fools, as he also looked when he cornered Barbara Luna.