SPOILER ALERTS: ONE MAN’S OPINION

Spoiler alerts are not necessarily a new phenomenon as they have existed in all forms of media for some time, whether movies, TV, plays or books. However, the very existence of spoiler alerts, usually accompanied by an obligatory disclaimer, are a major pet peeve. Why? Because if any entity states a spoiler alert is forthcoming and then proceeds to give away an important plot element or worse, the twist finale, they have not done their job. In other words, a film critic who cannot review a film without giving away the ending, should be fired on general principle.  Seems harsh, perhaps, but I stand by it. Such individuals should and can work just a little harder to make their point without ruining a given project for others.
   Believe me, I know as I’ve been faced with that conflict myself. Case in point: My interview with Mitch Ryan concerning his performance in Monte Walsh (1970).

(L-R) Lee Marvin, Mitch Ryan and Jack Palance in MONTE WALSH.


He was not an easy person to get to agree to an interview as he initially turned me down, several times. Luckily, he eventually relented and I am eternally grateful. His exclusive input was invaluable. All of what he told me concerning his friendship with Lee Marvin and the making of Monte Walsh went into Lee Marvin: Point Blank….well, except one anecdote. I mulled it over for some time about its inclusion, as it gave away the end of the film. No spoiler alerts here as ultimately, I did NOT include it, no matter how much I wanted to since it was a wonderful example of Marvin’s creative thinking as an actor. He had suggested something to Ryan that Ryan actually did in the scene and it was a brilliant touch. You’ll just have to see the film and possibly figure it out for yourself.
– Dwayne Epstein 

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MITCH RYAN TURNS 92 TODAY!

Mitch Ryan, the veteran actor of film, TV and stage has turned ninety-two years old today! He made his film debut in his twenties in the Robert Mitchum cult classic, Thunder Road (1958), returned to the stage and then didn’t make another film until his appearance as Shorty in the Lee Marvin classic, Monte Walsh (1970). Naturally, it was his work in that underrated western that made him the subject of my intense interest. In fact, here’s a story  that I’ve never told publicly before that I think says volumes about the man’s character.

(L-R) Lee Marvin, Mitch Ryan and Jack Palance in MONTE WALSH.

I had attempted to interview him several times over the years but the attempt was often in vain. Lee Marvin’s lawyer, David Kagon, knew Ryan and contacted him for me while I was in Kagon’s office. Ryan was polite but firm. He said he had to honor Pam Marvin’s wishes and not speak to me.
Okay, flash forward a few years and I’m still working on the book and attempting more interviews. I don’t recall how but I came in contact with Ryan again. This time, however, he was infinitely more receptive and agreed to a phone interview. The result was one of the most revealing and useful interviews I ever got as he was a great friend to Marvin throughout the remainder of his life. Our talk can be read in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank and it is both impressive and poignantly revealing.
After the book came out, Jeff Mantor invited me to a Q&A Book signing at his legendary store, Larry Edmunds Bookshop on the dirty boulevard of Hollywood. He encouraged me to invite a celebrity who knew Marvin to help sell books. Not many of my interview subjects were still around but when I asked Mr. Ryan…..

Mitch Ryan at the Larry Edmunds book signing enthusiastically shows off his prized possession.

 

What a guy, huh? I’m telling ya, not just a wonderful actor but a true mensch. We dined at Musso & Franks before the signing (on my publisher’s dime) and had a wonderful time at the signing itself. I can’t say enough about this great man so happy birthday, Mitch, and here’s to many more. You’re aces in my book! And thanks to your help, it’s a NY Times bestseller!
– Dwayne Epstein

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ANNIVERSARY OF DEATH: MY MEMORY OF LEE MARVIN’S PASSING

The anniversary of someone’s death is never a fun subject to deal with no matter who it is. However, since this blog is dedicated to the life, work, and legacy of Lee Marvin, deal with it I must. To put it bluntly, on August 29th, 1987, Lee Marvin passed into eternity at the premature of sixty-three.
I have of course blogged about it previously, in fact pretty much every year this blog has been in existence (here, here, and here for example) I’m not a fan of such as things as I’d much rather celebrate the man’s life, not his passing, as I said. Be that as it may, it must be done and that’s when I realized, I actually hadn’t written about my own memory of his passing. Well, this being the anniversary of his death, here it is.
I was working in New Jersey as a waiter at the Sandalwood Inn Restuarant which was connected to the Holiday Inn — Exit 8A off the Jersey Turnpike, if you’re in the neighborhood. Anyway, I was just about to start my shift when the bartender gave me a copy of the Trenton Times to peruse. She then asked, “Aren’t you a Lee Marvin fan?” The paper was open this particular page…

Page of the Trenton Times heralding the passing of Lee Marvin.

I find it interesting that for reasons I still don’t recall that after all these years, I’ve still kept that particular clipping that informed me of this death. Keep in mind, this is almost a decade before I started work on the book.
My thoughts of his passing? I was saddened by it but not as much as I was by the passing of say, Steve McQueen or John Lennon several years prior and a mere month apart.
It did stay with me and certainly resonated. Once I later took on the project, I quickly discovered the effect his passing had on some folks, especially those closet to him, such as Mitch Ryan, Ralph O’Hara, first wife Betty Marvin and son Christopher. The stories they told had me empathizing with their loss in a way I never had before, especially Ralph O’Hara. I won’t repeat the poignancy of their loss, except to say you can read their accounts in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
I still wonder why I kept that clipping. Foreshadowing? Perhaps. I do know one thing for sure. he left us way too soon. It’s cliche’ but true: So long Lee. We hardly knew ya.
– Dwayne Epstein

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