THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY REFERENCES LEE MARVIN

The Lincoln Highway, a recently published bestselling novel by Amor Towles, references Lee Marvin in an early part of the story. The story takes place in the 1950s and concerns four unfortunate juvenile delinquents attempt to return to their small hometown in Nebraska, only to be forced to go to New York City. Early on, one of the main characters encounters a fight and the author approaches it this way:

“Alan Ladd in Shane.
Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity.
Lee Marvin in The Wild One.
You know what these three have in common? They all took a beating. I don’t mean getting a pop in the nose or having the wind knocked out of them. I mean a beating. Where their ears rang, and their eyes watered, and they could taste the blood on their teeth. Ladd took his at Grafton’s Saloon from Ryker’s boys. Sinatra took his in the stockade from Sergeant Fatso. And Marvin, he took his at the hands of Marlon Brando in the street of a little American town just like this one, with another crowd of honest citizens gathered around to watch.” 


Believe it or not, The Lincoln Highway is not the only bestseller to reference a Lee Marvin film. While researching Lee Marvin Point Blank I was made aware of an an ever better example. Author James Michener gave praise to Monte Walsh (1970) in his popular 1976 novel, Centennial: 

“‘Have no fear [a character says]. I’m taking you to a masterpiece.’ And he dd. Monte Walsh, a low-budget picture starring Lee Mavin Jack Palance and Jeanne Moreau, unfolded with such simplicity, such heart-tripping reality, that a strange mood developed. Everyone who had any knowledge of the Old West sat transfixed by the memories the film engendered, but those who had known the religion only secondhand felt irritated at the wasted evening. Masterpieces are like that; they require an active participation and offer nothing to those who are unwilling to contribute.”

It never ceases to amaze me how much influence the work of Lee Marvin has had on popular culture, both retro and contemporary. Of course if you want to know why he’s still so influential, read Lee Marvin Point Blank.

– Dwayne Epstein

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THE OSCAR TRACK

The Oscar track is upon us since the nominations were announced last month, as shown here. I use the term “The Oscar track” as it’s the appropriate term used by Lee Marvin when he was interviewed by TIME Magazine’s Stefan Kanfer in the 1970s. Kanfer had the audacity to tell the actor he didn’t think his Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou was even close to his best performance. The writer was amazed to hear Marvin agree with him. Adding, “But y’know, you run this track, and that’s the track that the racers are on; it’s the Oscar track. It really isn’t based on skill as much as it’s based on luck and popularity.” Kanfer’s remembrance of the interview — along with his assistant, future Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Jay Cocks — is hysterically recounted in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Lee Marvin in POCKET MONEY and as he probably appeared when interviewed by Stefan Kanfer.


 As to the Oscar track, Marvin’s point is well taken. Now, normally this time of the month I’d be blogging about any upcoming Lee Marvin-related films on TCM but since the network is broadcasting “31 Days of Oscar” all month there’s a dearth of Marvin-related films. The sole exception is Ship of Fools, which is a shame since he made other films that were indeed on the Oscar track in one way or another: The Professionals (1966), and The Dirty Dozen (1967) received such recognition but truth be told, I think a few of his films SHOULD have been on The Oscar track and were not. 
 On the technical side, the innovations apparent in Point Blank (1967), such as the editing and the sound advancements (first film in which the actors were individually ‘miked’) and Conrad Hall’s breathtaking cinematography of Hell in the Pacific (1968) were certainly worthy. They may have ran out of the money since they were both directed by the very British John Boorman and both films did poorly when first released. I don’t know if either factor is the case but it’s a pretty safe bet. 
 I can say, for the purposes of this blog entry, two of Lee Marvin’s performances overlooked by the Academy were certainly worthy:
Monte Walsh (1970), remains an overlooked classic for which Marvin gave one of his most poignant performances.

Monte Walsh, 1970


As cited in detail in Lee Marvin Point Blank, several critics at the time of its release said the same and thought an Oscar nomination for Best Actor was practically a foregone conclusion. Sadly, It never happened. 

The Big Red One (1980): Sam Fuller’s semi-autobiographical yarn of his experiences in Europe during WWII allowed Marvin to give one of the best performances of his career, running a gamut of emotions from badass to empathy as a nameless sergeant pushing his young charges on a rifle squad, to the poignancy of caring for a young boy in a liberated concentration camp. 

The Big Red One, 1980.

It’s a pity both of these performances were overlooked and the reasons they were are as speculative as they are varied. Too bad there’s no such thing as a retro Oscar track. If there were, Marvin would win it in a walk.

– Dwayne Epstein

 

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TOM HANKS

Tom Hanks, America’s most beloved star, makes great movies and often makes his TV talk show appearances worth staying up for. He’s charming, funny and extremely well-spoken. However, he can also be as wrong as anybody else, apparently. Case in point, a recent appearance Tom Hanks made in January on “A Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” 

Screen grab of Stephen Colbert’s recent interview with Tom Hanks.



I’m a big fan of Colbert’s show and watch it whenever I can. Granted, he’s no David Letterman, but who is? What he is in reality is a very talented man who is infinitely funnier than his rivals Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel. I mention this merely as an introduction to what transpired. Colbert was trying out a new bit with a humorous intro, followed by his guest, Mr. Hanks. They are very comfortable with each other, obviously, and both being Baby Boomers, they make several appropriate generational references. So, along the way, they bring up a Lee Marvin appearance on the old Dick Cavett Show, circa 1970. By the way, that interview can be viewed in its entirety here

Now, here’s the thing. Colbert is mistaken in saying Marvin was there to promote The Dirty Dozen (1967). It’s more likely that he’s there to promote Monte Walsh (1970). Minor faux paux, I grant you. Especially compared to what Tom Hanks states. He even goes so far as to say he saw Marvin recount the tale on the old Johnny Carson Show, which many people like to do as a way to provide greater authenticity. I’m speaking of course about the old urban legend concerning Lee Marvin and Captain Kangaroo (aka Bob Keeshan, not Keesham, as Hanks pronounced it). You would think that the guy who starred brilliantly in Saving Private Ryan (1998), and co-produced Band of Brothers (2001) would know better! Personally, I can’t begin to tell you the amount of times I get asked about this and why I didn’t mention it in Lee Marvin Point Blank. Some things refuse to go gently into that good night. 

Oh, well, as I said, anybody can make a mistake. Hanks does redeem himself when Colbert asked him what his favorite action film is and for that I’ll always be a fan. So, take about 11 minutes to watch the clip and see for yourself at the following link.

Until next time, don’t believe everything Tom Hanks or anybody else says. ALWAYS find out the facts for yourself. 
– Dwayne Epstein

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