MARTIN SCORSESE INCLUDES 2 LEE MARVIN FILMS

Martin Scorsese, the legendary director of legendary films has become associated with great gangster films as much as John Ford has been associated with great western films. He’s also a well-renowned film enthusiast so the combination of those two factors makes for the invetiable list of his all-time favorite gangster films. It was recently unveiled this week in an online British periodical that was culled from an interview Scorsese did in 2010 (The British article can be read here). The obvious question, stated with tongue firmly in cheek, becomes what took so long? 
The list is whittled down to a mere fifteen films, which is surprisingly short considering the breadth of Scorsese’s film knowledge and passion. I had known of his appreciation of Lee Marvin’s film work as I wrote about it in the last chapter of Lee Marvin Point Blank, citing Harvey Keitel’s great speech in Martin Scorsese’s first film, Who’s That Knocking At My Door (1968). I had also blogged about it previously

The poster for an upcoming film on the left as shown in Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS.


 I was naturally glad to see Marvin’s Point Blank on the list despite the rather strange definition Scorsese gives the film: “Lee Marvin is Walker, the man who may or may not be dreaming, but who is looking for vengeance on his old partner and his former wife. Like Burt Lancaster in the 1948 I Walk Alone, another favourite, he can’t get his money when he comes out of jail and enters a brave new corporate world.” Not quite accurate to say Walker ‘Comes out of jail,’ as if he was paroled the way Lancaster was in I Walk Alone. Just saying. 
 I was also pleasantly surprised to see Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955) on his list, another film in which Lee Marvin contributed. Not included was The Big Heat (1953) which was equally surprising. Not in a bad way, however, as it has been heralded by others quite a bit but Pete Kelly’s Blues is worthy of some new and more positive reconsideration.

Jack Webb (left) and Lee Marvin (right) blow some hot jazz in PETE KELLY’S BLUES,Webb’s tribute to the Roaring 20s.



So, there you have it. The great Martin Scorsese gives his thoughts on his favorite gangster films, with Lee Marvin making the count not once, but twice. By the way, to be fair, he made the list based on chronology and not in order of importance. If you can’t see it, the list is below and the choices are impressive. Thank you, Martin Scorsese.

  • The Public Enemy (1931)
  • Scarface (1932)
  • Blood Money (1933)
  • The Roaring Twenties (1939)
  • Force of Evil (1948)
  • White Heat (1949)
  • Night and the City (1950)
  • Touchez pas au Grisbi (1954)
  • The Phenix City Story (1955)
  • Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955)
  • Murder by Contract (1958)
  • Al Capone (1959)
  • Le Doulos (1962)
  • Mafioso (1962)
  • Point Blank (1967)

  • Dwayne Epstein
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JACK WEBB: HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE!

Jack Webb, the legendary TV icon who created Dragnet, Adam-12, Emergency! and more, would have been 100 years old today.  Known mostly of course for his groundbreaking radio and TV series Dragnet in which played Detective Joe Friday, his deadpan delivery and ping-pong patter became the stuff of both legend and great parody.
What’s less known about the versatile Webb was his offbeat film career. Small parts as the goateed paraplegic buddy in Marlon Brando’s film debut, The Men (1950), as well as the high-energy buddy Artie Green to William Holden’s Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard (also 1950) lead to even bigger roles in film and eventually his own cinematic pet projects. One  such bigger role before major success was You’re in the Navy Now (1951) in which he costarred with Gary Cooper in the naval comedy that marked the film debuts of such New York actors as Harvey Lembeck, Jack Warden, Charles Bronson and, wait for it…Lee Marvin.

(L-R) Gary Cooper, Lee Marvin and Jack Webb in YOU’RE IN THE NAVY NOW, aka U.S.S. TEAKETTLE.

Webb’s versatility went beyond the shows and films he created (as well as wrote, directed and starred in). He had a specifically good eye for spotting young and emerging talent that may have come from his previous film work. In Lee Marvin Point Blank, Lee’s agent Meyer Mishkin recounted to me how Webb not only went out of his way to cast Marvin in an early Dragnet episode, but what he did to ensure the episode got Marvin more work. It was an effort that at the time, may not have even been allowed by the powers that be. Such was Webb’s belief in young talent.
Best of all, was an anecdote I was able to uncover by viewing an exclusive interview Webb gave in a rare late 1960’s interview in which he describes Marvin’s hysterical professionalism during the episode’s key scene. Gotta read the book to find that out!

Lee Marvin and Jack Webb tangle in “The Big Cast” episode of DRAGNET.

Webb’s love of jazz (he was reported to have one of the greatest rare jazz record collections) was something he also shared with Lee Marvin. It made Marvin an easy choice to play clarinetist Al Gannaway in Webb’s loving tribute to 1920’s jazz, Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955). According to costar Martin Milner, Lee Marvin was the only one who avoided Webb’s direction by telling Webb he’d do a scene the way he described it, then, Marvin would perform it the way he intended all along. Milner was amazed at Marvin’s manipulative powers. Might also be the reason Marvin never appeared in any other Webb productions, like The D.I. (1957) and -30- (1957).
All in all, I think Jack Webb’s output, versatility and impressive legacy deservers remembrance. Even if you think his canon of work was campy (“You’re pretty high and far out, aren’t you? What kind of kick are you on, son?”) it was certainly ground breaking and I for one was always a fan. Anything Webb did, in my opinion, was infinitely more entertaining than what came after him in the years that followed.

“This is the city…my name is Friday. I carry a badge.”

So, to Jack Webb. Happy centennial! Thanks for all the years of wonderful entertainment…intentional or not.
– Dwayne Epstein

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