December 2021 on TCM is upon us and being a holiday month, there is a dearth of Lee Marvin or Le Marvin related films. However, as stated in my NY Times bestselling biography Lee Marvin Point Blank, there are some goodies to watch out for throughout the month for us Lee Marvin fans. All times below are Pacific Standard time…
To Have and Have Not: (1944) Thursday, December 2nd, 8:45 pm.
Sparks fly in Lauren Bacall’s film debut opposite rugged tough guy Humphrey Bogart. The plot to this romantic action thriller is secondary to the chemistry between the two leads who married a year after the film’s release. Author Ernest Hemingway didn’t care for it either, reportedly calling it, “To Heave and Heave Not.” None of which matters as Bogart portrays one of his classic anti-heroes, the kind Lee Marvin would often emulate later in his own career. Watch for yourself and picture Marvin doing the same. Walter Brennan commits grand larceny stealing every scene he’s in and the whole production is a classic example of the kind films the just don’t make any more.
A Bridge Too Far (1977): Sunday, December 5th, 11pm.
An excellent adaptation of Cornelius Ryan’s book directed by Sir Richard Attenborough, this mammoth all-star production did not fair well at the box office in its depiction of the Allies in WWII failed attempt at Operation Market-Garden. It’s a shame really as it contains some memorable moments written by the great William Goldman and enacted by its international cast (Sean Connery, Dirk Bogarde, Michael Caine, Liv Ullman, Anthony Hopkins, Sir Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, James Caan, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman and many, many more!) as well as as a rousing score by John Addison. Well worth a look if you haven’t seen it. I saw thought in the theaters and understand its box office failure. No matter how well made, no one wants to see a film of how the Allies bungled a major offensive. One question remains, though: Why the hell wasn’t Lee Marvin in this??
They Were Expendable (1945): Tuesday, December 7th, 2:30 pm.
In honor of Pearl Harbor Day, TCM is airing this John Ford classic in which he pays homage to the Navy’s PT fleet. Ford is arguably one of the greatest directors of all time…hell, quite possibly THE greatest and this is one of his best non-western films. Robert Montgomery, John Wayne and Donna Reed head up the cast and show the significant sacrifice made in the Pacific campaign in The Philippines. It’s a terrific and haunting film that had one singular flaw. Because it was made five years before Lee Marvin started his film career, he sadly was not around to be in it. On the plus side he did work with Ford towards the end of the old man’s reign and the relationship is well-documented by yours truly.
Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955): Wednesday, December 8th, 3:15 pm.
Director/star Jack Webb’s tribute to the early days of Jazz and the Roaring 20s is TCM’s only Lee Marvin offering this month but it’s a good one, in my humble opinion. Another all-star cast, and it’s a pretty eclectic one with Webb and as the title character, Janet Leigh as his girlfriend and the strange casting of Andy Devine as a tough cop and Edmond O’Brien as a brutal gangster. Along for the ride are the great Ella Fitzgerald and also Peggy Lee in an Oscar-nominated performance. Look quick for Jayne Mansfield as a cigarette girl. In Pete’s band are the likes of Martin Milner as a fresh punk drummer and Lee Marvin as a wizened veteran of ‘The Band Wars.’ Granted, the dialog is a little over ripe (Pete Kelly: I didn’t come here to hear a saxophone player who had a big breakfast!) and believability is rather stretched in some scenes but its still a fun ride. I was fortunate enough to interview Martin Milner about it who told me some great anecdotes that went into Lee Marvin Point Blank.
Also of note for December 2021 on TCM:
Park Row (1952) Saturday, December 11th, 7pm. Writer/director Sam Fuller’s loving tribute to crusading journalism at the turn-of-the-century. Yes, THAT Sam Fuller.
Crime Wave (1954): Monday, December 13, 4:45 am. A nice little crime thriller toplining grumpy cop Sterling Hayden and recently paroled Gene Nelson. The real attraction are the henchmen which includes sadistic Ted DeCorsia, crazed Tim Carey and young frequent Marvin costar Charles Buchinsky (later Bronson).
The Bridge on The River Kwai (1957): Sunday, December 25th, 5pm. Before The Dirty Dozen, before The Guns of Navarone, there was this epic David Lean production of WWII ‘men-on-a-mission’ classic. What better way to spend Christmas?
So, there you have it. December 2021 on TCM may be a wee bit short on Lee Marvin films but the holidays aside, there’s still some excellent viewing if you know what to look for. Besides, if you think December 2021 is worthy, January looks to be even better for Lee Marvin aficionados. Stay tuned and happy holidays!
– Dwayne Epstein