POCKET MONEY: MARVIN & NEWMAN’S MISMATCHED BUDDY MOVIE

Lee Marvin’s 1972 film, Pocket Money, has been largely dismissed almost since the day it was released. Rather unfortunate, I think, as the film really isn’t all that bad and actually has some things to recommend it.

Lee Marvin as Leonard in 1972’s POCKET MONEY.

The botched production is covered exclusively in Lee Marvin Point Blank via a rare interview with the novel’s original author, JPS Brown. Not mentioned, however, is how Marvin and his famous costar, Paul Newman, got along during and after production. According to Marvin’s son, Christopher, who was on set for the film’s production, there was simply no chemistry between the two men. As he related to me in 1995: “When I was living with my dad later on Pocket Money, Paul Newman came over one day. He had a coffee can full of red wine that he was holding. He was like [drunk voice] ‘You’re old man here?’ I said, ‘Yeah, man.’ He came in and they were just talking AT each other drunk for like two hours [bangs fists together]. Oh god, no repore whatsoever. It was funny.”

After it was completed and Marvin was asked what the film was about, He’d snarkily, respond, “Paul Newman.” If pressed, he would add, “It never worked out. It was Paul Newman’s production company. By the time they cut the footage, Newman was the star. I dunno. I guess the old ego got the best of him. What can you do?”

Terry O’Neill’s iconci photo used for the poster of POCKET MONEY.

Later, when Paul Newman was told that Marvin claimed he was ‘finessed’ out of the picture, he told Rolling Stone: “I finessed him? I never even looked at the picture. Well, no, now I made some recommendations about the ending — two voice-overs that the two of us — but that was the only comment I made. Did he really say that? Well, it’s absolutely not true. I mean, Redford and I have got operational egos, but you never see that in terms of performance. Pocket Money didn’t make it, for sure, but I was delighted to play the character, the adolescent. I think the picture was too repetitious in terms of the humor, and it didn’t really know where it was going. It was fey and artificial.”
To his credit, Marvin made every effort to keep the sad production watchable. He used every trick in the book, while Newman spent the film looking bewildered and dumbfounded. Playing two not-too-bright cattlemen, in a script by novice filmmaker Terence Malick, just never seemed to jell, other than watching Marvin’s hijinks. Carole King contributed a catchy tune and the first half the film is interesting but it just rambles into incoherence. Well, the saving grace may just be something entirely incidental. Terry O’Neill photographed Marvin in what consider the best picture of the actor I’ve ever seen. I’d have made it the cover of my book if the rights were not so cost prohibitive. What do you think?

Terry O’Neill’s iconic photo of Lee Marvin onset during POCKET MONEY.

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MARVIN? QUINN? CASSAVETES? ALMOST!

Of the films Lee Marvin almost made, one of the standouts is a project in which he would have costarred with Anthony Quinn and been directed by….John Cassavetes! Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank have commented to this author on how much they enjoyed the appendix in which films the actor almost made are listed but some have questioned the veracity among the titles. I can assure one and all they are indeed documented as the Marvin-Quinn-Cassavetes project is proof of below.
Actually, Marvin and Quinn had worked together briefly in the early 50s western Seminole (1953) with Marvin in little more than a glorified cameo. However, on the face of it, Marvin and Quinn may seem an unlikely pairing based on their different cinematic appeal. Quinn was ethnic and earthy, while Marvin came off more weather-beaten and militaristic.
Their screen differences aside, Marvin was actually cast in a role meant for the Mexican-Irish actor. According to novelist, JPS Brown, author of the autobiographical novel Jim Kane which was the basis for Pocket Money (1972), Marvin’s character of Leonard, opposite Paul Newman, told me that Leonard was based on Brown’s Mexican business partner:

Lee Marvin as Leonard in Pocket Money, originally meant to be played by Anthony Quinn.

“His name was Andres Canye. He’s the character they tried to base Lee Marvin’s character on. They called him Leonard. I called him ‘The Lion’ in Jim Kane. So they got Leonard from that. A lot of imagination there, don’t you think? There’s only one Gato Canyes [‘Big Cat’] in the world….A man that knew the name of every plant, every weed, every grass, every rock. He knew the medicinal capabilities of everything on the range. He knew the mountains…he lived there in those mountains on horseback. He was a real man. In Pocket Money, here’s the two big gringos on great big stout horses. ….Gatos Canyes was just a great, big, course-looking Anthony Quinn. Really. And Anthony Quinn really liked the book.”
It was actor/director John Cassavetes who thought Quinn and Marvin might work well together. Marvin and Cassavetes had of course, worked together in The Killers (1964), and a few years later in The Dirty Dozen (1967). In discussing his career on the set of Emperor of the North (1973) for Rolling Stone’s Grover Lewis, Marvin opined: “Remember Cassavetes in The Dirty Dozen? Jeez, he was sensational in that. Then you go see Husbands and you have to say ‘What are you tawkin’ about Jawn?’ I mean, he’s a bizarre little guy. Very juicy. John’s a violent little Greek, is what he is.”

Actor/director John Cassavetes around the time he considered pairing Marvin and Quinn.

Grover Lewis also interviewed Cassavetes the same year who at the time mentioned teaming himself with Marvin and George C. Scott. He said at the time, “Maybe it’ll happen. Who knows? The thing about acting is…Well, I like to do it.”

Over a decade later,  when asked about Cassavetes in a 1986 Orange County Register interview, Lee Marvin said:

Renaissance man Anthony Quinn in The Secret of Santa Vittoria, or as he may have looked barhopping the Midwest with Lee Marvin.

“A wild greek. He wanted to get Tony Quinn and me to travel around the country, stop in all these honky-tonk bars, then he’d write a story based on all that and we’d go shoot it. I said, ‘No, John. Please. Oh, Jesus please, no. I don’t wanna die in some barroom brawl in the Midwest.'”

One can certainly understand Marvin’s feelings but it still leaves one wondering. As the old verse goes:
“Of all the words of tongue or pen,
the saddest of these:
‘What might have been.'”

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BLOG TALK RADIO PODCAST ON LEE MARVIN: POINT BLANK

Greetings! Even though Lee Marvin: Point Blank has been out for more than 2 years, I recently did a live Blog Talk Radio interview with Will Wilson for his Indie Author Talk Radio broadcast. IIt’s a great show and its hos to goes out of his way to make his guests feel relaxed and open up their subject. He also asked some questions I’ve never been asked previously, such as what music do I lisen to when I write. That actually caught me off-guard for a second!

I did enjoy the entire experience immensely, in spite of the early morning requirement (ahem!) Feel free to give a listen (at the link in blue above) and give feedback, if you like. Also, Will, if you’re reading this, here’s a small version of the image from Pocket Money I spoke of during our talk. As readers may or may not know, this photograph, taken by famed photographer Terry O’Neill, was my original choice for my book’s cover. Sadly, the rights to use it was cost prohibitive. *sigh* Anyway, enjoy…..

Lee Marvin captured by photographer Terry O'Neill on the set of Pocket Money

Lee Marvin captured by photographer Terry O’Neill on the set of Pocket Money

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