JULY 2021 ON TCM

July 2021 on TCM is upon us and with it comes some watchable Lee Marvin classics, as well as a few other goodies within the theme of neo-noir. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank will appreciate these films as they certainly fit the oeuvre of the man’s work. Even the film’s in which he doesn’t appear are ones he certainly could have and it’s interesting to consider him in the roles while watching. Check local listings for air time. First up:

Point Blank (1967): Friday, July 2nd. 

Point Blank, 1967


Lee Marvin as Walker based on the book in which his name is Parker written by Donald Westlake using the pen name Richard Stark directed by England’s John Boorman in quintessential American locales such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. Confused? Don’t be as TCM could not have picked a better film for their July 2021 launch of their theme of neo-noir classics, as this is the one that started it all. It’s what I like to call the first arthouse action film. See it again and you’ll see what I mean.



Warning Shot (1967): Friday July 2nd. 

Original ad art for WARNING SHOT (1967).



Hot from his success as Richard Kimble on “The Fugitive,” David Janssen stars in this film with a similar theme, only this time he’s a cop wrongly accused of murder. Janssen heads an all-star cast of cameos including Lee Marvin’s good friend and Point Blank costar, Keenan Wynn as well as Carroll O’Connor. Along for the ride are George Grizzard, Joan Collins, Lillian Gish, Steve Allen, Ed Begley, Sam Wanamaker, George Sanders, Eleanor Parker, Walter Pigeon and Stefanie Powers and a terrific score by Jerry Goldsmith. It’s a forgotten classic as far as I’m concerned and July 2021 is all the better for it.


The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973): Friday, July 9th.

Criterion cover for the DVD of THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE.



In the 1970s Robert Mitchum underwent a sort of renaissance in his career with three outstanding crime thrillers: The Yakuza (1975), Farewell, My Lovely (1975), and the best of them being The Friends of Eddie Coyle. This is yet another movie in dire need of rediscovery and thankfully, a few years back Criterion chose to give the film the blue ribbon treatment it deserves. Yes, it’s dark and depressing and yes rather unrelentingly so but I like to think of it as haunting as once seen you’ll never forget it. Seriously. Mitchum heads an all-star cast of rugged faced veteran character actors on the dirty streets of Boston as he himself gives the performance of his career. Once again, don’t take my word for it. See it for yourself and be amazed. As costar Peter Boyle told Rolling Stone Magazine at the time: “You know what the 2001 theme is? That’s the sound of Robert Mitchum waking up.”

The Wild One (1953) Saturday, July 10th.

Original ad for The WILD ONE in which 4th billed Lee Marvin is shown (barely) but not mentioned.



The seminal film that started the biker film craze of the late 1960s was actually based on an event in the 1940s and starred Marlon Brando as Johnny, titular leader of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC). He’s challenged at one point by a scene-stealing, hilariously over-the-top Lee Marvin as Chino. Great and exclusive stories abound about the making of this classic in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank, including a letter Lee wrote to his brother about what he thought of the character in hopes of winning the role. As for his opinion of Brando? Read and discover!

Night Moves (1975) Friday, July 23rd.

Alternate cover art for NIGHT MOVES.


Gene Hackman is at the peak of his long and amazing career as Harry Moseby, a former football star working as a private detective hired to find the daughter of a burned out movie star.  He’s also dealing with the break-up of his marriage and the oncoming strains middle-age. Along the way he encounters some unsavory characters, such as sexy Jennifer Warren, a young an creepy James Woods (isn’t he always creepy?) and more. The style and performances of this film is required viewing in my opinion as Hackman is rarely better than in the hands of the great Arthur Penn. Enjoy!

Cutter’s Way (1981) Friday, July 23rd. 

DVD cover for CUTTER’S WAY.



Hollywood was still making films such as this in the early 1980s but sadly, few people wanted to see them. It’s a terrific character study in the guise of a thrilling whodunit. Jeff Bridges is Richard Bone, a Santa Barbara boat salesman by day and a “gigolo” by night (male prostitute, let’s be honest) who may have witnessed a murder committed by the riches man around. Enter John Heard as Alex Cutter, a disabled and embittered Vietnam veteran who wants to blackmail the suspected killer in a performance that reaches beyond the cliche description. It’s a performance worthy of countless acting awards but didn’t receive any. Ivan Passer’s direction, Jeff Bridges’ appearance (according to my girlfriend he never looked sexier!) John Heard’s riveting performance, the Santa Barbara locations and a chilling climax make this one a definite contender as a lost classic. Kudos to TCM for rediscovering it!

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) Saturday, July 31st. 

Montage of scenes and characters from John Huston’s ASPHALT JUNGLE. Can you name them all?



It’s a bit of a shame that this classic noir was made in 1950 as that’s the same year Lee Marvin began working in film as a glorified extra. Had he been a little better known by that time he would have fit right in with the cast of this hardboiled heist thriller in any of several different roles. The lead role by Sterling Hayden as the hooligan known as Dix would have been a perfect fit for the young Marvin. The ensemble cast as it is remains one of the best of all time. It also includes my personal favorite quote of all noir films when Hayden tells worrisome Marc Lawrence: “Why don’t you quit crying and get me some bourbon!”  A film brimming with double-crosses, subplots and believable characters, it’s one for the ages. Oh, and look quick for Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Arthur Miller in the film’s opening line-up of suspected mugs. Honest!  


So there you have it. A plethora of terrific films for TCM’s calendar of July 2021. August brings even better fare for Lee Marvin fans. TCM is doing their regular installment of “Summer Under the Stars,” saluting one actor all day and on the 28th, they FNALLY get around to honoring Lee Marvin. July 2021 is pretty good. August will sure to be even better!

  • Dwayne Epstein 
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DOMESTIC LEE

Domestic Lee Marvin is not something witnessed onscreen very often. Even more scarce is Father Lee. However, this being Fathers Day, it’s a good time to explore those rare occasions of domestic Lee in which, to my mind, only occurred twice on film and in both instances, they were not the classics the filmmakers intended.

A rare domestic Lee shown in THE KLANSMAN (1974) with Wendell Wellman playing his son Alan and Richard Burton as neighbor Breck Stencill.

In The Klansman, he’s Sheriff “Big” Trak Bascomb, married with a grown son preparing for college. A simple side plot to the rather unsavory and racially charged film that’s probably the worst film Marvin ever starred in, with costar Richard Burton fairing even worse. Unfortunately, the originally script by Sam Fuller was truncated which is a shame since it had a devastating un-filmed sequence in it involving Marvin’s son Alan Bascomb that I was able to get a copy of and write about here. In any event, the less said about the embarrassing film, the better.

(L-R) Lee Marvin as Flynn O’Flynn protects and defend daughter Barbara Parkins in SHOUT AT THE DEVIL (1976).

The other instance of Marvin playing a paternal character was the action/adventure film from AIP entitled Shout at the Devil. Costarring Roger Moore and Ian Holm, the film takes place in WWI-era Africa with Marvin as a big game poacher protecting daughter Barbara Parkins and battling her betrothed (Moore), as well as the Germans, in this weak entry in the actor’s canon of films.
Obviously, the type of films Marvin made did not often make for a domestic Lee audiences could appreciate. He played married characters in The Professionals (1966) in the film’s back story as well as in Point Blank (1967). In both films, however, his spouses did not fair well, in the screenplay.
There were instances in which characters in his films acted paternally towards supporting characters, such as the gentle way in which treated Sissy Spacek in Prime Cut (1972) and the mentoring he administered to the novice bank thieves of Spikes Gang (1974).
These symbolic examples aside, Lee Marvin was just not cut out for domestic bliss, once again, on screen and off. Of his four grown children, none of them were willing to go on the record with me for Lee Marvin Point Blank with the sole exception being his son, Christopher. His poignant afterword was a worthy and surprising addition to the text. So, with Fathers Day in mind, feel free to check out the book’s afterword and then watch a better Lee Marvin movie to enjoy.
With dad, of course.
– Dwayne Epstein

 

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MAY 2021 ON TCM

May 2021 on TCM is offering a nice assortment of Lee Marvin films as well as Lee Marvin related films for the diehard and novice fan alike. Unfortunately, the treasures are not on display until the middle of the month and later. However, the line-up is certainly worth waiting for as it includes projects from the earliest part of his lengthy career as well as Marvin inspired projects and films he was offered but ultimately turned down. All of which makes for a wonderful cross section for May 2021 on TCM. Titles and dates are listed below but check local listing for air time. If you want greater detail as to each projects’ importance, there’s always Lee Marvin Point Blank

The Big Heat (1953), Saturday, May 15th: Fritz Lang’s ultra violent crime thriller (at least for 1953) stars Glenn Ford as a tough city cop out to bust up the mob responsible for his wife’s murder.

Debbie (Gloria Grahame) taunts her sadistic boyfriend, Vince Stone (Lee Marvin).


A terrific supporting cast actually steal the show (especially pouty-lipped Gloria Grahame), and that includes a young Lee Marvin as sadistic Vince Stone, dubbed by N.Y. Times critic Vincent Canby as “The Merchant of Menace,” and with good reason! Marvin’s opinion of his director and costars are detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank, as well as a rather unsavory run-in concerning Glenn Ford several years later. 

The Rack (1956), Thursday, May 20th: A showcase for the talents of a young Paul Newman, this Rod Serling & Stewart Stern scripted drama explores the phenomenon of American soldiers consorting with the enemy during the Korea War. Marvin delivers in a small yet essential role in two powerful scenes. An all-star cast enlivens the proceedings with Marvin and Newman reuniting on more equal ground almost two decades later for Pocket Money (1972).

Original ad campaign for THE RACK (1956).


I had not written much about The Rack in my book due to Marvin’s small contribution, but this blog helped me discover a fascinating detail that I would have included had I known about it at the time. Instead, it can be read here

Petulia (1968), Friday, May 21st: Director Richard Lester’s stylized film depicting swinging 1960’s San Francisco was first offered to Marvin who turned it down. In doing so, it opened the door to allow George C. Scott to play the frustrated middle-aged doctor infatuated with the kooky title character played by the luminous Julie Christie. The film is a time capsule

The original psychedelic poster art for PETULIA (1968).


that also includes a wonderful supporting cast, not the least of which is a VERY creepy Richard Chamberlain looking to change his image from the clean-cut Dr. Kildare.

Not only picture Marvin playing the role, but look quick for members of the San Francisco comedy troupe The Committee (Howard Hesseman most notably), The Grateful Dead (A very funny Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh & Bob Weir) as well as Big Brother and The Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin.
   Another film Marvin turned down reportedly without even reading the script gave Scott his greatest success the following year. Any guesses?

Point Blank (1967), Saturday, May 22nd: This seminally influential films, is, as I like to call it, the first arthouse action film. What can be said about this neo-noir cult clasic that hasn’t been said already by yours truly and countless others?

Point Blank, 1967




John Boorman’s vastly original style still packs a wallop due largely to star Lee Marvin’s haunting performance.


Again, a veteran supporting cast keeps the film watchable, along with the surrealistic execution presented in muted colors, trippy sound, innovative editing and photography. At the end of the day it’s still Lee Marvin one recalls long after the film is done. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a surprise. If you have seen it, see it again. As with all classics, there’s always more to experience with each viewing.


Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), Tuesday, May 25th: Once again, a stylized 1960s film, this time strangely directed by the legendary John Huston and starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. 

Original poster for Reflections in a Golden Eye.


The basic premise is easy to describe but the characters and execution certainly are not. Brando is a southern military officer unhappily married to shrewish Elizabeth Taylor, who is carrying on an affair with docile Brian Keith, who is unhappily married to fragile Julie Harris. Along for the strange proceedings is Robert Forster making his film debut as a young recruit who pines for Taylor. Hence the premise.
   As for the execution, it’s all shot in a strange and sickly sepia tone and the character interactions go beyond bizarre, especially Brando. It’s all based on an equally bizarre novel by Carson McCullers. its inclusion here is based on the fact that Marvin was offered the Brando role but ultimately turned it down. Taylor had accepted the role as a chance to help her close friend, Montgomery Clift, who died before he could play the part. Longtime Clift rival Brando came aboard and the entire production is an acquired taste. I found the film rather mesmerizing, even more so if you imagine Lee Marvin in the role. After all, he did say, this.

The Devils Brigade (1968), & Kelly’s Heroes (1970) both Sunday, May 30th: Here are two films that applied 1960s sensibilities to the genre of WWII action films in the wake of the immense popularity of The Dirty Dozen. Although The Devil’s Brigade is not as well known, personally, I like them both, with maybe Brigade, a little bit more.

Original ad art for The Devil’s Brigade not accidentally similiar to the Dirty Dozen.

Allegedly based on a true story, it tells the story of a team of crackerjack Canadian soldiers led by Cliff Robertson, teaming up with a ragtag group of American G.I.s led by Vince “Ben Casey” Edwards all under the command of an over-the-hill William Holden. They even managed to recruit ‘Dozen’ alum Richard Jaeckel in a scene stealing performance as a jackrabbit-like G.I. named Omar. The standout is Claude Akins in a performance to rival John Cassavetes in Dozen. Unfortunately, there’s also an annoying performance by Andrew Prine and plenty of former football players, ala Jim Brown in The Dirty Dozen.  
   As for Kelly’s Heroes, Dirty Dozen alumni Donald Sutherland and Telly Savalas along with comedian Don Rickles are the best thing in the movie that sadly toplines a very wooden Clint Eastwood. A former boss and I were once comparing the films and he argued Kelly’s Heroes had a more believable premise of men risking their lives not for glory but for a treasure of Nazi gold. All I can say to that is you be the judge.

The Dirty Dozen (1967), Monday, May 31st: Not the first film with a plot consisting of WWII renegades on a secret mission, but certainly the best.

Poster for THE DIRTY DOZEN, the best of Men on a Mission films in which the genre is defined in the ad.



Even before The Devils’s Brigade and Kelly’s Heroes, there was Roger Corman’s The Secret Invasion (1964) with a similiar theme. All that aside, this “men-on-a-mission” classic puts all the others to shame. TCM has long been a fan of this timeless classic, showing it whenever they can and promoting it as well, as seen here. Not much more to add than that, other than to suggest it certainly is worthy of repeat viewings. 

So, there you have it: May 2021 on TCM for Lee Marvin fans. Things are surely looking up!
• Dwayne Epstein

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