ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Ernest Hemingway has been very much back in the media again, due to filmmaker Ken Burns’ 3-part PBS documentary exploring the author’s life, work and legacy. I have yet to see it but probably will eventually as I do appreciate both Ernest Hemingway’s and Ken Burns’ talent. 
 Hemingway has always been an interesting subject and much of his work was required reading in school, and with good reason. Personally, I preferred his short stories more than his novels and it’s with that in mind, a connection can be made between Ernest Hemingway and Lee Marvin. The most obvious even has the author’s name officially in the title: Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers (1964).

Theatrical poster for the made-for-TV movie (the first!) THE KILLERS, released in theaters worldwide.


  Purists of Hemingway’s work have looked down on the revamped version of the film but there is still some strong Hemingway influence in there. Keep in mind it was a simple story (published in 1927) of the title characters coming to kill a man who doesn’t run from his fate. In fact, he invites it.
The story goes that the original film’s screenwriter, Richard Brooks, met the drunken Hemingway in a bar and asked him what he thought the reason was that ‘Swede’ didn’t run from the killers. “Damned if I know,” the author responded. Adding, “Why do you think they wanted to kill Swede?” Brooks thought for a moment and said, “Probably had something to do with big money or maybe a special woman.” Hemingway’s response: “Or maybe both.”
Granted, the subject in the Marvin film is a race car driver not a boxer but the fact is the title characters become a major focus of the film based on on the 3,000 word short story, as Hemingway may have intended. It’s TV-movie roots aside, it’s still a hell of a movie and one of Lee Marvin’s best so thank you, Ernest Hemingway. 
There’s also another less obvious Lee Marvin connection to Ernest Hemingway. No, it’s not their shard love of deep-sea fishing. Another wonderful Hemingway, short story, “The Snows of Killimanjaro,” was the source material for Marvin’s audition at the Actor’s Studio under the watchful eye of Lee Strasberg.

Susan Hayward comforts gangrene-stricken Gregory Peck in the overblown film version of SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO (1952).


I discovered the story and thought it a great way to introduce the actor and his legacy to the readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank. If you don’t know the somewhat bawdy tale, you can find it in the book linked above. Feedback is always welcome.
– Dwayne Epstein

Share Button

FEBRUARY 2021 ON TCM

February 2021 is upon us and so is a new list of watchable films for interested Lee Marvin fans. Unfortunately, they are only showing one actual Lee Marvin film for February 2021, but there are a couple of interesting highlights to consider, as well. All times are PST so set your DVRs accordingly…

AVALANCHE EXPRESS (1979): Tuesday, February 2nd, 4:45 am. 

Old style advertising artwork for AVALANCHE EXPRESS, which was infinitely better than the film.


Lee Marvin heads an all-star cast of Robert Shaw, Maximillian Schell, Linda Evans, Horst Bucholtz, Mike Connors and Joe Namath in this Cold War thriller that’s part dated spy film and part creaky disaster film. Marvin had been off-screen for a few years and he effect is jarring as he looked infinitely older than his mid-fifties. The production was fraught with disaster itself, including the untimely death of both the film’s director Mark Robson and costar Shaw. Readers of LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK discovered the truth behind the finished film and the input of filmmaker Monte Hellman. Like any Lee Marvin project, though, it’s still worth viewing. 

THE RISE & FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND (1960): Friday, February 5th, 6:30 am. Dashing Ray Danton stars as the title character in this classic genre film that also proved to be the film debuts of both Dyann Cannon and Warren Oates. The Marvin connection? The film was directed by Budd Boetticher, known largely for his cult westerns starring Randolph Scott, his contribution to Marvin’s filmography gave the actor’s career a major boost. As he told yours truly in an exclusive interview, “I directed a couple of westerns and they typecast me as western director. After Legs Diamond they called me a gangster director. Go figure.” Check it out and see how veteran filmmaker put his touch on the tommy guns and molls entry.


IN COLD BLOOD (1967): Monday, February 15th, 5pm.

IN COLD BLOOD writer/director Richard Brooks (behind the camera) and cinematographer Conrad Hall behinds Brooks.


Writer/director Richard Brooks brought this Truman Capote true-crime thriller to the screen with bone-chilling reality. Shot on actual locations by Conrad Hall in stark black & white and starring Robert Blake and Scott Wilson as Dick and Perry, the Marvin connection had been recounted here the last time TCM aired the film. Watch it again but by all means, leave the lights on!

THE PAWNBROKER (1965): Wednesday, February, 17th, 6:45 pm.  
Marvin won his only Oscar for Cat Ballou (1965) but the odds on favorite that year had been Rod Steiger who plays this film’s title character. As concentration camp survivor Sol Nazerman, Steiger gives an emotionally powerful performance as a New York City pawnbroker grappling with his memories of the camp. He seemed a shoo-in for the Best Actor statue but we all know what happened that night. Marvin’s wife had other plans, Marvin himself had a plan for Steiger and the cherry on the sundae happened after the show at a nearby traffic light, all recounted in LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK. So, watch The Pawnbroker and see for yourself who was more deserving of the award that year. 

Lee Marvin backstage after winning his Oscar.



In other TCM news the Star of the Month is the great John Garfield and that alone makes for wonderful viewing. Check listings for film titles and times. So there you have February 2021 on TCM. Until next month, stay safe and enjoy classic movies!

Share Button

JANUARY 2021 ON TCM

January 2021 is FINALLY upon us and not a moment too soon, as far as I’m concerned. With this new month and year (hell, new decade even!), comes a new schedule of films from the good folks at TCM. Below are the films that either star Lee Marvin or has a particular link to Marvin’s life, career or legacy. So, with January 2021 upon us, let the classic films begin!
All times are Pacific Standard Time

The Sea Wolf (1941), Wednesday, January 6 (1:15 am): It’s hard to imagine that Lee Marvin might have had anything in common with the legendary John Garfield but the two men shared an appreciation of the writing of Jack London. Garfield begged Jack Warner to put him in a London biopic but instead he got to costar in this classic sea story. London was at one point the most popular writer in the English language and his 1904 novel The Sea Wolf became his most often filmed stepchild. Filmed no less than nine times since 1913, this version with Garfield, Edward G. Robinson, Alexander Knox and Ida Lupino is the best known and for my money the best of all. I could easily see Marvin playing the villianous captain Wolf Larsen as well as Robinson played it, of whom Marvin was also a huge fan. Unfortunately, the closest Marvin ever got to playing a London character was A#1 in the London inspired Emperor of the North.
By the way, frequent Marvin costar Charles Bronson took a shot at playing the title character in a cable TV movie version for Turner’s TBS station with less than stellar results.

The Big Heat (1953), Saturday, January 9 (9 am):

The attitude of Vince Stone toward his annoying girlfriend, Gloria Grahame, is shown building to a painful climax in Fritz Lang’s THE BIG HEAT (1952).

You want early Marvin sadistic mayhem? It doesn’t get any better than this. As gangster Vince Stone he terrorizes men but especially women like the screen had never seen before. Fritz Lang’s neo-noir classic stars Glenn Ford as a tough cop putting the heat on for the murder of his wife, Jocelyn Brando, you-know-who’s real-life sister.  Ford’s encounters with the city’s underbelly makes up the bulk of the film but the real stars are Gloria Grahame as Stone’s pouty-mouth moll and Marvin as Stone. Stories galore of its making in Lee Marvin Point Blank with the best being NY Times critic Vincent Canby dubbing Marvin “The Merchant of Menace.” Canby had no idea the best was yet to come.

The Searchers (1956) Saturday, January 16 (5pm):

John Wayne to Harry Carey, Jr: “What do you want me to do, DRAW YOU A PICTURE?! DON’T EVER ASK ME AGAIN!”

It’s been said that the cinematic mythology of the American western was pretty much created by John Ford and the best of his westerns  always starred John Wayne. Of their many films together, The Searchers remains their greatest for countless reasons and not the least of which is the fact that ol’ Duke Wayne was never more vicious in a movie than he was here. A shame he didn’t play more men of questionable morals as the racist Ethan Edwards but at least he did once…well, twice if you count his wonderful Captain Bligh on the cattle trail in Howard Hawks’ Red River (also airing this month on Saturday, January 23, 12:30pm) . What does all this have to do with Lee Marvin? Quite simply, Marvin loved the cinematic output of both men and luckily got to work with them both later in their careers. Watch The Searchers and discover why he admired them so much if you haven’t done so already..

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Sunday, January 17 (12:30 pm):

A young Lee Marvin as Mitch in the stage version of STREETCAR.

There isn’t much more to be said about this classic film starring the brutish young Marlon Brando, delicate Vivien Leigh, along with Oscar-winning Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. However, most people may not be aware that a young Lee Marvin played in the stage version in Summer stock. If you think he portrayed the savage Stanley Kowalski, think again. Actually, he played Mitch, Stanley’s oafish co-worker who’s smitten with Stanley’s sister-in-law, Blanche, until he sees the light, as it were. So, when watching the classic film written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Elia Kazan, pay attention to Karl Malden and picture a young Lee Marvin in the role.

Drum Beat (1954), Thursday, January 28 (5:30 am):

(L-R) Alan Ladd as Johnny Mackay and Charles Bronson as Captain Jack in DRUM BEAT.

Other than Marvin himself, the only other actor who spent a longer apprenticeship on the way to superstardom was frequent costar Charles Bronson. His scene-stealing performance as renegade Modoc warrior Captain Jack in the Alan Ladd western Drum Beat may have given hope that success might be right around the corner. Hope springs eternal. He had changed his name from Buchinski to Bronson with this film and got the best reviews of his career up to that time:
“The renegade redskin is forcefully played by Charles Bronson,” Variety.
“Charles Bronson is probably the most muscular Indian ever to brandish a rifle before the camera,” NY Times.
Alan Ladd…is dwarfed by that of Charles Bronson…proud, ruthless, magnificent,” Films and Filming.
Unfortunately, not many folks saw this fact-based color horse opera. He does outshine the nominal star, Alan Ladd, but it would be almost 20 years for audiences to appreciate Bronson’s screen image in 1973’s Death Wish. Watch him in Drum Beat to see what the likes of Lee Marvin and a handful of others had seen long ago.

The Killers (1964), Saturday January 30 (9:30pm) & Sunday, January 31 (7:00 am):

As hired killer Charlie Strom, Lee Marvin gently persuades blind receptionist Virginia Christine  to divulge vital information in Don Siegel’s THE KILLERS.

Ernest Hemingway’s five-page short story was first filmed in 1946 with a star-making debut of Burt Lancaster as the doomed Swede, an ex-boxer awaiting the title characters. The story goes that screenwriter Richard Brooks met Hemingway in a bar and asked him what he thought the reason would be the killers were coming for Swede. A drunken Hemingway apparently slurred, “Damned if I know. Probably had something to do with big money or maybe a special woman…or maybe both.” Thus, a film noir classic was born.
Almost 20 years later, Lew Wasserman of MCA had the idea of reworking it on the cheap as the first TV-movie, that is until JFK was murdered on the streets of Dallas. There is of course infinitely more to tell about the remade little thriller and I was lucky enough to get great stories about it for Lee Marvin Point Blank from such principal players as Angie Dickinson, Clu Gulager, Norman Fell and Bob Phillips. If you’ve read my book you’ll know what to look for when watching the film.

So there you have it, a summary of Lee Marvin films and interests on TCM for January 2021. Enjoy and above all, have a great new year and good riddance to 2020!
– Dwayne Epstein

Share Button