MARCH 2021 ON TCM

March 2021 is upon us and with it comes some Lee Marvin goodies from TCM. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank may see the connections to the choices and those who don’t, read on!
Below are the films, the reasons chosen and the airdates. Check local listings for time in your zone….

The Big Leaguer (1953), Saturday, March 6th:

(L-R) Director Robert Aldrich and costars Lee Marvin & Ernest Borgnine at the initial script conference for THE DIRTY DOZEN.


Since March is the start of the major league baseball season (although who knows with the pandemic upon us!), TCM has decided to air this interesting little gem. Edward G. Robinson stars in one of his final lead roles as the coach of the then New York Giants and what he must go through in scouting, training and choosing his young talent. It was the first film of the man who directed Lee Marvin in Attack!, The Dirty Dozen and Emperor of the North, one Robert Aldrich. It even has frequent Aldrich cast member Richard Jaeckel in it. Watch and see if you can detect Aldrich’s future talent. Oh, and speaking of the great Robinson, Lee Marvin recounts a terrific anecdote about meeting him at a Hollywood party that’s a favorite in Lee Marvin Point Blank

I Shot Jesse James (1949), Monday, March 8th:

(L-R) Director John Boorman is visited by Sam Fuller & Lee Marvin while filming THE BIG RED ONE in Ireland.


Speaking of Lee Marvin directors making their debut, this little programmer has the distinction of being the first film directed by maverick legend Sam Fuller. Fuller’s gut punch style of filmmaking is on full display here with the underrated John Ireland as the title character. I always liked what Scorsese said of Fuller’s style: “If you don’t like Sam’s movies, you just don’t like movies.” I got to know Sam at the end of his life and agree with Scorsese’s opinion. Marvin waited decades to work with Fuller (almost did a few times) but finally did in the underrated WWII-era film, The Big Red One.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Saturday, March 20th:

The mostly male cast of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK: (L-R) Dean Jagger, Walter Sande, Lee, Walter Brennan, Russell Collins, Robert Ryan and Spencer Tracy.


Celebrate the first day of Spring this March 2021 with this classic modern western thriller. Mysterious one-armed Spencer Tracy heads an all-star cast in this taut suspense film with plenty of action thrown in along the way. It set the standard for such productions and Lee Marvin, in a minor role more than holds his own against such heavyweights as Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine and Tracy himself. I was fortunate to interview costar John Ericson and the film’s Oscar-nominated screenwriter Millard Kaufman who became a good friend of Marvin’s over the years. The tales that were told are all in the book. 

The Caine Mutiny (1954), Sunday March 21st: 

Lee Marvin (“Meatball”) and Claude Akins (“Horrible”) in Edward Dymytrk’s THE CAINE MUTINY (1954).

Marvin was fortunate enough to work with some of the most legendary male stars in cinema throughout his lengthy apprenticeship. In fact, with the possible exception of Clark Gable, he worked in support of practically all of them! The impressive list includes Tyrone Power, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, the aforementioned Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Paul Newman, John Cassavetes, Anthony Quinn, Randolph Scott and more! Here he is lending comic support to the great Humphrey Bogart in one of Bogart’s last and best performances. Bogart is the paranoid Captain Queeg of the U.S.S. Caine and few actors could portray mental illness as well as Bogie. Contrary to rumor, Marvin was not an uncredited technical advisor on the film, mainly because he had been a Marine and not a sailor, which Bogart was in real life. I interviewed the film’s director, Edward Dymytrk at the legendary Musso & Frank’s, and the anecdotes, as with others I spoke with, were put in my book. 

Stylishly filmed, this fight scene with Bogie and Tim Holt vs. Barton McLane in THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE is a classic.

The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1949), Saturday, March 27th: 

This classic is of course not a Lee Marvin film but he is on record as calling it one of his favorites, and for good reason. As he had in The Caine Mutiny, Bogart again shows his mastery in exploring a growing paranoia but this time its in the midst of a gold strike in the mountains of Mexico. Director John Huston guided his father Walter to a worthy Best Supporting Actor Oscar with Tim Holt along for the ride. Why did Marvin consider this film a favorite? The fight scene toward the beginning is the main reason. I completely agree with his reasoning and said as much in a previous blog entry. It’s considered a classic for a reason. 

So there you have it: March 2021 on TCM for Lee Marvin fans. By the way, there some other non-Lee Marvin related personal favorites being aired on TCM for March 2021 to also look out for:
Sweet Smell of Success (March 3rd); Boy Meets Girl (March 4th); Brute Force (March 5th); A Face in The Crowd (March 6th); Lust For Life & The Great Train Robbery (March 6th); Red River (March 8th); The Adventures of Robin Hood (March 9th); Fool’s Parade (March 10th); Straight Time (March 11th); Inherit the Wind (March 13th); The Quiet Man (March 17th); Ice Station Zebra (March 18th); Anatomy of A Murder (March 20th); My Favorite Year & Oliver! March 21st) Bugsy Malone (March 23rd); The Marrying Kind & Charade (March 28th); Mickey One (March 30th); The Candidate (March 31st). 

Thank the classic movie gods for TCM!

– Dwayne Epstein

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: AN OP-ED

The ongoing controversy surrounding the candidacy, election, and then presidency of Donald Trump has raised the question a while back (in my mind at least), what would Lee Marvin had thought of him? Before I go any further with that thought, allow me to give an important disclaimer: I never met Lee Marvin personally, therefore I am no expert on his politics, nor am I any kind of political expert, per se. In the words of Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers.
However, while researching and writing Lee Marvin Point Blank, I think I can come to some logical conclusions. Granted, there were not any candidates like Donald Trump when Lee Marvin was alive, but there is a way of confirming Marvin’s political viewpoint which is stated in detail in the book.
All that said, President Donald Trump is well on his way to become arguably the single worst commander-in-chief this country has ever seen. There are a plethora of examples given in the daily news cycle since he’s been in office. Most recently, and most devastating is the effect his administration has had on the COVID-19 pandemic. He knew about it as far back as January/February of this year and did nothing to stem its tide. Now,over six months into this nightmare, he continues to do nothing as tens of thousands of citizens continue to get sick and die and the economy implodes.
On top of that, it’s recently been reported that Russian president Vladimir Putin has offered bounties to Afghan soldiers who kill American soldiers in that ongoing war. Trump claims he was not aware of such intelligence info during any briefings. However, since it’s been reported, the Trump Administration has done nothing to condemn the Russian government, nor retaliated in any way. His Democratic rival, former vie-president Joe Biden has called Trump’s reaction, whether he was aware of it then or since, “A dereliction of duty.” He was being diplomatic. It’s quite simply treason in the face of a foreign enemy.

What do any of these horrific revelations concerning President Donald Trump have to do with Lee Marvin? I think the answer can be found in the 1956 Robert Aldrich directed film, Attack! in which Marvin costarred. The underrated WWII drama was quite controversial in its day, as I had blogged previously. The star of the film was Jack Palance, in a rare sympathetic role.

(L-R) Lee Marvin as Col. Clyde Bartlett and Eddie Albert as Capt. Erskine Cooney in Robert Aldrich’s ATTACK!

However, I think it can be seen that the characters portrayed by both Marvin and Eddie Albert may be the two sides of Donald Trump, candidate and president. Marvin is Colonel Bartlett, a platoon leader with political aspirations after the war. His cunning and wily ways are shown to be similiar to that of candidate Trump as his ultimate goal is purely selfish. He enlists the aid of his friend, Captain Erskine Cooney to help plan an attack as the Battle of Bulge looms. Bartlett’s history with Cooney goes back to their childhood, when Bartlett clerked for Cooney’s politically powerful father, hence Bartlett’s postwar aspirations.
Then there is Cooney, as brilliantly and frighteningly portrayed by Eddie Albert. He is without question a bully and a coward masquerading as an officer, consequently putting his men’s lives in danger. I won’t spoil it for anyone who has not seen the film but to my mind, Cooney’s actions rival the recent ones of President Donald Trump. See the film and draw your own conclusions.
What brought it to mind for me was the publication of the book by Trump’s niece, Mary Trump. I have not read it yet but the many revelations being reported about it concerning Trump’s father treatment of his son and that of Captain Cooney’s revelation about his own father are quite remarkable.

The cover of Mary Trump’s new book about her uncle: TOO MUCH AND NEVR ENOUGH.

The book’s cover is Trump’s military school photo. The last time I saw that image was in the New York Daily News and it had served a different a purpose. But the very image is what brought to mind Trump in the first place….

Cover of New York’s Daily News when Trump was still a candidate.

The comparison for me is undeniable. Cunning political manipulator like Col. Bartlett and candidate Trump — or cowardly military leader endangering the lives of American soldiers, like Capt. Cooney and President Trump? A little of both or more one than the other? I have my own opinion and I’m pretty sure in light of recent revelations, Lee Marvin would agree with me.
– Dwayne Epstein.

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ROBERT ALDRICH: A 100TH ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE

Robert Aldrich was born one hundred years ago today and we classic movie fans are all the richer for it! Lee Marvin Point Bank readers are familiar with Marvin’s and Aldrich’s working relationship as they made a great film together in almost every decade of Marvin’s career: Attack!, 1956; The Dirty Dozen,1967; Emperor of the North, 1973. In fact, it was almost more than that as Marvin wanted Aldrich to direct Death Hunt (1983), which would have completed the last decade of Marvin’s career.

(L-R) Director Robert Aldrich and costars Lee Marvin & Ernest Borgnine at the initial script conference for THE DIRTY DOZEN.

Probably the most remembered of both of their careers was indeed The Dirty Dozen.
The success of that film catapulted both the actor and the director to rarified heights of fame and success.

Aldrich demonstrates to Lee Marvin how to kick John Cassavetes in THE DIRTY DOZEN.

Marvin got a million dollar paycheck from then on and was a top ten box office sensation for the next decade. Aldrich continued to direct & produce films that may have defied description, but maintained his high level of quality. His signature style, which included a love of characters bordering on the grotesque (Whatever to Baby Jane?, The Grissom Gang, The Choir Boys) and a distinct brilliance at mounting suspense through editing and character anticipation, put him in league with some of the greatest directors of all time.

Case in point: The powerful climax to one of my favorites of his, Flight of the Phoenix, compares perfectly to the scene in which Lee Marvin goads Clint Walker into a knife fight in The Dirty Dozen. Watch the way Aldrich mounts the suspense in Phoenix by building to quicker cuts, showing the stranded characters’ apprehension in hopes of the resurrected airplane’s ability to start up just one more time. Rosaries are prayed on, sweat builds on the nearly dehydrated men, some of whom begin to jump up and down as the audience’s anticipation reaches a pitch. In Dozen, he does the same with mounting edits, sidelong characters laughing and goading the giant Walker to stab Marvin, as M.P. Richard Jaeckel is shown reaching for his sidearm. Both scenes are signatories of Aldrich’s unique style of cinema and it’s a style that is sorely missed in this day of computerized technology.
Aldrich himself may have had the best last word about such things. When Marvin visited Aldrich in the hospital as he lay dying of cancer, Marvin asked him, “Can I get you anything?” The wizened director commented, “Yeah, a better script.”

Robert Aldrich: August 9th, 1918 – December 5th, 1983.

I think that’s something we could all use now.
-Dwayne Epstein

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