MOVIEFONE: 57 GREATEST WESTERNS

Moviefone, the ubiqiutous movie info and streaming site, decided to rank the 57 greatest westerns of all time and to its credit, three Lee Marvin classics are on the list.

Original poster to SEVEN MEN FROM NOW with 3rd billed Lee Marvin.

Poster to THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.

Poster art for THE PROFESSIONALS.




I came across the Moviefone list by chance only recently as it was posted back in 2017. I mention this since it was posted in honor of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood’s mutual birthdate of May 31st. Eastwood is now an amazing 91 years old!
  Personally, I’ve never been a fan of “Best Of….” lists, especially since there are bound to be some obvious omissions. This list is no exception, despite the inclusion of three Lee Marvin films, the single best of his westerns was indeed omitted. The full list can be read here
Upon reading it it’s seems to be rather weak on any Gary Cooper classics, save for High Noon, which belongs on any list of great westerns. Where is The Westerner (1940) or Along Came Jones (1945) or The Virginian (1929)? 
 Also, if you’re going to include such western comedies as Way Out West and Destry Rides Again, why not Support Your Local Sheriff and of course, Cat Ballou? Also missing are such personal favorites How the West Was Won (1962) as well as Tom Horn (1980) and the string of 1972 greats of The Cowboys, When Legends Die, Bad Company, and The Culpepper Cattle Company
Okay, enough griping…well, what the hell is TV-movie mini-series Lonesome Dove doing on the list? Okay, griping over. As to the reason this is even posted in a blog dedicated to the life and career of Lee Marvin, author Gary Susman did have the presence of mind to include the three Lee Marvin films, all good choices but once again, left out the best of the bunch. No, not the aforementioned Cat Ballou
It’s not only one of Lee’s best films and performances, it’s one of the best westerns ever made. Any guesses? 
Of course, any more info needed or wondered about can be found in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank. Until then, in the immortal words of Bruce Willis, “yippie-kay-ay, mutha….”
 – Dwayne Epstein

Monte Walsh, 1970

 

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GAY ICONS

Gay icons exist in the movies and two of the most well-known worked with Lee Marvin. Since June is Gay Pride month (which not so coincidentally is also a theme on TCM for the month) I thought it a good time to comment on Marvin’s work with these two prominent gay icons. It’s important to keep in mind that at the time of these two actors’ greatest popularity their sexual orientation was NOT known, as it would have meant professional suicide. This fact of course allowed them to become major stars and sex symbols to their admiring fans.
First up, Rock Hudson, an often mediocre actor at best but a wonderful and legendary light comedian with a charming air when most befuddled. Marvin’s films with Hudson were not memorable in and of themselves but they certainly helped his career. Released in 1953, Gun Fury and Seminole both top-lined Hudson in rather bland performances. Something, in my opinion, that was often the case with him in dramas, with the sole exception being the riveting performance he gave in Seconds (1966). Gun Fury was released in 3-D and allowed Marvin to put on his resume’ that he worked with the great Raoul Walsh as well as a friendship with Leo Gordon. Other than that…

Seminole, on the other hand, actually had scenes in which Marvin and Hudson interacted — albeit, briefly — throughout the movie.

(L-R) Lee Marvin as Sgt. Magruder and Rock Hudson as Lt. Lance Caldwell in Budd Boetticher’s SEMINOLE.

It was simply another programmer for Hudson, but for Marvin it meant working with cult director Budd Boetticher for the first time, who would go on to cast Marvin in Seven Men From Now (1956), one of the actor’s best performances. What did Marvin think of working with Hudson in the overtly macho period films? I have no idea. I do know, however, that for a man of his generation, he had some surprisingly forward-thinking ideas on the subject of homosexuality that he expressed in Playboy Magazine.
As to other gay icon, that would be Montgomery Clift, the legendary Method actor who’s tragic life Marvin witnessed firsthand.

Lee Marvin (left) and RAINTREE COUNTY costar Montgomery Clift photographed by Bob WIlloughby.

Marvin had gone on record as not being a fan of Method actors as a rule yet ironically, he claimed two of the best actors he ever encountered were Marlon Brando (when he cared) and Clift. Raintree County (1957) was the film he made with Clift and was also the film in which Clift suffered a disfiguring car accident early into the production.

(L-R) Lee Marvin and Montgomert Clift as ‘Bummers’ during the Civil War scene in Raintree.

Marvin’s performance in the film is one of his best while Clift is naturally just painful to watch, no matter how hard he tried. That aside, Marvin had his own theory on the accident’s cause which will not be expressed here, as it is strictly hearsay. Luckily, the tragedy of Clift’s forced hidden sexuality and disfiguring car accident does not hamper his legacy as a superb actor, thanks to his many extraordinary film performances.
As to the Gay community in general, Marvin had several run-ins with members of the community on a personal level. One such encounter was hilariously retold to me by Marvin’s friend and costar Bob Phillips and concerns Marvin’s dedication to the USMC. Another concerned one of his children and both tales can be found in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank. So happy Pride, dear readers, and remember, Gay Icons may be everywhere but on film, they are often legendary.

– Dwayne Epstein

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STUART WHITMAN, COMANCHEROS COSTAR, DEAD AT 92

Stuart Whitman, who costarred with John Wayne and Lee Marvin in 1962’s The Comancheros, has died at the age of 92 from skin cancer.

Ad for THE COMANCHEROS, in which Lee Marvin’s appearance remains is not quite what it was in the movie.

The age of 92 is a ripe one for any person, but for a veteran actor know for his dark, brooding good looks to survive for that period of time, is quite an accomplishment.

In all honesty, I was not much of a fan, despite his lengthy and prolific career listed in this online obit.
An apt description was given his career in British David Quinlan’s 1981 compendium, The Illustrated Directory of Film Stars: “Black-haired, craggy-faced American leading man who played a lot of very small roles before breaking into the big time via a Fox contract. These years at the studio (1958-1965) were his only ones as a top Hollywood star, and contain his best performances. Since then, he has remained a regular, if somewhat immobile, second-line leading man.”

COMANCHEROS Pressbook press release on the then burgeoning career of Stuart Whitman.

Whitman also had a small role in the underrated Randolph Scott & Lee Marvin western, Seven Men From Now (1956). That aside, I just always thought of him as part of that generation of actors who for a brief period starred in films at the tail of the studio system, as Quinlan mentioned. Hollywood’s feudal studio system was beginning to crumble so the attempts to make superstars out of the likes of Stuart Whitman and George Hamilton was short-lived. The changing cultural landscape did allow audiences a glimpse at early roles of actors who supported the likes of Hamilton and Whitman, and would become lasting major superstars later in the 1960s and 1970s, Such as Charles Bronson, and yes, Lee Marvin.
Don’t get me wrong, Whitman was a serviceable presence in the right role, such as Pau Regret in The Comancheros — the making of which is detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank. Personally, despite his well-deserved Oscar-nomination for The Mark (1961), I liked him best in the gritty true-life crime drama, Murder Inc. (1960). Granted, Whitman’s all-American good looks seemed out of place among the ethnic faces, but his scene towards the end of the film in which he confronts Abe “Kid Twist” Reles (Peter Falk), may very well be Stuart Whitman’s best acting ever, in my humble opinion.
Until then, with all the social isolation in place, it might not be a bad idea to catch up on some classic films made by Whitman and others so you can judge for yourself. The ranks are clearly thinning.
– Dwayne Epstein

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