APRIL 2022 ON TCM

April 2022 seemed to get here fast and with it, comes a month-long slate of films on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Unfortunately, that month does not contain a single Lee Marvin film and very little Lee Marvin-related films. However, there are indeed some favorite films I intend to watch that I’ve always enjoyed and are listed below…..

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The Hustler: Breathtaking and gritty cinematography by Eugene Shufton highlight this classic with a powerful supporting cast. Oh, and Paul Newman. 
Midnight Cowboy: Dustin Hoffman’s absolutely greatest performance.
Brute Force: Well titled brutal prison break film toplining a young Burt Lancaster.
Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid & The Sting: It’s all been said.
The Actress: Less remembered film of Ruth Gordon’s memoir with a standout performance from Spencer Tracy as her father.
The Life & Times of Judge Roy Bean: Screenwriter John Milius actually wanted Lee Marvin for the lead role as shown here.
The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, The Adventures of Don Juan: The best films of TCM’s Star of the Month, Errol Flynn.
The Drowning Pool: Underrated sequel to Paul Newman’s Harper.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Kelly & Sinatra together again with a standout dance number by Kelly doing “The Hat Me Dear Old Father Wore.”
The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Don’t know if it’s Lon Chaney or Charles Laughton but it doesn’t matter. Both are excellent!
The Getaway: McQueen, Peckinpah, ’nuff said. 
Badlands: Chilling and haunting film debut by director Terence Malick.
Barfly: Mickey Rourke as writer Charles Bukowski back when Rourke took his career seriously. 
Days of Wine & Roses: Jack Lemmon & Lee Remick are heartbreakingly good as a young alcoholic couple.
The Natural:Robert Redford is perfectly cast in one of the greatest baseball films of all time highlighted by one of the greatest scores of all time courtesy of Randy Newman.
The Story of Mankind: Irwin Allen’s bizarre take on human history with an all-star cast. Must be seen to be believed.
Five Minutes to Live: Speaking os needing to be seen to be believed, Johnny Cash stars in this neat little thriller as a “Door-to-door Killer,” (the film’s alternate title), costarring future Oscar winner, Ronny Howard.
The Magnificent Seven: All star cast headed up by Yul Brynner in my all-time favorite western.
Going Home: Robert Mitchum murders his wife witnessed by his young son. Now a grown Jan-Michael Vincent, with eyes on Mitchum’s new wife, Brenda Vacarro. Pretty trippy character study.
Gentleman Jim: Another Flynn favorite as he plays Heavyweight champ Jim Corbett.
The Cowboys: Not that big of a John Wayne fan but this one is a must-see. Beware, it’s also VERY poignant.
Kelly’s Heroes: One of the first Dirty Dozen rip-offs with costar Donald Sutherland’s ‘Oddball’ stealing every scene he’s in.

Check your local listings for days and times. Who knows, April 2022 maybe Marvin-less but perhaps May 2022 will be Marvelous. And don’t forget, you can read all about him in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

 

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DIRTY WHISPERS

Dirty whispers, for lack of a better term, is a rather lascivious device used in some films to set the stage for an eventual brutal showdown. There are of course several memorable examples but this being a blog dedicated to the life and career of Lee Marvin, I can think of no better example to start with than the man himself. 
 In researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, I discovered that he attempted this device in The Killers (1964) but ran into conflict with costar, Ronald Reagan, who hated the idea. Instead, he let it be known to the audience what he intended when he gets in the face of frightened costar Angie Dickinson and angrily whispers, “Lady, you tell us what we want to know or so help me god you’re going out that window.” 
  A few years later, he was able to use the device to much better effect when he collaborated with British director John Boorman on Point Blank (1967).

Lynn (Sharon Acker) warms up to a drunken Walker (Lee Marvin) as they circle each other on the Santa Monica pier in POINT BLANK.


In the opening prologue, in which Marvin as Walker confronts his estranged wife, played by Sharon Acker, an ingenious montage is utilized  to give the films’s back story to the viewer, as narrated by Acker. Costar Angie Dickinson told me how Marvin and Boorman would themselves whisper on set about how they would do a scene without letting the other actors in on it to maintain the film’s freshness. The opening montage is one example. Acker’s narration of course explains what’s going on for us, but in the scene itself, no words are heard but we do see Walker saying something to her (of probably the most lascivious nature) ,as they circle each other amid the other drunken denizens of the pier. 
   Later in the film, as Walker confronts his adversaries up the chain of command in an effort to get what he believes he is owed from the organization, he employs the device again to even greater effect as Marvin wanted to do in The Killers

Walker (Lee Marvin) uses a dirty whisper on a reception in POINT BLANK. Note the placement of his gun barrel.

Bursting into the outer office of kingpin Lloyd Bochner, he confronts the receptionist before she can even react to his entry, and while he scares her to near death with whatever dirty whispers we can’t hear, he uses his oversized Oxford to smash the secret alarm hidden under her desk. It’s a brilliantly realized moment in a film spilling over with brilliant moments way ahead of its time for audiences and film critics alike. 
   One can only imagine not only what Marvin was saying but what he must have sounded like, as his voice, whether booming loud or frighteningly whispered, was one of the actor’s greatest attributes.

 Film history has provided some other noteworthy examples of dirty whispers. Chronologically, to my mind, one of the first and still best is Edward G. Robinson terrorizing Lauren Bacall in Key Largo (1948). It’s amazing to think Robinson was never Oscar nominated for any of the memorable performances he gave throughout his lengthy career as this should have been one of them. 

Lauren Bacall reacts accordingly to Edward G. Robinson’s lascivious dirty whispers in KEY LARGO.


The scene induces shivers in the way Robinson gleefully does it, as much as the way Bacall reacts to it. It’s one of many stand out moments Robinson has in the film as over-the-hill Prohibition-era gangster Johnny Rocco hiding out in a Florida Hotel besieged by a hurricane. The greatness of his menacing performance has faded in moviegoer memory, since the film is largely remembered for the well-known sparks that flew and ignited between Bacall and toplined star, Humphrey Bogart. Pity, really, as Robinson was amazing in it.

The memorable near fight scene in From Here to Eternity (1952) that leads to a an even more memorable confrontation is not remembered as such but it’s initiated by another dirty whisper.

Ernest Borgnine (center) drools over the photo he snatched from Frank Sinatra (right) in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY as Montgomery Clift (left) prepares to respond.


As Frank Sinatra as Maggio shows off a photo of his big Italian family to his buddies in the bar, stocky and vicious Ernest Borgnine as “Fatso” Judson ambles into the bar. He snatches the photo, sees the image of Sinatra’s sister, kisses it, smiles menacingly, then leans over to Prewitt, played by Montgomery Clift, to whisper what has to be an undoubtedly filthy suggestion. Clift rises to the challenge but is pushed out of the way by the more maligned Sinatra who proceeds to smash Borgnine with a bar stool. All looks lost until Burt Lancaster steps in with a broken beer bottle. Damn exciting stuff, again the result of a probably forgotten dirty whisper.  
 Last but not least is possibly the best example of a dirty whisper and its aftermath. In The Hustler (1961), the great Piper Laurie plays Sarah Packard, the tragic and crippled girlfriend of the title character, ‘Fast Eddie Felson, played by Paul Newman.

(L-R) Paul Newman, Piper Laurie & George C. Scott enjoy Louisville’s Derby Day party in THE HUSTLER.


Celebrating the Kentucky Derby at a Jazz party, Felson’s manager Bert Gordon, played by George C. Scott, sees how vulnerable Ms. Laurie’s character is and proceeds to take advantage of it. While a Dixieland band blares in the background, he sidles up to the fragile woman, out of ear shot of everyone (especially Newman) and whispers something so devastating to her, she breaks down in tears and eventually does the unthinkable.
   What was said? Well, we may never know for sure what is said in such emotional scenes, but there is one interesting anecdote. According to Piper Laurie in her autobiography, “I finally asked him [Scott] what he had whispered into my ear in the big party scene in The Hustler that elicits a violent response from me. We shot it perhaps three or four times, and I could never figure out what he was saying: it sounded something like ‘isha-pa-pish-po.’ He told me he chose to use just gibberish, knowing he could never invent words or phrases as powerful as what my imagination could summon up. Probably true.” 
 Whether a result of avoiding the censor or the fertile imagination of gifted actors and actresses, such moments remain dramatic and powerful in their own right. Anybody remember any others?

  • Dwayne Epstein
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