ROGER EBERT: TOP TEN OF 1973

Roger Ebert, the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times until his death in 2013, was one of the few film critics I respected. I dd not always agree with his opinions but unlike most film critics, he seemed to truly love movies and it showed. Despite some wince-inducing spoilers in his on-air reviews with Gene Siskel (1992’s The Crying Game review comes immediately to mind), Roger Ebert seemed to prefer praising a film more often then damning it. 
   Case in point is his recently revived list of the ten best films of 1973 I discovered online a few days ago. The full list is interesting but naturally, I like his choice for number five. When the film came out most critics who admired it, considered Lee Marvin miscast or worse, not up to the role of Hickey. Not so with Ebert. Read his capsule review below…

5. THE ICEMAN COMETH

Cast of THE ICEMAN COMETH.

There isn’t a bad performance in the film, but there are three of such greatness they mesmerize us. The best is by the late Robert Ryan, as Larry, and this is possibly the finest performance of his career. There is such wisdom and sadness in his eyes, and such pain in his rejection of the boy Don (who may possibly be his own son), that he makes the role almost tender despite the language O’Neill gives him. It would be a tribute to a distinguished career if Ryan were nominated posthumously for an Academy Award. Lee Marvin, as Hickey, has a more virtuoso role: He plays a salesman who has been coming to Harry’s saloon for many years to have a “periodical drunk.” This time he’s on the wagon, he says, because he’s found peace. We discover his horrible peace when he confesses to the murder. Marvin has recently been playing in violent action movies that require mostly that he look mean; here he is a tortured madman hidden beneath a true believer.

You can read all of Ebert’s capsule reviews of the ten films here. Click on any review on the list to read it in its entirety. As for the making of The Iceman Cometh, there are some fascinating behind-the-scenes tales told firsthand to me by the likes of Jeff Bridges in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
– Dwayne Epstein

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THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN

The Lives of Robert Ryan, by author J.R. Jones, is one of many sources sought out by yours truly in my research effort of Killin’ Generals. In so doing, I came across this little tidbit concerning the making of The Iceman Cometh (1973)….

Lee Marvin (Hickey), Robert Ryan (Slade) and Tom Pedi (Rocky) watch as Fredric March takes his first walk outside in years among the new-fangled automobiles.


As he [Cheyney Ryan, p.272] later told author Dwayne Epstein, Marvin showed up one day at 8 AM with a case of beer and proceed to get hammered. “He got into a thing about what a big star he was,” Cheyney recalled. “It was really unpleasant…He said, “Your father’s not a big star anymore. I’m a big star. He used to be a big star and now I’m the big star.” This went on and on and on.” [Director John] Frankenheimer took Marvin aside later and read him the riot act about his drinking...
   Yes, Cheyney Ryan did tell me that, but he also told me that the next day Marvin apologized profusely and stayed sober as he worked with the cast whether he was needed or not. This important factor was left out by author Jones.

Marvin and Ryan, men of a certain age and time, in The Professionals.


In an earlier section of The Lives of Robert Ryan, author J.R. Jones recounts the tale of ‘Vegas Vic’ while filming Richard Brooks’ The Professionals (1966) in Nevada. Unfortunately he tells the version Woody Strode explained in his memoir, Goal Dust, which is vastly different than what Strode told me in person. I was also fortunate enough to interview fellow culprit and stunt double Tony Epper and his memory of that night is not only impeccable but utterly believable. Want to know what really happened? Read Lee Marvin Point Blank. Until then, in the immortal words of Robert Aldrich: “Onward!”

The Lives of Robert Ryan by J.R. Jones.


– Dwayne Epstein

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LISA RYAN, DAUGHTER OF ROBERT RYAN & A WONDERFUL SURPRISE

Lisa Ryan, daughter of Robert Ryan, has recently been back in touch with me. You may recall, that a while back she gave me permission to post our talk about her father. She also gave me one of my favorite stories about the making of The Dirty Dozen (1967) which of course went into Lee Marvin Point Blank that just has to be read to be appreciated!
Well, after discovering the documentary Rick Spalla did on Lee Marvin, which included an interview with her father, I just naturally had to let her know about it. We reconnected conversationally and she told me that due to the pandemic, she had been in the midst of decluttering her belongings when she made an interesting discovery. Among her treasures were a series of photos taken on the set of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh of the entire cast! She not only sent the scans of them to me, she gave me permission to post them here on my blog.
Lee Marvin Point Blank readers know that I was fortunate enough to interview director John Frankenheimer, costar Jeff Bridges and several others who told me great stories about the making of the rarely seen gem. However, these images say just as much. The photographer went simply by the name “Orlando” and obviously by the signatures these were all meant for Robert Ryan’s personal collection…..

Lee Marvin as Hickey: “To Robert Hit’em again Lee”

The sitting with Lee Marvin was apparently part of the film’s publicity as this now defunct magazine cover shows…

 

 

When all is said and done, Lisa Ryan, daughter of Robert Ryan, came thru with a wonderful surprise. So, without further ado, I give you classic images from THE ICEMAN COMETH…..

Fredric March as Harry Hope: “To Robert Ryan God Bless — always Fredric March 1973”

Jeff Bridges as Don Parritt: “Bob — Acting and especially knowing you, has been very special, Jeff Bridges”

Director John Frankenheimer: “Bob with admiration and grand thanks  John Frankenheimer”

Bradford Dillman as Willie Oban: “Bob — O’Neill has been kind to both of us and you have been especially kind to him! Cheers!
Brad Dillman”

Sorrell Booke as Hugo Kalmar: “Dear Bob – Don’t be a fool
Buy me a drink
Love
Sorrell Booke”

Hilda Brooks as Margie

Juno Dawson as Pearl: “Dear Bob,
Lovely working with you!
Love,
Juno”

Evans Evans (Mrs. Frankenheimer) as Cora: “Dear Bob,
With love,
Evans”

Martyn Green as ‘The Captain’: “From one old soak to another,
It’s been fun, Bob!
Martyn”

 

 

Moses Gunn as Joe Mott (unsigned).

John McLiam as Jimmy Tomorrow: “Dear Bob,
You are the kindest man among us,
John McLiam”

Stephen Perlman as Chuck Morello: “Bob – Looking forward to seeing The Master Builder [???] Stephen Pearlman”

Tom Pedi as Rocky Pioggi: “To Robert Ryan,
Tom Pedi”

 

Obviously, not all of the cast members are pictured here. Notably absent are Clifton James (“Pat McGloin”), George Voskovec (“The General”), and most obvious of all, Robert Ryan (“Larry Slade”). Fortunately, Lisa was able to find the following cast photos (seen below  after all the individual portraits) that does indeed include her father and the rest of the entire cast….

Cast & crew of THE ICEMAN COMETH with individual signatures.

An ever better view is the following close-up images….

Cast and crew of THE ICEMAN COMETH in close-up.

(L-R) Tom Pedi, Evans Evans, Stephen Perlman, unidentified, Moses Gunn, John McLiam (seated), Jeff Bridges, Fredric March, George Voskovec (seated), John Frankenheimer, Clifton James (seated), Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Juno Dawson & Hildy Brooks (seated), Martyn Green & Bradford DIllman (seated).

Finally, since this was graciously donated by the daughter of Robert Ryan, I’ve taken the liberty to include this poignant tribute to her father from the film’s playbill written by L.A. Times film critic, Charles Champlin…

Charles Champlin’s tribute to Robert Ryan.

And so there you have it: Some rare and fitting tributes to an underrated classic and a legendary postwar actor desperately worthy of rediscovery. Lisa Ryan, I am forever in your debt. Stay safe, everyone!
– Dwayne Epstein

 

 

 

 

 

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