DOMESTIC LEE

Domestic Lee Marvin is not something witnessed onscreen very often. Even more scarce is Father Lee. However, this being Fathers Day, it’s a good time to explore those rare occasions of domestic Lee in which, to my mind, only occurred twice on film and in both instances, they were not the classics the filmmakers intended.

A rare domestic Lee shown in THE KLANSMAN (1974) with Wendell Wellman playing his son Alan and Richard Burton as neighbor Breck Stencill.

In The Klansman, he’s Sheriff “Big” Trak Bascomb, married with a grown son preparing for college. A simple side plot to the rather unsavory and racially charged film that’s probably the worst film Marvin ever starred in, with costar Richard Burton fairing even worse. Unfortunately, the originally script by Sam Fuller was truncated which is a shame since it had a devastating un-filmed sequence in it involving Marvin’s son Alan Bascomb that I was able to get a copy of and write about here. In any event, the less said about the embarrassing film, the better.

(L-R) Lee Marvin as Flynn O’Flynn protects and defend daughter Barbara Parkins in SHOUT AT THE DEVIL (1976).

The other instance of Marvin playing a paternal character was the action/adventure film from AIP entitled Shout at the Devil. Costarring Roger Moore and Ian Holm, the film takes place in WWI-era Africa with Marvin as a big game poacher protecting daughter Barbara Parkins and battling her betrothed (Moore), as well as the Germans, in this weak entry in the actor’s canon of films.
Obviously, the type of films Marvin made did not often make for a domestic Lee audiences could appreciate. He played married characters in The Professionals (1966) in the film’s back story as well as in Point Blank (1967). In both films, however, his spouses did not fair well, in the screenplay.
There were instances in which characters in his films acted paternally towards supporting characters, such as the gentle way in which treated Sissy Spacek in Prime Cut (1972) and the mentoring he administered to the novice bank thieves of Spikes Gang (1974).
These symbolic examples aside, Lee Marvin was just not cut out for domestic bliss, once again, on screen and off. Of his four grown children, none of them were willing to go on the record with me for Lee Marvin Point Blank with the sole exception being his son, Christopher. His poignant afterword was a worthy and surprising addition to the text. So, with Fathers Day in mind, feel free to check out the book’s afterword and then watch a better Lee Marvin movie to enjoy.
With dad, of course.
– Dwayne Epstein

 

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WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND…LEE MARVIN?

William Shakespeare is not usually a name associated with the likes of Lee Marvin. More is the pity as the actor had several brushes with the bard as recounted in my book Lee Marvin Point Blank. First, as a fledgling postwar acting student at the American Theater Wing (ATW), in which several hilarious anecdotes are retold by David Ballantine, a friend from Lee Marvin’s Woodstock days.

Lee Marvin (far right) cavorts  with fellow students during his American Theater Wing days in costumes from a play by William Shakespeare.


Later, on the set of The Big Red One, in which costar Kelly Ward recounted an amazing incident at sunset in an ancient Israeli ampitheater. 
Apparently, my research struck a chord with one who would definitely know more about the subject of William Shakespeare’s work than I ever would. Through the wonders of the digital age, noted actor/writer/historian David Weston sought me out to contact recently and wrote me the following:
“I was an actor for more than 50 years and I agree with all you say about Marvin’s talent and magnetism. He would have been game-changing in several Shakespearean roles..” 
 I was humbled by his words once I found out more about him via the internet. Not only does he know his stuff, he’s married to actress Dora Reisser, who knew Marvin well, ever since her costarring role as Telly Savalas’s victim in The Dirty Dozen. When I asked David if I could use his comments concerning William Shakespeare and Marvin on my blog, he sent me the following mini-essay. To call it a wonderful surprise, is an understatement. Here now is David Weston making the point better than I ever could. Enjoy….
– Dwayne Epstein

(L-R) Dora Reisser and David Weston.

Lee Marvin as a Shakespearean Actor

Shakespeare’s plays are full of violence and comedy, two things Lee Marvin revelled in. Titus Andronicus, probably the Bard’s first play, contains mutilation, rape, ripped out tongues and cannibalism. As far as I know Lee Marvin never appeared in a Shakespeare play, although he told my wife, Dora Reisser, that when he was filming The Klansman with Richard Burton, he would make up mock Shakespearean speeches and ask the inebriated Welshman to guess which plays they had come from. I will give some examples of roles in which Marvin could have excelled at various stages in his life. It could have happened. Richard Burton, like Marvin, no the weak spinner of fanciful tales, once told me that Marlon Brando had wanted to join him for a season at the Old Vic, only to be rejected by the board.

As a young actor Lee Marvin was never a Romeo, but he would have been a superb Mercutio [Romeo’s best friend], revelling in the bawdy comedy.  His catlike movement would have been ideal for the sword fights and tragi-comic death.

Richard Burton was a pretty good Petruchio [in The Taming of The Shrew], but can you imagine Lee’s drunken antics or his savage treatment of Kate – Gloria Graham’s coffee springs to mind.

Likewise he was born to play Bottom [in A Midsummer Night’s Dream]. Kevin Kline attempted it recently but he would not have touched Lee’s befuddled wonder at acquiring ass’s ears and the love of the Fairy Queen.

His lighting quick humour and savagery would have made him a terrifying yet hilarious Richard III. Kevin Spacey was a pussy cat in comparison.

Sean Connery was the best Hotspur I’ve seen [Henry IV, Part I], but Lee would have run him close.

Shakespeare could have written the part of Pistol, the bawdy braggart, with Lee in mind, but in the same plays in his more mature years he would have been one of the great Falstaffs. I can close my eyes and see him in the tavern scenes, bragging, wenching, hilarious – yet over brimming with pathos, glimpses of which we saw in Cat Ballou.

Marlon Brando was a superb Marc Antony [in Julius Caesar), in what I consider to be the second best Shakespeare film ever made after Laurence Olivier’s Henry V, but Lee Marvin would have been better.

So many actors can play King Lear in their old age – it is in fact one of Shakespeare’s easiest leading roles – but Lee’s fury would have been terrifying and his grief over Cordelia’s death heart-breaking. As a young actor he would have revelled in the sadism of the Duke of Cornwall in the terrible scene when he takes out Gloucester’s eyes.

Last of all Iago [in Othello]. Again the humorous villainy and savagery – Liberty Valence in tights.

There is something for him in every play. It is our loss he was never asked.
– David Weston

Covering McKellen by David Weston.

Covering Shakespeare by David Weston

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SUPERBOWL SUNDAY: HOW LEE MARVIN HELPED THE NFL, SERIOUSLY!

With the Panthers & Broncos battling in the Super Bowl this Sunday, it seems as good a time as any to consider another unmentioned aspect in Lee Marvin: Point Blank worthy of exploration… Although in truth, there is very little in the book left unexplored but that’s what this blog for. So, besides being gridiron legends, do you know what Woody Strode, Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson (ahem!) and Joe Namath also have in common? You probably have already guessed based on the theme of this website but yes, they all co-starred in films with Lee Marvin.
The kind of films Marvin made probably had a lot to do with it, but Marvin himself saw film acting as a logicial progression from football. While making The Dirty Dozen with Jim Brown, he joked, “You see those guys on the field every Sunday and they’re acting. When they take a hit and walk off, you see how they play to the crowd with a little extra limp and grimace…and thos guys are the pros!”
Known more for his impressive presence in films, the proverbial gentle giant, Woody Strode is not often remembered for his pro ball career. However, along with Kenny Washington, they integrated the NFL playing for the L.A. Rams, a full year before Jackie Robinson did the same in baseball.  Strode was also a professional wrestler but told this author that the time he spent working with Lee Marvin in both The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and later (and more prominently) in The Professionals, bonded a life time friendship with Marvin like none he had ever known in other films….

Woody Strode (left) and Lee Marvin on location during The Professionals and bonding a life long friendship.

Woody Strode (left) and Lee Marvin on location during The Professionals and bonding a life long friendship.

Sometimes called the greatest fullback in NFL history, Jim Brown’s tailor-made role in The Dirty Dozen established him evern more than his previous film, Rio Conchos. His acting career then skyrocketed with other big budget films but it was the blaxploitation genre of the early 70s for which he’ll be most remembered cinematically. One such film was even an update of Marvin’s Point Blank entitled The Split.
None of this would have even happened had Brown not made a fateful decision during the filming of The Dirty Dozen. The film ran over schedule due to the constant rain in England, forcing Brown to confront a difficult choice. When Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell threatened a heavy fine if Brown wasn’t back in time for pre-season training, Brown’s decision was thus made: He quit the NFL and set out on his film career. Helping him decide was Lee Marvin, who rightly predicted of Brown’s future: “He’s going to be a wild actor. He’s not afraid of himself. He lets everything show he thinks is right. He’s not pretending. Pretending has no value. To do it right with control has real value.”

Jim Brown & Lee Marvin on set of THE DIRTY DOZEN from the NY Times article annoucing his NFL retirement.

Jim Brown & Lee Marvin on set of THE DIRTY DOZEN from the NY Times article annoucing his NFL retirement.

NY Jets quarterback Joe Namath had a fairly decent film career that in no way eclipsed his record-breaking NFL career. Such films as C.C. & Company with Ann-Margret, as well as The Last Rebel, co-starring Woody Strode, certainly did not break box office records, but he was able to put on his resume that he worked with such veteran performers as Lee Marvin, Robert Shaw, Maximillan Schell, Horst Bucholtz and others in the tepid cold war thriller, Avalanche Express. Namath went on record as stating that in spite of his famous partying days with the Jets, he had never seen anybody drink a tumbler full of vodka for lunch each day as he witnessed Marvin and Shaw do….and then go to work!

Lee Marvin & 'Broadway' Joe Namath in AVALANCHE EXPRESS

Lee Marvin & ‘Broadway’ Joe Namath in AVALANCHE EXPRESS

And then there’s O. J. Simpson. Perhaps the les said about him the better, as the man who worked with Marvin in the wince-inducing disaster titled, The Klansman, was reputed to be more clean-cut than what we now know and think of him. Then again, the still from the film below, might just be the most appropriate. Had Marvin pulled the trigger, who knows…..

Lee Marvin contemplates doing what the Goldman family might have done.

Lee Marvin contemplates doing what the Goldman family might have done.

 

 

 

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