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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MY FAVORITE FILM FIGHT SCENES, PART 1 OF 5

Favorite film fight scenes:
If working on Lee Marvin Point Blank has taught me anything, it’s shown me the value of a good fight scene. The medium is called motion pictures for a reason and outside of a good car chase, few things have had as lasting an impact on filmgoers as a well done fight scene. Like all film fans, I of course have my own favorites and for different reasons of each. So, in no special order of preference other than chronological, here are mine, some well known, some obscure, but all worthy of a second look….

1.  ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES1938

James Cagney (center) shows the Dead End Kids how to play basketball.....or else!

James Cagney (center) shows the Dead End Kids how to play basketball…..or else!

Thanks largely to my mother, I’ve been a film fan my enitre life and when it comes to classic films, Warner Brothers is my favorite studio, with James Cagney being my favorite actor in their stable. My being born in a Brooklyn tenement may have had something to do with it.
A dancer by training, Cagney was short, wiry, full of energy and, as contracted by the studio, constantly punching out taller actors in his films. They were often one punch altercations, which is why the basketball game in Angels With Dirty Faces remains one of his best fight scenes. Certainly not a fight scene in the traditional sense, but when you see the way he forces the Dead End Kids to play by the rules, it’s a well-choreographed example of a terrific one-man brawl.
Legend has it the Dead End Kids didn’t like most of their male co-stars and consequently played many tricks on the majority of them — Bogart and Reagan being prime examples. The rare exception was Cagney whom they all liked, as he did in return — with the exception of Leo Gorcey — and it certainly showed on screen. Just a great, timeless sequence in a wonderful film.

2. The Treasure of Sierra Madre – 1948
2Madre

When Lee Marvin was interviewed by Playboy Magazine in 1969 (quoted extensively in Lee Marvin: Point Blank) he spoke at length and with great knowledge on the extent of believable fight scenes in films. Topping his list was the barroom brawl in the beginning of The Treasure of Sierra Madre.
A film remembered mostly for its great performances, themes of greed, and oft-quoted dialogue (“We dun’t need any steenkin’ badges!,” “Fred C. Dobbs don’t say nuthin’ he don’t mean!”), it also contains one of the most brutal fight scenes ever. Tim Holt and Humphrey Bogart confront Barton MacLane about the money he cheated from them. The result is a lengthy, nasty fight, artistically filmed, in which no man is willing to give in, nor politely walk away until the bitter end. If you haven’t seen it, by all means do and you’ll see what I mean. If you have seen it, see it again and remember how remarkably rendered it is, even compared to anything seen today in movies.

3. Red River – 1948

Director Howard Hawks (center) works out the details of REd RIVER'S climatic fight with John Wayne (left) and Montgomery Clift (right).

Director Howard Hawks (center) works out the details of RED RIVER’S climatic fight with John Wayne (left) and Montgomery Clift (right).


John Wayne probably did more fight scenes than any other actor and a personal standout was the climax in Red River, which remains so for several reasons. I am indeed a fan of his films, and although entertaining, many of his fights scenes are either too long & comical for their own good, such as The Quiet Man & McLintock!, or wildly uneven to really be believable, as in The Cowboys & The Sons of Katie Elder.
   The fight scene climaxing Red River, is the exception that works wonderfully for a myriad of reasons. The film’s story line — a sort of western version of Mutiny on the Bounty — had the fight building from the start, and when adopted son Montgomery Clift and Wayne finally square off, it looks to be a one-punch duel.
Wayne was the very image of macho male dominance, while the closeted Clift would come to symbolize the vulnerable and sensitive rebel of the 1950s. It was a grudge match of separate agendas which by definition seemed to doom Clift. Early in the fight Wayne even says to Clift, “Won’t anything make a man out of you?!” After Wayne’s first few punches, the audience is amazed to see Clift not only get up, but knock Wayne on his equally surprised ass. It’s a great moment (despite the film’s ridiculous summation) that we’ve been waiting and hoping for and when it happens, it’s worthy of whoops and hollers!

4. The Adventures of Don Juan – 1949

Errol Flynn (or most likely his stunt double) leaps to adversary Robert Dougas in the thrilling climax of the sword fight THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN.

Errol Flynn (or most likely his stunt double) leaps to adversary Robert Douglas in the thrilling climax of the sword fight THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN.

Few actors can actually be said to be synonymous with a single genre, but in the case of Errol Flynn, he owned the once popular genre of swashsbucklers. Attempts to revive the genre over the years have not faired well simply because there are no Errol Flynns left in the world. He had style, panache, a devilish grin and a manly physique that was perfectly suited for period costumes. I was a huge fan of most of his films that have aged better than the actor’s reputation. All are worth viewing but a personal favorite for me was his last great attempt at the genre, The Adventures of Don Juan. He makes fun of his public image throughout the film but when it came to the expected sword fight finale he is unparalleled. Not a trained fencer but a naturally gifted athlete, even in the twilight of his greatness, Flynn delivers with such memorable dialog as “The sword is too good for a traitor. You die by the knife!” The expansive sets, Oscar-winning costumes and eye-popping color would distract from the viewing in the hands of lesser actors  –Stewart Granger and Cornel Wilde come to mind — but to the underrated Flynn, he fits in and towers over the proceedings as no one else ever did. When it came to actually delivering the goods, he proved to be downright vicious! Along with Robin Hood it is undoubtedly his best work.
5. On The Waterfront1954

Marlon Brando as ex-pug Terry Malloy (left) taunts Lee J. Cobb's crooked union boss John Friendly (right) into a fight into a nasty street brawl.

Marlon Brando as ex-pug Terry Malloy (left) taunts Lee J. Cobb’s crooked union boss John Friendly (right)  into a nasty street brawl.

The repressive 1950s were marked by several social phenomena, not the least of which was the notorious blacklisting of suspected Communists in the film industry. Volumes have been written about it as well as the way in which On the Waterfront played a role in the dark proceedings. Director Elia Kazan had named names before the House Un-American Activities Committee and rumored to have made Waterfront partly as an explanation for his testimony. To bring praise upon the informant, in this case Marlon Brando’s character of Terry Malloy,  the supposedly once close relationship between the two men was forever shattered by the blacklist as Brando never spoke to Kazan during the film unless he had to. Whether any of those things are true is still speculative. What remains is the effect of this documentary-style film.
The film climaxes with a brutal fight between Brando’s Terry Malloy and Lee J. Cobb’s John Friendly, which is equal parts symbolism and realism. Why is it on this list? Brando, arguably the greatest actor who ever lived, is impressive, but that’s not the reason. It’s all about Lee J. Cobb. A primal force of nature, Cobb never got his worthy due as an actor, other than essaying the original stage role of Willy Loman in Death of Salesman. Self-conscious about both his size and non-existent hairline, the bewigged Cobb seems to be angry at Brando’s character in the film but even more bitter over his role in cinema’s pecking order. He bites, kicks, punches and scratches Brando in the scene. When Terry Malloy fights back, John Friendly sends in his goons to finish the job.
In short, it isn’t the beating Brando withstands that makes the scene a favorite. It’s the astonishing brutality of Cobb that puts the classic film on my favorites list. Besides, Brando gets beaten up all the time but Cobb, he’s the stand out!
Next installment, a few surprises!

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