July 2021 on TCM is upon us and with it comes some watchable Lee Marvin classics, as well as a few other goodies within the theme of neo-noir. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank will appreciate these films as they certainly fit the oeuvre of the man’s work. Even the film’s in which he doesn’t appear are ones he certainly could have and it’s interesting to consider him in the roles while watching. Check local listings for air time. First up:
Point Blank (1967): Friday, July 2nd.
Lee Marvin as Walker based on the book in which his name is Parker written by Donald Westlake using the pen name Richard Stark directed by England’s John Boorman in quintessential American locales such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. Confused? Don’t be as TCM could not have picked a better film for their July 2021 launch of their theme of neo-noir classics, as this is the one that started it all. It’s what I like to call the first arthouse action film. See it again and you’ll see what I mean.
Warning Shot (1967): Friday July 2nd.
Hot from his success as Richard Kimble on “The Fugitive,” David Janssen stars in this film with a similar theme, only this time he’s a cop wrongly accused of murder. Janssen heads an all-star cast of cameos including Lee Marvin’s good friend and Point Blank costar, Keenan Wynn as well as Carroll O’Connor. Along for the ride are George Grizzard, Joan Collins, Lillian Gish, Steve Allen, Ed Begley, Sam Wanamaker, George Sanders, Eleanor Parker, Walter Pigeon and Stefanie Powers and a terrific score by Jerry Goldsmith. It’s a forgotten classic as far as I’m concerned and July 2021 is all the better for it.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973): Friday, July 9th.
In the 1970s Robert Mitchum underwent a sort of renaissance in his career with three outstanding crime thrillers: The Yakuza (1975), Farewell, My Lovely (1975), and the best of them being The Friends of Eddie Coyle. This is yet another movie in dire need of rediscovery and thankfully, a few years back Criterion chose to give the film the blue ribbon treatment it deserves. Yes, it’s dark and depressing and yes rather unrelentingly so but I like to think of it as haunting as once seen you’ll never forget it. Seriously. Mitchum heads an all-star cast of rugged faced veteran character actors on the dirty streets of Boston as he himself gives the performance of his career. Once again, don’t take my word for it. See it for yourself and be amazed. As costar Peter Boyle told Rolling Stone Magazine at the time: “You know what the 2001 theme is? That’s the sound of Robert Mitchum waking up.”
The Wild One (1953) Saturday, July 10th.
The seminal film that started the biker film craze of the late 1960s was actually based on an event in the 1940s and starred Marlon Brando as Johnny, titular leader of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC). He’s challenged at one point by a scene-stealing, hilariously over-the-top Lee Marvin as Chino. Great and exclusive stories abound about the making of this classic in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank, including a letter Lee wrote to his brother about what he thought of the character in hopes of winning the role. As for his opinion of Brando? Read and discover!
Night Moves (1975) Friday, July 23rd.
Gene Hackman is at the peak of his long and amazing career as Harry Moseby, a former football star working as a private detective hired to find the daughter of a burned out movie star. He’s also dealing with the break-up of his marriage and the oncoming strains middle-age. Along the way he encounters some unsavory characters, such as sexy Jennifer Warren, a young an creepy James Woods (isn’t he always creepy?) and more. The style and performances of this film is required viewing in my opinion as Hackman is rarely better than in the hands of the great Arthur Penn. Enjoy!
Cutter’s Way (1981) Friday, July 23rd.
Hollywood was still making films such as this in the early 1980s but sadly, few people wanted to see them. It’s a terrific character study in the guise of a thrilling whodunit. Jeff Bridges is Richard Bone, a Santa Barbara boat salesman by day and a “gigolo” by night (male prostitute, let’s be honest) who may have witnessed a murder committed by the riches man around. Enter John Heard as Alex Cutter, a disabled and embittered Vietnam veteran who wants to blackmail the suspected killer in a performance that reaches beyond the cliche description. It’s a performance worthy of countless acting awards but didn’t receive any. Ivan Passer’s direction, Jeff Bridges’ appearance (according to my girlfriend he never looked sexier!) John Heard’s riveting performance, the Santa Barbara locations and a chilling climax make this one a definite contender as a lost classic. Kudos to TCM for rediscovering it!
The Asphalt Jungle (1950) Saturday, July 31st.
It’s a bit of a shame that this classic noir was made in 1950 as that’s the same year Lee Marvin began working in film as a glorified extra. Had he been a little better known by that time he would have fit right in with the cast of this hardboiled heist thriller in any of several different roles. The lead role by Sterling Hayden as the hooligan known as Dix would have been a perfect fit for the young Marvin. The ensemble cast as it is remains one of the best of all time. It also includes my personal favorite quote of all noir films when Hayden tells worrisome Marc Lawrence: “Why don’t you quit crying and get me some bourbon!” A film brimming with double-crosses, subplots and believable characters, it’s one for the ages. Oh, and look quick for Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Arthur Miller in the film’s opening line-up of suspected mugs. Honest!
So there you have it. A plethora of terrific films for TCM’s calendar of July 2021. August brings even better fare for Lee Marvin fans. TCM is doing their regular installment of “Summer Under the Stars,” saluting one actor all day and on the 28th, they FNALLY get around to honoring Lee Marvin. July 2021 is pretty good. August will sure to be even better!
- Dwayne Epstein