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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4 thoughts on “THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN

  1. Hi Dwayne,
    I’m sorry that the first part of page 272 leaves the reader hanging abruptly, like a bad taste of malicious gossip, possibly lingering in a Lee fan’s memory forever. Hitting a brick wall. The excluded, vital second part as told to you brings the situation into a sort of positive “balance”.

    • Shawn, the story about Lee is Jones’ book is not malicious gossip but true, as is what Dwayne recounts about Lee later apologizing to me. In fact, he went out of his way to do so: I was reading the paper in Dads dressing room, Lee noticed me, asked if he could come in, and talked to me for some time about what I was doing–I was in graduate school at the time. I assume Jones left this out of his book because his book, which is excellent, is about my Dad, not Lee Marvin. In any event, Lee struggled with alcohol, as did my father, as did John Frankenheimer and many of that show biz generation. So I dont think anyone can be judgmental. – Cheyney Ryan

      • Thank you, Cheyney, as your response is genuinely appreciated. You are correct in what you say about your father’s generation, as well as the the overall quality of Jones’ book.
        However, the two passages I mention in this blog were done not to necessarily point out the book’s shortcomings or be judgmental in anyway. I merely wanted to let it be known that the full stories can be found in my book. Thanks again!

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