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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Real Fake Tough Guy

Posted by on Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 8:13 AM

No action movie star in the business today moves like Lee Marvin. Marvin was a panther. He was fast and brutal and because he didn't care if he looked cool, he was the coolest man in any movie. Marvin knew that not talking was scarier than talking, that grunting was better than bragging, and that you punch with your whole body if you want someone to go down hard. He knew these things because he lived them: He was a Marine in World War II, he had an anger problem, and when he drank, he got aggressive (and he drank all the time.) I sure wouldn't have wanted to be his friend, but watching Marvin transform his inner demons into movie tough guys is a huge cinematic pleasure.

Dwayne Epstein's biography Lee Marvin: Point Blank is a fairly adoring look at the actor. It's not a myth-making book—Epstein notes that Marvin liked to exaggerate in his interviews to sound more like a tough guy—but it does take Marvin's side. It's a great life story, ranging from the battlefield to the barroom and packed with bad decisions. Marvin was a plumber who got into acting almost as a mistake (he stayed in the plumber's union his whole life, in case the acting thing fell through) and suffered from PTSD for his entire adult life. He screwed over loved ones and he got in over his head a whole lot. These are the kinds of lives you want to read about.

Point Blank opens with an account of Marvin storming out of Lee Strasberg's famous Actor's Studio while bellowing "fuck you!" and it continues in that way through the very last page. Marvin finds success in TV shows, but he gives such honest interviews about his intentions in promotional interviews that it's a wonder he doesn't get fired: "Cops and robbers series sell. You don't make TV shows for fun—you make them for money." And this:

When asked if the show had a message or a purpose, he said, "The purpose is to enable me to get rich so I can quit the show in three years knowing my wife has a paid-up insurance policy of $100,000 and my kids are taken care of. Then I'll go to Tahiti, take it real easy, and do the Gauguin bit with the paints. As for the message, I have only one—watch the show!"

Epstein's writing is clear and simple. There aren't any sentences that will stop you with their beauty, but there aren't any huge clunkers, either. The research is sound, the chronology is breezy, and the subject is world-class. Lee Marvin may have been an asshole, but he was a unique asshole, and in Hollywood, that makes all the difference.


Comments (12) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Here is Roger Ebert's interview with Lee Marvin in 1970...…
Posted by Ebert's Interview on December 17, 2013 at 8:31 AM · Report this
BostonFontSnob 2
This writer's CV is...interesting.…

Posted by BostonFontSnob on December 17, 2013 at 8:39 AM · Report this
dnt trust me 3
not sure what you mean, but if you mean his CV is 'interesting' for about 5 seconds while scrolling through the crap he's written before, I agree.
Posted by dnt trust me on December 17, 2013 at 9:03 AM · Report this
BostonFontSnob 4
@3 Exactly that, much of his previous work looks to be low-rent quickie celeb biographies.
Posted by BostonFontSnob on December 17, 2013 at 9:19 AM · Report this
Keister Button 5
Lee Marvin Quip
Posted by Keister Button on December 17, 2013 at 10:01 AM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 6
Here's @1's 1970 Ebert interview link, for those who have unregistered set to "off". Crucial.
Michelle came up behind him with a Heineken. "Thanks, sweetheart." He walked back into the living room and sat down. "What was that we saw? ‘Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice’? What a piece of shit that was. Good performances, but what a piece of shit."

"I loved it," Michelle said.

"You go for all that touch-me-feel-me bullshit anyway," Marvin said. "Esalen. They take your money and teach you to put one hand on two nipples. Big fucking deal, baby."…
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on December 17, 2013 at 10:13 AM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 7
Cat Ballou.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on December 17, 2013 at 1:43 PM · Report this
Fnarf 8
@7, I love Cat Ballou. It takes a real man, or two of them, to get away with camp ridiculousness at that high a level.

Marvin is one of the reasons I mostly detest modern pictures: there are no men in them. We've got pretty faces, and some of those pretty faces age in to handsome older gentlemen, but they're still dweebs at heart. I mean, c'mon, George Clooney? Lennie DiCaprio? Benedict Cumberbitch? Tom Cruise? These people do not have personalities, nor can they mimic them for the screen. Or maybe there's just nobody who can write an interesting role anymore.

Fans of Lee Marvin should not ignore his near-lookalike and similar tough guy James Coburn, especially his ridiculous spy-spoof "Flint" series (Our Man Flint and In Like Flint).

Here's some ridiculous pics of Marvin and friends at the Point Blank wrap party for your enjoyment:…
Posted by Fnarf on December 17, 2013 at 2:12 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 9
I agree he was probably an asshole to be around in person, especially if he was drunk and PTSD all the time. But he was a damned good actor who could believably play a tough guy well into old age without the benefit of a steroid-enhanced body.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on December 17, 2013 at 2:38 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 10
@8, I love those photos. Funny enough, after reading your complaint the one modern movie actor who sprang to mind is connected to Point Break director John Boorman: his son Charley's mate Ewan McGregor.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on December 17, 2013 at 2:41 PM · Report this
BostonFontSnob 11
@8 What about Denzel?
Posted by BostonFontSnob on December 18, 2013 at 7:24 AM · Report this
The previous work for a Young Adult Publishing house has nothing to do with the Lee Marvin bio. Have any of you even read the Lee Marvin book?
Posted by TheYidkid on January 4, 2014 at 12:39 PM · Report this

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