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Lee Marvin (1924-1987)

  1. Gene Barry, The War of the Worlds, 1952.   Long story… CB DeMille was to make the film in 1925 and  Alfred Hitchcock in the 30s. But despite (or because of)  the fame of his 1938 radio sensation, Orson Welles was not Interested in making any screen version.  Twenty years later,  DeMille hired producer George Pal (man behiind the 50s’ Destination Moon, When Worlds Collide)  and director Byron Haskin (Disney’s 1949 Treasure Island) to film  the 1897 HG Wells  book. Marvn was offered the lead but Barry was playing Dr Clayton Forrester when  shooting stopped after two days… when it was  discopvered gthat Paramount’s rights, dating back to 1924, were for a silent movie!!    Urgent calls sorted that mess out with the Wells Estate - which loved the film so much they offered Pal any other of Wells' 30s’ output. He chose, of course, The Time Machine, 1959. . Barry and co-star Ann Robinson played the kids’ grandparents in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 remake.  (A waste of everyone’s time). Robinson was a great publiicty coup as  the sole member of the ‘52 cast to appear (in her old role)  in the 1988-1980 series… which started life as a cinema re-make by Night of the Living Dead director, George A Romero.

  2. Rod Steiger, Oklahoma, 1954.    He saw both but director Fred Zinnemann wanted actors rather than singers...  Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Paul Newman, Dale Robertson, Robert Stack, plus singers Vic Damone and   Howard Keel, as Curly… Ann Blyth, Ailene Roberts, Eva Marie Saint, Joanne Woodward(and singers: Kathryn Grayson, Jane Powell… or even Piper Laurie for Laurey… and Marvin, Steiger, Ernest Borgnine, Marlon Brando, Eli Wallach for poor Jud Fry,  “a bullet-coloured, growly man,” as Curly called him. However, the musical’s parents had casting approval - Rodgers and Hammerstein agreed only on Steiger. Marvin had to wait a further 14 years before singing on-screen - in  Paint Your Wagon. And immediately won a gold record for his #1 single, Wand’rin’ Star.

  3. Walter Brennan, Rio Bravo, 1958.
  4. Ricky Nelson, Rio Bravo, 1958.

  5. John Wayne, The Longest Day, 1961.      His MCA agent passed on Duke’s  role…  Producer Darryl F Zanuck praised Wayne for accepting a cameo “even after he knew the same role had been turned down by another star who considered it ‘insignificant’. ”
  6. Chuck Connors,  Synanon, 1964.       History of Santa Monica’s Synanon House, the first rehab centre for US drug addicts. (AA wouldn’t touch them).  Well-meaning but it didn’t inhale. Marvin called himself a dog-assed heavy, one  of the posse … “with a sagging mouth, makes me look like an idiot -  because  I can’t breathe through my nose.”  (Well, no wonder he played Slob in Shack Out On 101, 1955). Randolph Scott and Jack Webb pushed Marvin.  “This kid’s good. You should give him more lyrics.”  Just as Marvin would boost the careers of Richard Boone, James Coburn, Pernell Roberts, Stuart Whitman,
  7. Burt Lancaster, The Hallelujah Trail, 1964.       “I was a troubleshooter.  If they didn’t know what to do with a role, they’d say: We’ll give it to Lee Marvin. He’ll do something without overpowering the stars.”  Not this time. He passed - easily -  on the veteran US Cavalry colonel in an over-the-top and unfunny comedy. Whiskey Galore Goes West
  8. James Coburn, Major Dundee, 1964.      Coburn and Sam Peckinpah went on to make two more films together. In the 50s, New York Times  critic Vincent Canby dubbed Marvin: The Merchant of Menace.
  9. Clint Eastwood, Per un pugno di dollari/For  A Fistful of Dollars,  Italy-Spain-Germany, 1964.       After Henry Fonda (actually, his agent) refused the Euro-pudding from, well, an unknown  Euro-pudding. Marvin followed suit and passed on  what became The Men With No Name  - a different character per movie: Anonymous, Manco  (Joe for US), and Blondie.
  10. Lee Van Cleef, Per qualche dolllaro in piu/For A Few Dollars More, Italy-Germany-Spain-Monaco, 1964.       Never too happy about mixing spaghetti with pork ’n’ beans. Marvin quit for Cat Ballou (and as things turned out, an Oscar).  Leaving poor Sergio Leone three days to find a new Colonel Mortimer.  Studying the Academy Players Directory on the plane to LA, Sergioi’s  eye fell upon a familiar face  “with the nose of an eagle,  the eyes of Van Gogh… and a  Sicilian haircut.  I remembered him from Bravados and High Noon.”  Yet Van Cleef proved a  forgotten man in Hollywood. No one knew who or where he was. “Finally his old agent phoned me…Lee had been in hospital after breaking nearly all his bones in a car crash- and stayed long enough to get off the booze. He’d given up movies  for painting with little success.” He met with Leone. He offered $15,000. Lee took it.  And the  next plane together to Rome.  That’s where he first read the script  (“it’s Shakespearean!”)  “We touched down at noon, arrived at Cinecitta at 1pm and by 2.15pm he was doing his first scene.”

  11. Lee Van Cleef, Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo/The Good,  The Bad and The Ugly, Italy-Spain, 1966.       A week before shooting, Marvin won his Cat Ballou Oscar and pulled out. Leone then tried Bronson rather than the other Lee, fearing that his audience would not accept the last film’s Colonel as  a villain. Van Cleef insisted he was a faster draw than Clint: taking one eighth of a second to draw, cock and fire.
  12. John Forsythe, In Cold Blood,  1966.        Liked the script (almost as good as Truman Capote’s remarkable book), but…
  13. Marlon Brando, Reflections In A Golden Eye, 1967.        Following the death of Montgomery Clift, director John Huston suggested Richard Burton, Lee Marvin or Broadway star Patrick O'Neal for the gay Major Penderton. Elizabeth Taylor said “No Brando, no film!” And  Marlon felt he owed it to  Clift. And so, Brando taught De Niro how to talk to a mirror.  
  14. George C Scott, Petulia, 1967.    If you want to know about the American 60s, look no further than this anti-materialism tract.… When Richard Lester inerited it from Robert Altman (the Warner suits felt they couldn’t control him!), he wanted Marvin, not Altman’s Henry Fonda, much less the suits’ Scott as the recently divorced medico starting a semi-affair with Julie Christie - and not taking the lovelykook seriously until she’s beaten up by husband Richard Chamberlain. Just a few years back and Marvin would have been favourite for the brutal husband!
  15. William Holden, The Wild Bunch, 1968.
  16. Clint Eastwood, Where Eagles Dare,1968.    Schaffer and Major Smith were aimed at Marvin and Michael Caine and Lee Marvin until Richad Burton’s step-son wanted to see him in a full blown adventure. And Burton needed a box-office hit. This as his last big winner (due to his co-star). The first of my many interviews with Clint was on the Elstree set of what he called: Where Doubles Dare.  Marvin was Eastwood’s co-star in Paint Your Wagon,1969, and Burton’s in  The Klansman, 1974.
  17. George C Scott, Patton, 1969.
  18. Clint Eastwood, Two Mules for Sister Sara, 1969.       One-of-a-kind-director Budd Boetticher wrote it for Marvin, who  passed it to Mitchum, who passed it to John Wayne who… Well, having been offered it by potential co-star  Elizabeth Taylor as he made Where Eagles Dare with Richard Burton, Clint took over the cowpoke suddenly saddled with, Silvia Pinal, Deborah Kerr or even Taylor (too pricey!) as a nun… who, as naturally as night follows day, proves to be a hooker in disguise. 
  19. Ernest Borgnine, Bunny O’Hara. 1970.        Wanted - a crook.  To teach Bette Davis how to  commit “social revenge” bank robberies. She wanted Marvin. She got another Dirty Dozen star. Any one them would have been fine. None could have saved this clinker.

  20. Jack Elam, Cat Ballou, TV, 1971.          “You don’t  make TV shows for fun -  you  make them for money.”  Yet Marvin was hardly going to take the shine  off his Oscar to reprise his drunken gunslinger Kid Sheleen in this particularly weak pilot at NBC... 
  21. Forrest Tucker, Cat Ballou, TV, 1971.         ... nor this weaker one as NBC surprisingly wasted money on two pilots (Jane Fonda’s role going, in turn,  to  Lesley Ann Warren and Jo Ann Harris). Neither pilot flew. How could they sans Marvin? Besides, he’d finished with TV in 1960, following 117 episodes and four years as Chicago PD cop Frank Ballinger in M Squad.

  22. Omar Sharif, Le Casse/The Burglars, France-Italy, 1971.        Realisateur Henri Verneuil wanted an international name for the corrupt cop Stork. Marvin refused -  taking none too kindly to a French re-make of an David Goodis script, The Burglar, 1957.  Once, the director switched locales from Hamburg to Greece,  "Omar Sharif was perfect." (He later played Verneuil's father in the director’s  autobiographical  films,  Mayrig and  588 rue Paradis, 1991).
  23. Gene Hackman, The French Connection, 1971.    Marvin’s name came up because the first draft was by Alexander Jacob, who wrote Marvin’s 1966 Point Blank classic. But Lee didn’t like cops, even though (or because?) he owed his career to playing one, Chicago PD’s Frank Ballinger, in TV’s M Squad, 1957-1960. Other suggestions for the NYPD cop ‘Popeye’ Doyle were writer Jimmy Breslin, Charles Bronson, Jackie Geason, Steve McQueen, Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Rod Taylor… and, cheapest of all, the Fox Batman, Adam West. Holy moley!!!!  
  24. Burt Reynolds, Deliverance, 1971.      “We're too old,” said Lee when UK director John Boorman mused about Marvin and Brando as Ed and Lewis.,Jack Nicholson agreed to Ed if Boorman could keep Marlon aboard.  Trouble was, Brando now despised acting, “nothing more than mimicry - a bunch of tricks.”  Even so, he agreed. “I”ll take whatever you pay Jack.” That represented half the $2m budget. After musing on Warren Beatty, Lee Marvin ,James Stewart, the Warner suits told UK director John Boorman: “Make it with nobodies for no money.”
  25. Paul Newman,  The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, 1972.       When John Milius hoped to direct his own scenario. Time critic Jay Cocks said hearing Marvin talk “was like listening to Dizzy Gillespie play.”
  26. Elliott Gould, The Long Goodbye,  1973.       Philip Marlowe according to director Peter Bogdanovich…. Howard Hawks had wanted Robert Mitchum. Brian Hutton suggested Gould. Then, Robert Altman took it over and agreed. His M*A*S*H star needed a comeback, after all. Said Gould: “I love Robert Mitchum and I love Lee Marvin. I couldn’t argue with them. But you’ve seen them and you haven’t seen me.”
  27. Charlton Heston, Earthquake, 1974.       Charley Hero (Roddy McDowell’s name for Heston)  wanted to wear a suit for once… 
  28. Robert Shaw, Jaws, 1974.       
  29. Robert Mitchum, The Yakuka, 1974.      Clint Eastwood passed and helmer Robert Aldrich switched to Marvin, then Mitchum (who had passed Cat Balou to Marvin). Mitchum froze Aldrich out in favour of...  oh, anybody else, man.
  30. Rod Steiger, Wolf Lake, 1978.       Missing this post-Vietnam  drama was a shame. Auteur Burt Kennedy had budgetry problems. By the time, he managed a cheap Mexican shoot ($970,000), Marvin had moved on and Steiger moved in. 

  31. Bill Fraser, Doctor Who #110: Meglos, TV, 1980.
    Lee Marvin v Doctor Who… The mind boggles! But co-writer John Flanagan had the mighty Marvin in his head when creating General Grugger - and was staggeed when new producer John Nathan-Taylor showed his love of sit-coms by choosing a sitcom clown. Akin to subbing Marvin with Phil Silvers. Some thought was also given to Harry Andrews, Bernard Archard, Brian Blessed, Peter Cushing, James Ellis, Ronald Fraser, Peter Gilmore, brothers Donald andf Glyn Houston, Stratford Johns, TP McKenna, Donald Pleasence, Leonard Sachs, George Sewell, Nigel Stock, John Stratton, Richard Todd, Peter Vaughan, Frank Windsor, Peter Wyngarde… familiar names on Nathan-Taylor’s casting (or dart) board throughout his eclectic and scandalous 80s reign.   

  32. John Terry, Excalibur, 1981.      UK director John Boorman’s first choice for King Arthur in 1975 was the star of his Point  Blank, 1967, and  Hell in the Pacific, 1968. 

  33. Brian Dennehy, First Blood (Rambo),1981.

  34. Richard Crenna, First Blood (Rambo), 1981.


  35. Robert Mitchum, That Championship Season, 1982.        Cannon’s much ridiculed Go-Go Boys, Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, couldn’t snare Marvin for the basketball coach. But they did produce his 107th and final screen role in The Delta Force, 1985. He died, at 63, two years later in Arizona.
  36. Jon Voight, The Runaway Train, 1984.         Akira Kurosawa wanted Marvin - of course, he did, after seeing him with the Kurosawa-made star,  Toshiro Mifune, in John Boorman’s Hell in the Pacific, 1967. Here, the role was an escaped convict aboard a fast moving train… without a driver. Due in 1970 as the Japanese auteur’s first US film, the project was canceled due to heavy snowstorms (and budget hassles) in the upstate New York. Cannon wisely invited Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky aboard - and really shook  up the 1986 Cannes festival.
  37. James Woods, Salvador, 1985. Oliver Stone first wanted Marlon Brando for  photo-journo Richard Boyle. No? OK, Marvin or Paul Newman. The auteur then signed Martin Sheen - until Woods, already booked as Dr Rock, Boyle’s dee-jay pal, pushed for the lead. "Such a great role, this man with all his shortcomings and vices... ultimately interested in finding the truth." So began the endless Woods-Stone love affair: Nixon, Any Given Sunday, Indictment: The McMartin Trialand Killer: A Journal of Murder.  Stone won Sheen back as Charlie Sheen’s father in Wall Street, 1987.
  38. Burgess Meredith,  King Lear, 1986.        Israeli producer Menahem Golan’s suggestion to the bilious realisateur Jean-Luc Godard after working with Lee. But the Israeli producer’s Delta Force, 1986, proved to be Marvin’s last hurrah, with, alas, very little to hurrah about. Orson Welles and Ingmar Bergman refused offers to be the interlocutor (well, Bergman never replied); then, Godard offered the same job - and  $500,000 - to Richard M Nixon.
  39. Mickey Rourke, A Prayer for the Dying, 1986.  An almost obscene exploitation of the Northern Irish situation, said Chicago critic Roger Ebert. “This is a plot worthy of Batman.”The 70s’ plan was to shoot Jack Higgins’ book where it happened - in Leeds, UK. With Edward Dmytryk directing Lee Marvin or Robert Mitchum as IRA hitman Martin Fallon.   Rourke’s helmer was the 1970 Get Carter man, Mike Hodges. Tony Earnshaw’s Made in Yorkshire book has photos of Marvin and Dmytryk selecting location sites in Leeds. . (Rourke had a role in the 1999 LA re-hash of Carter, when the star, Sylvester Stallone, agreed to pay up if the “difficult” Rourke caused any delays; he didn’t which is why the same Franchise Pictures hired him opposite Jack Nicholson in The Pledge, 2000).
  40. Mitchell Ryan, Lethal Weapon, 1986.     There were 39 possibles for Mel Gibson’s suicidal cop.  Just seven  seeking promotion to General McAllister:”  Ryan, Marvin, Peter Boyle, Bruce Dern, Robert Duvall, James Earl Jones and Richard Jordan.

  41. Christopher Lloyd, Track 29, 1987.         Having befriended Dennis Potter during Gorky Park in 1983,  Marvin knew all about the UK writer’s next script and was eager to head Joseph Losey’s first film in the US  America for 37 years. However, financing collapsed and Losey died in 1984. Nic Roeg made it as the second of his seven movies with his wife, Theresa Russell.
  42. Telly Savalas. The Dirty Dozen: The Deadlty Mission, TV, 1987.  The first Dozentele-film, Next Mission, 1985, was the only sequel Marvin ever made. Ill-healt prevented him reprising Major Reisman  in this second TVenture and he died at 56, following a heart attack five months after the broadcast. Telly Savalas, among the original 1966 Dozen as the well-named Maggot,  was promoted to Major Wright here and  in the final, Fatal Mission,1968.
  43. Tommy Lee Jones, April Morning, TV, 1988.       While consecutively making  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Donovan’s Reef, 1961 and 1962,  John Ford  talked to Marvin about what should have been  the great director’s finale. Howard Hawks also tried to film Howard Fast’s novel about the morning of  April 19, 1775, when  “ the shot heard ’round the world” started the American Revolutionary war.
  44. Sean Connery, The Presido, 1988. Lee Marvin and Jeff Bridges as two cops with a history  became  Sean Connery and Don Johnson (Miami Vice got in the way) and wound  up as Connery and Harmon...  (Marvin fell ill and died that year).So just three choices for the Army cop but a surprising 18 for the second banana rôle of the detective (including rival biceps Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone) in  what our favourite critic Roger Ebert called “a clone, of a film assembled out of spare parts from… the cinematic junkyard.”
  45. Jan Triska,  Andersonville, TV, 1996.        For the never made 1965 cinema  version, Marvin had been up for the ruthless and possibly insane Confederate Colonel Henry Wirtz, running America’s most infamous  POW  camp. Worse than Guantanamo,  the South’s Andersonville is where 12,912 Union soldiers,  met their deaths through malnutrition and disease.   Wirtz was tried and executed after the Civil War for murder.  (Richard Basehart played Wirtz in an earlier tele-film, The Andersonville Trial, 1970). 

 

 





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