Lee Marvin: one of the most coolly charismatic and extraordinary screen tough guys ever. Armed with a magnetic personality, a wild temper and major acting talent, he went from playing but parts to starring in classics such as Cat Ballou, The Dirty Dozen and Point Blank, and winning an Academy Award.
Crime Factory celebrates Marvin's life by making him the star of his own fictional adventures. From WWII hospital ships, mishaps in Mexico, the open seas and Oscar night, to on-set stoushes and much more, LEE ranges from the gleefully gonzo to the painfully personal.
Lee by Crime Factory Publishing (featuring stories by Scott Phillips, Heath Lowrance, Johnny Shaw, Jenna Bass, Adrian McKinty, Jake Hinkson, Ray Banks, James Hopwood, Erik Lundy, Eric Beetner, Luke Preston, Nigel Bird, Ryan K. Lindsay, Andrew Nette, Cameron Ashley and Jimmy Callaway) My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"I bet you're a big Lee Marvin fan aren't you? Yeah, me too; I love that guy." - Mr Blonde to Mr White in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.
I was watching Reservoir Dogs the other night and the second I heard that throwaway line again I knew that it was going to open my review to this collection of short stories about Lee Marvin. Sadly on opening the book I discovered that Mike White (not the actor/screenwriter but a different Mike White) had used the same idea for his introduction. Instead I shall quote the character Stillwell from the concluding story by Jimmy Calloway:
"Lee Marvin was always fun to watch, with that look on his face like he knew he could fuck you up if he had to but he'd rather not."
Lee Marvin at the Point Blank Wrap Party
As a prominent figure from recent pop culture history, everyone has their own image of Lee Marvin that is immediately brought to mind when his name is mentioned and it is his iconic status that the wonderful people at Crime Factory Publications (you may remember them from my recent gushing review of Fierce Bitches) have taken advantage of in commissioning this series of stories featuring the larger than life personality himself.
I don't know how much of each of these stories was based on hearsay, extrapolated from minor fact or just plain flights of imagination but the combined effect is that of the telling of fireside tales, of making Marvin in to a mythical being who lived hard, fought hard, drank hard and fucked hard and accepted nothing less from those around him.
All 17 stories are written by a different individual, in a different style and from differing points of view, they combine to tell of a full and crazy life, from 1944 on a hospital ship to 1987 as news of his untimely death by heart attack is heard by a young fan via many interesting, entertaining, bizarre and hardboiled events along the way. As his biographer, Dwayne Epstein, is quoted as saying on the cover, Lee Marvin is smack dab in the centre of the action where he belongs.
There's the time he turned down Jaws, the time he took a bullet for John Ford, the time Andy Warhol gave him PCP laced cigarettes, the time he needed a really big gun for shooting Point Blank, the time he hit someone, the other time he hit someone, the building he burned to the ground, the time he was arrested, the other time he was arrested, the time at the Oscars, the thing with Warren Beatty, the time with the boiling hot coffee, the time when he stole a car, but sadly no moment when Warren Oates could turn up and out crazy him.
It seems like every individual involved with creating this collection has a real affection for Marvin and that transfers to the stories told even when he's a painted as a total bastard. I had a blast from start to finish, making the decision not to get out of bed until the book was read, there goes Tuesday, and would highly recommend this collection to fans of film noir, noir fiction, Lee Marvin and jokes about Englishman, Welshman and Americans waiting to use a toilet. So get on over to Crime Factory and order your own copy of this excellent short story collection without hesitation.
Need more Marvin? Here's a Top 10 List to keep the fun coming.
I miss the Tough Guys. Cinema Tough Guys, I'm talking about. Guys like Robert Mitchum, Charles Bronson, Jack Palance, those kind of guys. Big, ugly guys with gnarly hands and slightly constipated expressions. I don't think we have those guys anymore. We have the Action Stars like Stallone and Schwarzenegger, and they are fine for what they do, but big muscles don't necessarily make a guy tough. Chuck Norris? You'd think, but let's face it. No real Tough Guy is going to be caught dead doing infomercials for some crappy piece of exercise equipment. I like Bruce Willis okay, but I don't think he is necessarily in the same category. Jason Statham? He's more of a kicking/punching/driving automaton than an actor. Again, fine for what he does, but he does not meet the qualifications.
But worse we now have former male strippers named "Channing" running around with guns. Something's gotta be off.
I think the days of the Cinema Tough Guy are quickly passing. Gone are the days of quiet men with hard looks who couldn't give a rat's ass about shaving their chests or having perfectly coiffed hair (and they'd never use the word "coif" anyway). They had tired faces from uncompromising lives. Like Danny Trejo in Machete, Cinema Tough Guys don't text. They took their bourbons neat and their women with a twist of lime, and I don't exactly know what that means but neither do Cinema Tough Guys and they don't give a damn. They may have been emotionally unavailable, but they were pretty busy, you know, kicking asses and taking names.
You can keep your Channings, Hollywood. I'll stick with Lee.
Lee is an anthology of short stories featuring the generalissimo of Cinema Tough Guys, Lee Marvin as the main character, and follows the basic chronology of his life, from his time on a hospital ship coming back from WWII after being shot in the ass to his death in 1987. Coming from a variety of authors, the stories are fun ways to imagine the life of Lee Marvin, not just the characters he played but the man himself. Some of the stories feature hilarious takes on other contemporary Hollywood notables, some are hard-boiled crime pieces that build on our collective imagination of Lee Marvin's tough guy image. Obviously, these stories are fiction. I'm pretty sure Lee Marvin never robbed a guy, and I tend to think that in reality he was probably a little tamer than these stories present, but that's what makes them so fun. In fact, I finished this collection in just a day or so, reading during every spare moment because it's such a fun bunch of stories, but had to take some time to get my thoughts together to write a fitting review, as well as watch some Lee Marvin flicks on the way.
And Lee Marvin wasn't just some dude pretending to be a tough guy on screen. He had a face like a pissed-off hound dog and a voice like rumbling thunder on the horizon. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during WWII and returned wounded, got a job as a plumber's assistant but then broke into acting. Lee Marvin was progressive for his time, speaking out for gay rights in a Playboy interview and opposed the war in Vietnam, and you have to consider he must have been a tough guy to own up to his own views in a relatively conservative America. But Marvin had a toughness that one could feel, just through his attitude, even without knowing his background. He had that calm, quiet confidence. You knew this guy was no joke. While he became a success it never seemed to go to his head and wasn't always keen on the business itself: "You spend the first forty years of your life trying to get in this fucking business, and the next forty years trying to get out. And when you're making the bread, who needs it?"
Lee is a fitting tribute to the man and fun contribution to the legend. Yeah, Lee Marvin. I love that guy.
[Many thanks go to Tfitoby, who recommended this one to me.]
I first became aware of Lee Marvin when my family got their first TV set during the run of his series M SQUAD. I was eight or nine and didn't know from movies. I likely saw him in a movie or two during that period, but they didn't stick. It was after those years when I began to be aware of the movie star Lee Marvin.
He stood out in anything he did in those years whether he was the big star of the picture or third or fourth lead.
LEE is a collection of short stories celebrating the actor all through his life from injuries during WWII to his death and everything in between. These stories are fiction, but all are based around real events in the actor's life. Some fine writers and great stories. The collection opens with a fine introduction by Mike White and I knocked it out in two chunks. Here is the list of titles and contributers.
1944: Hospital Ship - Adrian McKinty
1954: Out On The 101 - Jake Hinson
1959: An Evening At Droopy's - Scott Philips
1961: The Man Who Shot The Duke - Heath Lowrance
1963: Trust - James Hopwood
1964: A Sort of Intellectual - Jenna Bass
1966: Just Swell - Cameron Ashley
Interlude: Another Day In The Sun - Erik Lundy
1967: The Gun Hunter - Eric Beetner
1968: The Wandrin' Star -Ray Banks
1968: Gone Fishing - Andrew Nette
1972: Down Mexico Way -Luke Preston
1973: North of The Emperor - Nigel Bird
1976: The Wild Coast: Roger Smith
1980: The Big Red One - Johnny Shaw
1986: And The Gunslinger Followed -Ryan K. Lindsay
1987: Epilogue:-Lee Marvin Is Dead - Jimmy Calloway
I had a hell of a good time reading this. So many great writers - so many terrific stories set at various points in the legendary actor Lee Marvin's career. Some are better than others. Others are some of the best written stories any genre has to offer.
I enjoyed Andrew Nette's "1968: Gone Fishing" - brilliant stuff. Earlier I read a terrific Eric Beetner story, "1967: The Gun Hunter" - a fable that takes place during the filming of POINT BLANK.
Typically brilliant Scott Phillips stuff ("1959: An Evening At Droopy's") and Jake Hinkson's "1954: Out On 101" -one of my ultimate favorites but probably because I'm such a fool for the film SHACK OUT ON 101.
The absolute two best stories in this collection in my opinion? A toss between Cameron Ashley's "1966: Just Swell" (set at the 1966 Academy Awards ceremony where Lee Marvin got an Oscar for CAT BALLOU) and Jenna Bass's "1964: A Sort Of Intellectual" (set during the filming of SHIP OF FOOLS and told from the point of view of the diminutive actor Michael Dunn). Both stories are powerful and really connect. A weaker reader would have dropped to his knees after reading either of these two.
5 Stars! Every Lee Marvin fan should own at least 2 copies.
Thematic short story anthologies rarely have a premise as enticing as Crime Factory’s Lee. Each selection is comprised of loosely biographical fiction or out right mythmaking inspired by the life of iconic tough guy Lee Marvin. Each story takes place during a different year, and while Marvin led a colorful life, his legend greatly out weighed the biographical information available to draw from.
Some of the stand out stories include: Jake Hinkson’s “Out on the 101” where a war weary Marvin is presented an offer too attractive to refuse -- kill a beautiful woman’s rich abusive husband and reap the benefits. The story displays Hinkson’s knack for delivering a subtle character driven narrative, economically told and riveting to the last word.
In Eric Lundy’s “Another Day in the Sun” a geriatric Marvin is forced into living out his remaining days in a retirement home while his children piss away everything. Needless to say, even in old age Marvin doesn’t take anything without a fight and Lundy brings a vulnerability and wild madcap touch to this story.
Eric Beetner’s “The Gun Hunter” anchors the collection with a prop guy’s tale of the impossible task of finding a gun big enough to satisfy Marvin for his role in Point Blank. Unhappy with the results Marvin forces the prop guy to join him on a quixotic trek into the underbelly of Mexico resulting in a perfectly paced farce.
The only downside to the collection is the inorganic feel of a few of the stories, which follow a familiar rhythm: the sauced Marvin’s irritation builds until he explodes, famous names and films are dropped as the legend lives on. Regardless, the stories are always entertaining and after reading it watching a Lee Marvin movie will never be the same experience.
Loved this idea when I first heard about it - a set of fictional adventures for a real-life movie star. And one that even I've heard of!
Making a man like Lee Marvin star in these adventures obviously means that these are going to be noir stories, hard-boiled as a rock, with a dark sense of humour in some cases. Based, it seems, on events from his real life, the stories range through a varied set of scenarios, timeframes and locations, although there is a propensity for hard-drinking and dedicated womanising to show up frequently.
A collection that is obviously going to work better for fans of Marvin, it also worked well for this reader - whose knowledge of the man himself is sketchy at best. Alternatively, if you are a fan of darker, noir styled story telling, this is a clever concept that's executed very elegantly.
I had a lot of good laughs reading this collection of Bunyanesque tall tales (some taller than others) that re-imagine the life of gravelly hard man Lee Marvin. I consider myself a film buff too, but I didn't know about a lot of the things he did in his career -- and some of the reminders were flicks I hadn't thought about forever. So that made it a fun trip too.
Another special aspect was the way authors from all around the world -- Australia, the U.S., South Africa, etc. -- were able to utilize Marvin's career to work with juicy settings where they could really go to town.