Notes on a Call Sheet

Lee Marvin

February 28, 2016

If one were to ask me why I cannot get excited about Mark Wahlberg or Matt Damon as leads in films, my answer would be Lee Marvin. Lee made an indelible impression in the early days on television appearing in M Squad and The Twilight Zone and in films like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, The Professionals, The Dirty Dozen, Point Blank and The Big Red One. He was a man doing a man's job. I'll never forget the way he delivered his final line of dialogue in Don Siegel's 1964 remake of The Killers with Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes and, yes, Ronald Reagan: Lady, I haven't got the time.

I did time on the set of Paint Your Wagon directed by Joshua Logan starring Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood at Producers Studios (now Raleigh Studios) on Melrose Avenue. We filmed a barroom scene for about a week on a stage filled with movie smoke from pots of burning beeswax to create the saloon atmosphere. Everyone had to learn the words to the song Gold Fever and sing it--for a week. Though Jean Seberg was in the movie, I had no idea at the time who she was and I don't know if she was even on the set. I do remember Clint Eastwood as being quiet and keeping to himself taking occasional strolls to get out of his trailer when he wasn't shooting.

What I remember best is Lee Marvin. Whether he thought of Paint Your Wagon as much more than a pay day or sensed that it would come to be seen by some as one of the worst musicals ever made, we may never know. It did get him a hit song--Wand'rin' Star--which he sang in the film. Paint Your Wagon was the sixth largest success for Paramount at the time but failed to recoup its cost. In any case, Lee was not happy during the shoot and spent most of his time across the street in a dive called The Playboy. Whenever he was needed to shoot a scene, the assistant director would run across Melrose Avenue and, eventually, return with Lee Marvin in tow who would then turn in a great, effortless performance and retire, once again, to The Playboy.

On the last day of shooting, we were on golden time and near the very end of it, Josh Logan had had his fill and left the set to join Lee at The Playboy. The final shots were handled by the assistant director. After that, the production moved on to Oregon. I stayed in Los Angeles.

All I can say is that Lee Marvin made a bigger impact just walking across Melrose Avenue than many of today's actors do in their performances on the big screen. I'll leave you with this quote from Lee that I cleaned up a bit:

"You spend the first forty years of your life trying to get in this business, and the next forty years trying to get out."

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