Lee Marvin: Point Blank – Interview with Author Dwayne Epstein – Part Two

If you have not read part one of my interview with Dwayne Epstein, author of the new biography Lee Marvin: Point Blank, just click right here and you would be directed right to it. The book is available at Barnes and NobleAmazon and bookstores everywhere. In part two we discuss “The Dirty Dozen,” “The Killers,” Robert Aldrich, Angie Dickinson, The Inglorious  Bastard Sons Lee Marvin and much more.

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John: Let’s jump over to John Wayne. They made three films together; two of course were with John Ford. How did they get along?

Dwayne: Oh, they got along very good, they liked each other. In terms of their persona and screen chemistry, Lee Marvin’s first wife told me something great. That if you watch them on screen, “they both do what they do, they have their own thing, but,” she said, “John Wayne was like a big old bear, the way he appeared on screen, and the way he acted. Lee was more like a panther; he was sleek, he could pounce on a moment’s notice with coiled energy and with that in mind they kind of danced around each other and they had that great chemistry.” I like that image of them, one’s a bear and one’s a panther. They got along great. They really liked each other. There’s a story that didn’t make it into the book that I can tell you real quick. This was told to me by Kennan Wynn’s son, Ned Wynn or Tracy Wynn, I don’t remember which one because I interviewed them both. Anyway, Kennan Wynn was Lee Marvin’s best friend. When he was between films and not having a project lined up; he would drink and he and Kennan Wynn were drinking buddies. I believe it was Tracy who told me that that generation of men were pretty tough and he said, “John Wayne was probably the toughest of them all. My father and Lee got drunk and went down to Mexico and partied on John Wayne’s yacht and John Wayne took it to a point and then said, ‘that’s it’ and threw them off the yacht and into the Gulf of Mexico.” He only took crap from them up to a point. Continue reading

Interview With Author David Koenig

David Koenig’s new book Danny Kaye:King of Jesters is the first full scale backstage look and critical analysis of Danny Kaye’s life and career. A multi talented performer, Koenig devotes individual chapters to each area of Kaye’s career from his early days in the Catskills to his later work on stage, radio, TV and in movies. Koenig gives full detailed accounts, many directly from those who knew and worked with Kaye, along with backstage stories on the making of his greatest roles including “The Court Jester,” “White Christmas” and many others.

Koenig’s also looks at Kaye’s relationship, both private and professional, with his wife Sylvia Fine who wrote many of Kaye’s best known songs (Pavlova, Anatole of Paris) as well his lifelong commitment as an Ambassador for UNICEF.

Those looking for a detailed biography might be disappointed but that was not the author’s intent. Instead Koenig shines a light on the many talents of an almost forgotten Hollywood figure today. Comedian, singer, dramatic actor, dancer, mimic and orchestra leader unique for his rapid fire ability to speak and sing wordy twisted dialogue and lyrics.

David Koenig is the author of such best sellers as “Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland,” “Mouse Under Glass:  Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks,” and “Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World.” David is also the chief editor for the business journal “The Merchant Magazine.” Continue reading

Interview with Stunt Double Martha Crawford Cantarini – Part Two

Martha and Mae

This is part two of my interivew with Stunt Double Martha Crawford Cantarini whose book “Fall Girl: My Life as a Western Stunt Double” is available from McFarland Books via their website, just click here or order by phone at 1-800-253-2187. If you have not read part one of the interview you can find it right here.

Except for the Love Me Tender shot, all photos are from the personal collection of Martha Crawford Cantarini, my deepest thanks for sharing.

John: Would you tell us a little about your mother?

Martha: My mother was gorgeous. All the polo fans would walk right by the likes of Rita Hayworth, Joan Bennett, etc and ask my mother for her autograph. She would replay, “yes of course, but I am nobody”. They would say, “you MUST be.” Her picture on page 63 of my book was taken at Paramount. Frank

Martha’s mother – Sharon

Borzage was a big director at Paramount and one of the polo players, he was the first director to receive an Academy Award, arranged for a test. She had done quite a bit of ‘little theater’ work. She photographed like a glamorous Claudette and poor Claudette could not stand that. She was big enough to stop her at Paramount. Sam Woods, the producer, wanted to put her under personal contract to him for a Broadway show that ran for many years but she turned it down preferring to be a full time mother. Mother and Carl were both show stoppers. Every time we went out Carl was asked for his autograph. They thought he was Richard Dix time after time after time. It was cute once at a party  when Bing Crosby introduced himself to Carl . . . as if he needed an intro! He said, he had always wanted to meet him.

At the Uplifter’s Club. On the right is Charlie Farrell, Martha’s mother Sharon is in the center followed by Walt Disney, Mrs. Disney and director Frank Borzage.

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Interview with Stunt Double Martha Crawford Cantarini – Part One

In the early days of films, actors did their own stunts; stars like Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were well known for their abilities to perform daring acts of bravado to thrill audiences. As time went on, the studios realized they had expensive investments in their stars and began to use stunt doubles to perform the most dangerous stunts. Still, they did not tell the naive public it was not their favorite movie star falling out of widows, rolling down hills, riding runaway stagecoaches and jumping through fires, they let the illusion remain.  Today, of course we all know about stunt men and women, they are even given screen credit at the end of the film unlike years ago when they remained anonymous. Many home videos today include extras focusing on stunts and how they were created. Though many of the movies today have become more infantile filled with actions and little else these days, audiences are much more sophisticated when it comes to stunts and how films are made.

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Interview with Author Chrystopher J. Spicer

Chrystopher Spicer’s new book “Clark Gable in Pictures” is more than a series of photographs as the title may suggest. What the author gives us is an engaging and fascinating opportunity to peak into what seems like part family album and part behind the scenes look at the man who was known as the “King of Hollywood.”  Many are published here for the first time giving us a rare inside look into the private life of a public figure and iconic golden age movie star. On its own the book is an informative read and look at different  phases of Gable’s life; it is also a nice supplement to Spicer’s full length 2002 book, “Clark Gable: Biography, Filmography, Bibliography,” also published by McFarland Books.

Many of the photographs are extremely rare, including the only known photograph of Gable’s mother, Addie. The photos are divided into sections reflecting different periods of the actor’s life. His Early Life, Acting Life, Military Life, Social Life, Recreation Life and Married Life are all given a separate chapter. Each photo is followed by detailed background information that makes even some of the seemingly mundane photos come to life and make us take a second look in a new light.

The author provides a personal and candid look at Gable’s childhood, growing up, his early days as an actor, his love of race cars, fishing, hunting with friends, his time in the military, hanging out with other stars and his family life with wives and children. Many of the photos, in fact most, are not professionally shot but snapshots taken by friends and family. It all adds up to an absorbing portrait in pictures and words of one of Hollywood’s greatest legends.

The book is published by McFarland Books and is available via their website, just click here or call 800-253-2187.

Below is my recent interview with the author. Continue reading

Talking Vertigo with Author Patrick McGilligan

This interview originally appeared as a contribution to The Lady Eve’s Reel Life marathon, A MONTH OF VERTIGO which for any Hitchcock admirer is a must to check out. Just click right here! The month-long event had a spectacular list of contributors from such writers as Steven DeRosa author of WRITING WITH HITCHCOCK and Dan Auiler author of VERTIGO: THE MAKING OF A HITCHCOCK CLASSIC. In addition there are a whole list of contributions from some very fine bloggers covering just about every aspect of the film.

Biographer Patrick McGilligan, author of Alfred-Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light  graciously agreed to answer some questions I posed on this Hitchcock masterpiece. This is my second interview with Patrick. We previously discussed his latest book, Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director. You can read that interview by clicking here.

Finally, I want to congratulate Lady Eve on a spectacular job with A MONTH OF VERTIGO, an event I was proud to be part of. Continue reading

Interview with Author Peter L. Winkler Part Two

This is part two of my conversation with author Peter L. Winkler whose new book, “Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel” is now available. The book brings you inside the world of one of cinema’s most beguiling characters. For part one of this interview click here.

John: And that leads to “The Last Movie” which I guess there could have been a good movie there, I have not seen it, but it seems to be just a film where Hopper was just out of control. I know it won an award at the Venice Film Festival but it just got ravaged by every critic at the time.

Peter: Dear reader, I have suffered for you, you need not suffer, I have seen the film three times so you don’t have to!

John: (laughing)

Peter: Universal actually put out a VHS video tape of “The Last Movie” in 1993, unfortunately, not letterboxed but panned and scanned. You can find used copies at Amazon.com if you’re interested. The movie’s flaws were not the result of Hopper’s alcohol and drug consumption. The script for “The Last Movie” was written in 1965 by Hopper’s friend, Stewart Stern, based on an idea Hopper had. It was going to be Hopper’s first directorial effort before “Easy Rider,” but in 1965 nobody was interested in anything Hopper had to say or offer as a project. As he said, “I was looked on as a maniac and an idiot and a fool and a drunkard,” so it had to wait until after “Easy Rider.” After “Easy Rider,” Hopper had the clout to get the film made. As long as he stayed on schedule and within the budget, Universal Pictures gave Hopper creative carte blanche. He even had control over the final cut. Away from Hollywood, away from any executive supervision, Hopper was able to do what he planned to do on “Easy Rider” but wasn’t allowed to. He went down to Peru and the first thing he did was practically throw away Stern’s script. Hopper improvised the film’s action and dialogue on location. Hopper came to the set every day, the script suggested some ideas, from that he would come up with his own. If something occurred to him on the spot they would shoot it. But I don’t think there was, surprisingly, a lack of discipline, because the movie was shot in about three months, and it was made within budget, which was about $850,000. I don’t think Hopper’s creative decisions were adversely affected by his drug intake. Brooke Hayward said, “Dennis is a demonic artist, like Rimbaud. Nothing matters but his work.” Paul Lewis, who produced “The Last Movie,” said, “We weren’t doing anything that interfered with what we thought was our work. So, like, you know, it was always the work. The work was the most important thing, and the drugs and the alcohol and all those things are secondary to it.” Hopper made exactly the film he wanted to make. Hopper improvised and gave the film a non-linear structure in the editing room, along with cinematic devices like starting the film with a countdown leader and inserting title cards saying “Scene Missing,” which rubbed the viewer’s nose in the fact that it’s a movie, everything’s artificial, nothing in a film is real, you’re watching actors, you’re not watching characters, which of course robs the viewer of any sense of involvement with the characters in the film. This was the one film he directed where he got to do exactly what he wanted to do. If the film is ever released on DVD, it should be of interest to people who are interested in Hopper’s career because here, if you will, is the pure Hopper. Continue reading

Interview with Author Peter L. Winkler – Part One

Peter L. Winkler’s new biography, “Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel” is just that, a wild, informative, thrilling, readable ride of an iconic life that was constantly evolving. The book is as colorful as its subject. Peter is a film historian who has written for a variety of publications, including Cinefan, Filmfax, Crimemagazine.com, Playboy, and Video Theater. This is Part One of our phone conversation that took place on October 12th.

John:  Is this your first book?

Peter:  Yes, it is.

John:  Would you tell us a little about your professional background?

Peter:  I attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1974–1978. I graduated in 1978, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in History with academic honors. Then I entered law school, the last refuge for liberal arts majors who don’t know what to do next. The rheumatoid arthritis that afflicted when I was nine years old became much worse, and I was stricken with secondary Sjogren’s Syndrome, which became disabling. I didn’t practice law. I didn’t do much of anything, so I figured, well, you know, I was always a good academic writer, so I thought maybe I had what it took to be a professional writer. I purchased my first computer in 1985, a laptop; I’ve owned nothing but laptops, because it’s hard for me to sit at desks for long periods. I sold the first article I wrote, which was good beginners luck.

John:  Really.

John:  So you did all your own research?

Paul:  I did my own research. I did everything except crank the printing press and bind the pages. I wrote my own dusk jacket copy, procured the blurbs, I did it all, and here it is!

John:  What made you decide on or should I say select Dennis Hopper as a subject?

Peter:  You interviewed Patrick McGilligan, who blurbed my book. In 1997 he gave an interview to a website called Beatrice, which has a lot of very good author interviews archived there, and they asked him the same question. What draws you to a certain subject and he said, “The honest answer is always the contract. There’s a dishonest answer: ‘The subject is personally fascinating and has a deep personal subtext for me . . .’ ” After striking out with a book proposal for a biography of actor Nick Adams, I decided next time out, I am going to find a biographical subject where lack of name recognition is certainly not a problem. Dennis Hopper is an iconic or near iconic figure in film and there should be no problem there. He led a very rich and eventful life which was quite colorful. He was quite the character himself. So I figure it was something I could probably sell, it’s marketable, and it turned out that it was, of course. Continue reading

Interview with Author Patrick McGilligan

Patrick McGilligan is well known to film enthusiasts as the author of the much-admired, and a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 2003, “Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light.” Other celebrated works include “Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast,” and “Cukor: A Double Life,” both New York Times Notable Books. Patrick’s other books include “Clint Eastwood: The Life and Legend,” “Jack’s Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson,” “Robert Altman: Jumping Off the Cliff,” “Tender Comrades, A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist” (coauthor) and most recently, “Oscar Micheaux, The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker. ” His latest book is “Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director.” Mr. McGilligan lives and works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Why the title “The Glorious Failure of an American Director?” I mentioned I was reading your book to a fellow film enthusiast and I felt he left with the impression you saw Ray’s entire career as a failure, which I know you don’t.

IT’S A DELIBERATELY PROVOCATIVE TITLE WITH SEVERAL MEANINGS, LIKE OTHER TITLES OF MINE – LIKE “ROBERT ALTMAN: JUMPING OFF THE CLIFF” (SIMILAR INFERENCE, SUGGESTING ALTMAN COURTS COMMERCIAL SUICIDE BY HIS ARTISTIC STRIVING) OR “FRITZ LANG: THE NATURE OF THE BEAST.”  THE LITERAL MEANING OF A TITLE IS THE LEAST INTERESTING OR RELEVANT FROM MY POINT OF VIEW.  FOR ONE THING, IN THE CASE OF THE RAY BOOK, HIS FILMS OFTEN CONCERN PROTAGONISTS (EVEN JAMES DEAN IN “REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE”) WHO ARE PREOCCUPIED WITH THE QUEST TOWARDS SOME IMPOSSIBLE GOAL.  THEY OFTEN ‘FAIL.’  THEIR GLORY LIES IN TRYING, NOT SUCCEEDING.  AND WHAT ABOUT IRONY IN A TITLE? Continue reading

Interview with Author Douglass K. Daniel

Author Douglass K. Daniel’s new biography, “Tough As Nails: The Life and Films of Richard Brooks” is an absorbing and in depth look at one of America’s most noteworthy filmmakers, of which little has been written about. Mr. Daniel’s book fills in the gap with a wealth of information complete with backstories on each of Brooks films as well as interviews and anecdotes with family, friends and co-workers.

 

First, I want thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Can you tell us a little about yourself.

Hey, John, it’s good to be a part of Twenty Four Frames!

I’m a journalist by day — I work for the Associated Press in Washington — and I use my off-hours to write about things that interest me, like the movies. I split my childhood between Richmond, Va., and Garden City, Kan., and studied at Kansas State University (B.S.) and later at Ohio University (M.S., Ph.D.). I worked for the AP in the 1980s between college stints. After having taught journalism at both my alma maters, I rejoined the AP in late 2003.

 

This is your third book. You previously wrote about two of journalisms most respected and well-known practitioners, 60 Minutes’ Harry Reasoner and the fictional Lou Grant. What attracted you to write about these two?

 The Lou Grant book was my dissertation for my doctoral degree in mass communication. I wanted to explore the link between movies and journalism, but coming up with a subject was tough. My adviser suggested looking at how the TV series “Lou Grant” depicted journalism during its five-year run, 1977-1982, to an audience of 15 million to 20 million each week.

The Harry Reasoner book was a project I undertook while teaching at Kansas State. I continued working on it at Ohio University and finally saw it to publication in 2007. Reasoner was a significant subject because of his prominence in TV journalism; little had been written about him. Continue reading