Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dwayne Epstein's biography on LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK and the Military Connection . . .

Christal Cooper

Cooper’s Scripted Interview
With Dwayne Epstein
The Biographer of Lee Marvin:  Point Blank

       I remember Lee Marvin for his roles in two movies Cat Ballou and The Dirty Dozen.  There were two things that struck me the most about him:  his god-like voice and his white angel hair. I’d always known he’d served in the military, which, in my mind, set him apart from being just an actor to a hero who acted. 

       It only seemed fitting that I’d want to read Dwayne Epstein’s biography, Lee Marvin: Point Blank– to learn about this mythical man and no longer think of him as a mythical figure but a real human being. 

       There are many elements to Lee Marvin:  Point Blank:  his ancestry (he is related to First President George Washington); his childhood (he was a troubled child thought to have Dyslexia and ADD); his parentage (his father Monte was a salesman who served in the military, and his mother Courtenay was a writer); his history with women; his life as an actor; his life as a father; and his life as a military man which I found to be the most impressive.

I come from a long line of military members.  My great-great grandfather Robert Whiting fought in the Civil War on the side of the north; Grandfather Henry Kieke fought in World War Two and the Korean War; Grandfather Harry Thomas fought in World War Two; my uncle Gene served in the army; and my father Chuck retired in 1980 after 20 years in the Air Force.  Today I am married to an Air Force officer, Wayne, who is scheduled to retire in June of 2016 after 25 years of service, and his father, my father-in-law, Lyle Cooper served in the Air Force.

After reading Lee Marvin: Point Blank – I have a new appreciation for Lee Marvin that I didn’t have before.  He served his country, witnessed things during his service that no human being should have to witness, and as a result developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and sought alcohol as an escape.  But more importantly Marvin sought acting as an escape – and it is the acting that he is the most legendary for. 

       Dwayne Epstein, Lee Marvin's biographer and the author of Lee Marvin:  Point Blank also has a military history:  his father Morris Epstein and his Uncle Hank Epstein served in the military during World War Two. 

       Below is a scripted interview conducted between Dwayne Epstein, author of Lee Marvin:  Point Blank and myself.

What month in 1960 were you born?
I was born in August. I also have two older sisters and when I was born, my dad was working as a truck driver in New York City. The dispatcher radioed him that my mom went into labor so he rushed to the hospital. He got there and asked the nurse if it was a boy or girl. She asked him to guess and he angrily (and understandably) barked, "I'm not playing any goddamn guessing games!" The doctor came out, calmed my dad and asked, "What have you got at home?" My dad said, "Two girls." Then, the doctor used these words, which were the first ever used to described me to anybody: "This one's different." I'd like to think I've been proving that doctor right ever since.

First memory of Lee Marvin?
When I was a kid, they used to show The Dirty Dozen on television in two parts and it quickly became my favorite film.

In fact, when I watch it today on DVD, I sometimes have to remind myself that I don't have to wait until the next day to watch the second half as I remember exactly when part one would end and part two begins. That was probably my earliest memory of him.

I've since come to appreciate other aspects of that film, such as John Cassavetes' performance but the impact Marvin had on me when first viewing it, still remains.

What was your major at Mercer Community College in New Jersey?
I was a Liberal Arts major and was also Phi Theta Kappa while I was there. Even though it was a community college there were some wonderful teachers there I remember with great fondness. I had planned to go on to Rutgers but as John Lennon said, life is what happens while your busy making other plans, such as having to pay bills and the like.

When did you recognize you were a writer?
I did kind of okay in school but I really seemed to excel when an assignment or a test required an essay. Not being the brightest guy when it came to recognizing my own ability, I didn't realize how many times my writing ability saved me from bad grades until I was MUCH older. As the old saying goes, sometimes it's not so much a light bulb that goes off as a whack in the back of the head with a 2x4 that does that trick.

       I've been a movie fan my entire life so consequently, it also dawned on me, albeit, equally slowly, that I could combine my love of movies with my ability to write. I don't necessarily enjoy the writing process itself, though. For me, it's akin to what Dorothy Parker said when she was asked if she enjoys writing. She said, "I enjoy having written." I feel the same way. The process is laborious for me but when I look back at some of what I've written, I enjoy it, that is when I don't wince at some of my more clunkier efforts.

Can you give me a brief chronology of your writer career?
When I was in college, I wrote for the school paper and also entered and won several Phi Theta Kappa writing contests on campus. That proved to be the whack in the head with the 2x4. I decided to give it a try from there as a professional. I had written some freelance articles for a publisher of five local papers in New Jersey and the editor eventually hired me on staff. I enjoyed working there and learned a lot. I eventually chose to move back to California for personal reasons but there was one aspect of working at Cranbury Publications that has stayed with me to this day. One of the sales people there and I became very close and as I like to say, I was Jimmy Olson to her Lois Lane. Barbara and I have been together ever since.

       When I came back to California, I found work on several other local papers and then began working for a gentleman named Mike Miller who ran a company called Miller Education Materials. He sold books to schools throughout the country and as his managing editor, we put together the catalog for three companies in all. I learned a lot there as well, including earning my first book publishing credit when Mr. Miller decided to branch out a little more. Unfortunately, after 9/11 the company suffered financially and I was laid off. Being a lifelong movie fan I was also freelancing for Filmfax and Outre magazines at the same time. That was where my initial research on Lee Marvin first saw the light of day.

What was the step-by-step process of writing LEE MARVINPOINT BLANK from the moment the idea was first conceived (conversation with Marshal Terrill) in your brain until final book form?
It did indeed begin with a conversation I had with fellow biographer Marshall Terrill. He had written a very thorough biography on Steve McQueen and being a fan of McQueen, I asked to meet with him. He obliged so we got together and we talked a lot about a lot of things. At that time in my life, my writing career was kind of lying fallow as I made ends meet by other means, mostly restaurant work. The conversation we had led to my re-considering going back to writing and having Lee Marvin be the reason for my reconsideration.

       I was reticent at first for a myriad of reasons to take on the project. Being part of the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, I had no concept of what it must have been like for Marvin growing up a member of The Greatest Generation and all that it entails, such as The Depression, World War II, even the onset of The Cold War.

As I dipped my toe into the initial research, I was amazed to discover that even though he was of course a part of that generation and all that he had experienced, he really was quite different from many men of that time period. I have family members of that generation and some of those cliches are indeed true as they were for Marvin. However, it was both refreshing and revelational to discover Marvin was a bit of Feminist in his view of women, for example. His having a working mother probably helped formed that point of view in no small measure. The more I researched him the more pleasantly surprised I became. Granted, not entirely, but for the most part, it was indeed eye-opening.

       Also, once I began researching his life, it became quite clear to me that he suffered intensely from undiagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following the war. I'm not a doctor or any in way  knowledgeable on the subject but the stories people were telling me made it quite obvious. The symptoms were glaring. There are more revelations I came across as the research continued — which kept me fascinated for the duration of the project — for which I interviewed more than a hundred people. The results of those interviews and the research are all within the covers of Lee Marvin Point Blank.

What was the most interesting thing you learned about Lee Marvin?
That's difficult to narrow down since there was so much about him I found fascinating. Early on, I discovered that he was not the image he liked to perpetrate on and off screen, even on the most superficial level. For example, he was a big fan of the Blues and Jazz music, which led to some wonderful anecdotes once I discovered that side of his personality.

       I was very intrigued to find out how dedicated he was to his craft despite his rather flippant attitude to the film industry in general. From the very beginning of his career, it became extremely important to him to ensure his depiction of the violent characters he portrayed were as authentic and believable as he could possibly make them. Keep in mind, he felt this way at a time when most violence on film was less than realistic. This point of view he staunchly maintained became one of the overriding themes in the book and was almost the subtitle: "How Lee Marvin Created the Modern American Cinema of Violence." Naturally, my publisher thought it a little long, however Lee Marvin Point Blank said it much more succinctly as I explain in the introduction.

       He was also surprisingly liberal in his personal politics, which probably comes as a big surprise to many of his fans. I’ve  read blogs and comments about Lee Marvin online. He’s often been called “America’s favorite badass,” or “he’s not a wussy,” and “he would kick Obama’s ass!” Things like that. People who say stuff along those lines fail to realize that Lee Marvin was not John Wayne. Most of his life Lee Marvin was a liberal Democrat. He worked for John F. Kennedy’s campaign in 1960. By the way, John Wayne and Lee Marvin were friends. They worked together, but Lee Marvin would definitely not be put in the category of a Tea Partier. I guess you can be a liberal and still be a badass.

       Those are just a couple of things I discovered in my research about the man that interested me. Readers of the book will most likely discover a whole lot more.

Your favorite Lee Marvin movie and why?
That's also a difficult one to answer because to me, it's like asking a parent to name their favorite child, but I'll try. One factor making it difficult is that there were several different stages to Marvin's career. The first stage was playing smaller roles in some great and mediocre films. The he went a lengthy period playing major roles or second leads until his middle-aged ascent into stardom. I have favorites in all three stages of his career.

       Off the top of my head, of his early roles, I loved him in a strange little film called Shack Out on 101 (1955). It's a Cold War thriller that practically defies description but I highly recommend it for its entertainment value alone, which cannot be overestimated. He also was wonderful in a cult western with Randolph Scott called Seven Men From Now (1956). The dialogue scene in the covered wagon and the film's finale is some of the best work Marvin's ever done.

There's also The Wild One (1954), The Big Heat (1953), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) and Raintree County (1957), superior films in either execution or budget in which Marvin is a true stand out in every scene he's in.


       For the mid-point in his career he was amazing in The Comancheros (1961), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) Donavan's Reef (1963) and The Killers (1964). The films themselves may vary in quality but not Marvin's performances. He steals scenes from everyone around him, including the likes of Ronald Reagan and John Wayne.

       Once he established himself as a major star in the mid-sixties, he made a string of action films that are almost  unprecedented in both their production value and his memorable performances in them. The Professionals (1966) is a personal favorite in that group as well as the aforementioned Dirty Dozen. Several of these films still stand the test of time no matter how old they are but even more amazing is how believable Marvin remained as a middle-aged action star. The silver hair, aged features and deep resonant voice worked for him, not against him even in the overblown musical Paint Your Wagon (1969), which is a favorite guilty pleasure.


       Other favorites include the forgotten elegiac western Monte Walsh (1970),  the violent Depression-era hobo opus Emperor of the North (1973), the limited released film version of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh (1973), filmmaker Sam Fuller's autobiographical WWII film The Big Red One (1980)....As you can probably guess, I'm quite a Lee Marvin fan.

What is your secret to getting that important interview for this book, especially if the person’s number and address is not listed?
No secret, really. Just good old fashioned perseverance. Keep in mind, I began this project back in 1994, long before the advent of the digital world we all take for granted and makes such research infinitely easier. I had to rely a lot on my wits and lots of good fortune.

       A good example was my getting to interview Lee's older brother, Robert, who had never been interviewed before. Robert had been a teacher in New York City and since I have a cousin who is also a teacher and active in the New York teacher's union, I had her look him up for me. I was not entirely sure she had the right Robert Marvin but once I dialed the number and heard his voice, I knew instantly that it was him. It took some time to convince him that my aim was legitimate, but once I did, he eventually gave me open and exclusive access. 

       Although they've both since passed on, he and his wife still resided in the Marvin family home in Woodstock, New York when I interviewed them. My first night there, I slept in Lee's old room. Just as my head hit the pillow, a storm that had been threatening earlier finally made its presence known. It was one of those horrendously humid  East Coast summer storms, with thunder and lightening stubbornly keeping me from ever falling asleep. Restless, I got up and began exploring the house. It didn't take long for me to discover a long lost cache of important papers and photos to pore over. The next morning, I showed them to a very surprised Robert and told him, "Maybe Lee was trying to tell me to get the hell out of his house." Robert smiled slyly and said, "Maybe Lee was trying to get you to get up and go find this stuff."

       Many of the people I was lucky enough to interview have since passed on, such as his palimony lawyer David Kagon, his career-long agent Meyer Mishkin, even his son Christopher. All of them and more were willing to go on the record with me exclusively, resulting in a totally different portrait of the man than had ever been seen before.

Were there pieces of information that you did not include in the book you are willing to share?
For a multitude of reasons -- whether it be length, legal issues, timing  or something wholly unforeseen -- there's always something or other that doesn't make the final cut. Luckily, there's the internet, which has allowed me to periodically add to the story of Lee Marvin via my ongoing blog.

       For instance, I recently came in contact with actor Bruce Davison via Facebook whom I never thought of interviewing since he and Marvin never worked together. Turns out he happened to meet Lee in Munich once and the content of that casual meet-up would have definitely been in the book had I known of it at the time. Consequently, it did make for a powerful blog entry, though.

I felt like Marvin’s life as an actor, military man, lover/husband was complete but his life as a father had a gap. Was that deliberate? 
Partly yes but it was largely a matter of circumstance.  I contacted all of Marvin's children and in each case I had to respect their wishes as to whether they would be willing to be interviewed or not. Christopher ultimately did agree and was extremely forthcoming with his memories of his father. His sisters were understandably reticent as they had been extremely disenchanted by previous media requests.

       Also, there were several magazine articles in the 60s in which he spoke about his role as a father but like many such magazine articles, they did not seem to ring true. I chose to either get it right or not include it at all. Consequently, there may feel like gap, but I was able to write what I could about the man as a father. If he may have come lacking as a father in the book then maybe that's why.

       When I first started working on the book that thought occurred to me many times, that is until I saw the brilliant documentary Crumb (1994) by filmmaker Terry Zwigoff. The complex story of underground comic book artist R. Crumb was fascinating on many levels, not the least of which was exploring his relationships with and feelings toward women. I was amazed to discover at the end of the film that he has several sisters who refused to be interviewed for the movie. I took great solace in knowing the filmmaker told a fully rounded tale without the input of such primary sources. In other words, it can be done.

Where are his four children now (I know one has passed)?
Actually two have passed. Lee's youngest, his daughter Claudia, died of liver disease in 2012, which was just prior to the book's publication. At her brother Christopher's request, I dedicated the book to her. As you know, Christopher also passed in 2013 just short of his 60th birthday. Their siblings, Courtenay and Cynthia are very much with us and living happily in California. What they've being doing with their lives is listed in one of the several bibliographies painstakingly listed in the back of the book.

       Matter of fact, I just found out that Cynthia's son became a father this summer making Lee's first wife, Betty -- a terrific lady, by the way -- a great grandmother! If my publisher ever does a reprint, that is definitely going to be in it!

What was the most compelling excerpt you wrote in the book? And why?
Once again, hard to narrow down but I'll try. It often was not so much a matter of my writing as it was the subject matter I was dealing with.

       Of the more than one hundred people I was fortunate enough to interview, I can say without exaggeration that each one of them told me some compelling factoid, anecdote or insightful piece of information that was useful to my work. Granted, some more than others, such as his first wife, his son, his brother, his agent, his lawyer, what-have-you, but they all contributed in their own way to my research, immeasurably.

       On a personal level, as a life long film fan, I have read many,  many biographies as well as books on film and have absorbed much from what works best and least for the reader. For me, nothing is boring in the genre then long passages involving how much money was made or spent on a given project.  When I was given the chance to write Lee Marvin Point Blank, I focused on what I thought was interesting as a reader in similar books.

       With that in mind, I think the most compelling parts of the book, for me, anyway, was seeing the way in which personal events in Marvin's life, influenced his work in a very creative way. My friend Bill Krohn, author of the book Hitchcock at Work, has an interesting term for it. He refers to it as how they get the rabbit out of the hat.

Once I discovered that Lee Marvin was the progenitor of film violence, I dug deep to see where that came. This then is what set me on the path of finding the rabbit which meant his experiences in the war, his dysfunctional family, even his impressive ancestry. From my point of view that was the most compelling aspect.

Can you give the details of your conversation with Marshall Terrill that led you to write the book?
Well, it was a quite long time ago but I'll try. I had contacted Marshall because I noted a few discrepancies in his McQueen book and wanted to discuss them with him. I was merely hoping for a mention in the reprint if they were corrected. What resulted instead from the conversation was a life-changing career move I never would have anticipated.

       I guess I may have been trying to impress him because I recall that fairly early in the conversation he told me that with my knowledge of film  I should write a film biography of a favorite actor myself. My sarcastic response was, "I'd like to but you already wrote it!" It did not take long for the conversation to then turn to the possibility of who I could write about. Being the movie fan that I am there were of course a plethora of choices but what narrowed the field was market considerations. Marshall had been a marketing major in college and following that had also worked in the business world. His input on that level was valuable as we ticked off a list of major stars who really had not had a definitive bio written about them. It was that marketing challenge that brought us to Lee Marvin. There had been one or two previous books on the subject but nothing that could possibly be called definitive.

       I told him I would think about it but from that moment on, he never gave up trying to talk me into it. Despite any differences we may have had through the years, as well as my own insecurities, he has remained one of the book's biggest champions and for that I am eternally grateful.

When did you begin and end the project? (a period of 20 years?)
Not long after my conversation with Marshall, I began the initial research on the project and that was back in 1994. Believe me, had I known it would take nearly 20 years to get published, I doubt very highly if I would have pursued it. Luckily, it was a subject I did not ever tire of researching. The more I found out, the more enthused I became. It's funny in that even Lee's first wife, Betty said to me at one point, "Aren't you getting sick of Lee? I would be and I was married to the man!"

       The reason it took so long quite simply is the fact that every major publisher I approached told me the same, thing. With all due respect to Marshall's business acumen, they all said there was no market and no one is interested in a book on Lee Marvin.

In the interim, I was able to do some freelance writing of several biographies for a company called Lucent, a subsidiary of Gale & Cengage Learning. I wrote six young adult biographies as part of their series entitled People in the News while continuing to do work on the Marvin book. Those YA books were a godsend for me as they inadvertently honed my writing schools and taught me much in terms of biographical writing. There were requirements for those titles that included maintaining ongoing themes, several bibliographies and more that proved extremely useful to me. The subjects consisted of Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Hilary Swank, Nancy Pelosi, Denzel Washington and Hillary Clinton. They pay wasn't great but the hands-on experience was incalculable.

       They were several close calls along the way in which an occasional large publishing house would show interest in the Marvin book, but when the interested editor took it to their editorial board, it was always frustratingly voted down.

        All that changed permanently when I switched agents for the third time. The previous agents were okay but not nearly as persistent as Mike Hamilburg, my current agent, confidante and friend. I should point out that even though I continued researching and cataloging information on Marvin the project was put on the back burner for a few years when I had to hep my ailing parents. My father passed away from Alzheimer's in 2005 and my mother passed from heart disease three years later. When the smoke settled, I got back in contact with Mike Hamilburg, revamped my entire work up to that time to create a stronger proposal and in less than a year he had an interested publisher. I cannot say enough about either Hamilburg's belief in the project nor publisher Tim Schaffner's mission within his company Schaffner Press to put out a quality product while the rest of the publishing world thumbed their noses.

       It may have taken nearly 20 years but to my mind, it was worth it. When I'd get the inevitable rejection letters Marshall told me to keep them as reminders for when I do get published. He was right about that. In July of 2014 Lee Marvin Point Blank became the number 4 bestselling non-fiction E-book on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Publisher's Weekly bestseller lists. I know they're read by the publishers who passed on it so there is some retribution in that. More importantly, it became an amazing life lesson for me by example: No matter the odds, if you believe in what you're doing, never give up on your dream!

What was Lee Marvin’s religion/ spiritual affiliation if any?
The book came out in January 2013 and I've done a lot of press for it but that is the very first time anybody has asked me that question! Kudos, to you! I can tell you that his roots go back to the earliest Puritans who first came to America in the 1600s. As for Lee himself, I've seen documents that show he was confirmed as an Episcopalian when he was ten years old. Keep in mind, though, throughout his life he had many run-ins with various forms of Christianity based on whatever private school he may have attended for different periods of time. Quaker, Catholic, he was thrown out of a lot of schools. As for what Lee Marvin the man believed, I'm really not certain. I do know several friends told me he did have a gentle contemplative, spiritual side that very few people were privileged to see.

Did Lee Marvin deliberately only leave his four children $20,000 or was it due to a “technicality”?
No, it was indeed deliberate.  As you've observed, I mention how much his children received in the book but purposely avoided the messy details as to why. Lee Marvin's long-time business manager, Ed Silver, explained to me the reason but it was said off the record and I believe in honoring people's wishes. 

       I can say that when I asked Christopher about it, his point of view was rather surprising. In spite of how much his father's estate was worth, Christopher firmly believed that $20,000 was a considerable sum to be fully appreciated which indeed he did. Being a musician, Christopher stated that his only regret was that it was not enough to fulfill his dream of opening a music school for disadvantaged children. He was quite a guy and I miss him a lot.

       On the same subject, Lee's brother Robert told me that he was left a tidy sum for what the will called Robert's "Continued education and well-being," which impressed Robert no small amount.

You interviewed individuals who knew Lee in the war — but only included Lee’s letters. Why did you not include information from the interviews as well?
I did include a little from individuals since there were a few anecdotes retold from others he spoke with about his war experiences that were used to link some of the letters. However, I knew how critical that chapter was. It was the very foundation to a lot of Lee Marvin’s life, and I didn’t want to screw it up. I’ve never been in or even seen battle, and badly written battles or wartime remembrances are untrue and they can really turn the reader off to the rest of the book.

       To put it another way, I’m not Ernest Hemingway or Ernie Pyle. I have no experience in writing that kind of thing. It was quite a dilemma for me how to approach it as the clock was ticking. Then, I realized while finalizing the research, that if I put the letters that I had been previously given from Lee’s family in chronological order, I determined that he could write this chapter himself and he should. That was the hardest part of doing that, deciphering what he wrote. As you pointed out, he was dyslexic, and he also had terrible handwriting. Some of those letters were composed in combat conditions so that was a factor, as well. It was a lot like being an archaeologist, deciphering what he wrote. Putting them together, I realized this is Lee Marvin’s voice. Let him tell the story himself. It was the best way I could think of to let the chapter ring as true as possible and based on the feedback it's received, I think it succeeded.

I felt Lee Marvin was rebellious (ADHD, Dyslexia, (my son has this) but perhaps had Oppositional Defiance Disorder) and then Lee Marvin seemed to change when he entered the military. What led to this drastic change?
There were of course several reasons for the change but the most obvious and overwhelming had to be the war itself. It was immediate as he had problems with discipline when he was in the service as well but it did lessen dramatically. Keep in mind that he was also a little older during the war and the maturing process was sort of sped up due to what he experienced. When you read his letters from that time compared to his correspondence during his school years, the transformation becomes rather obvious.

       Something else to consider is that it was a very different mind set in those days among most people because of the war. My favorite example of that is from an uncle of mine. When he was a young man, he had a reputation for fighting especially, with his older brother. I recall asking him once what made him stop fighting. His response was simply, "WWII. It made everything else seem minor by comparison." Certainly made sense to me since he went on to become the tail-gunner on the Shoo-Shoo Baby, one of the famous Flying Fortress B-17s during the war.

22. Anything you would like to add?
Do you mean other than asking your followers to read the book? Sure. See as many Lee Marvin movies as possible since all of them are available in one format or another for public consumption. I can pretty much guarantee your readers will not be disappointed.

With lessons learned from each of the Marines’ previous skirmishes, they bombarded each island with artillery at dawn, having sent in trained Marine scout/snipers the night before for reconnaissance.  The scout/snipers, of which Lee Marvin was one, administered silent death to any Japanese that were encountered.  As much as he wanted to, these events could not be written about in family letters.  Instead, he wrote the following:

2/14/44:  Dear Mother;
Well here is the second letter, which will have to be fairly short.  I guess the papers said that the Marshall Islands were taken. Our company was the first Marines that landed on them, in fact the first Marines to land on Jap held territory before Pearl Harbor.  The job was done in good order and in good spirit.  I am in fine health so don’t worry.  It is hard to think that it is winter back home, as it is pretty hot here, but to think of you and home is a blessing.
       Lee could not detail his experiences to his mother, such as staying on the island throughout the night until the bombardment began.  He could not speak of the mosquitoes, leeches, dysentery, and the permeating wetness to be avoided or run the risk of jungle rot.  Nor could he speak of the death encountered.  ‘On Kwajalein there were six guys wearing white in a trench,” he told LIFE Magazine in the 1960s.  “I get up there waiting for them to move so I could pull the trigger.  But none of them made a move.  One of our guys comes along and says, ‘What’s the matter?’  I said, ‘I don’t know.  They look like merchant marine to me.’  He looked at me and cursed and empties his gun into the trench.  Then he threw in a hand grenade.”
       Witnessing such behavior made it easier for Marvin to perpetrate it himself.  A neighbor in California remembers the actor opening up to him about his war experiences:  “He was assigned to knock out a whole foxhole full of Japanese machine gunners.  He went in there and I guess he laid out about 5-7 of them . . .Years pass and that’s something you just don’t kiss off easily . . . you could tell it was really hurting him.”  At the time all he could do was write the following:

Dear Pop;
Lots has happened in the past few months but nothing that I can not speak of now, as the regulations are pretty strict on such things.  I can tell you one thing and that is I have had my fill of war
Thanks again for the .45, as it is the best foxhole buddy a Marine can have.  I hope that you won’t mind the notch in the handle but you know how things like that are.  I only fired it once but that was all that was necessary.  It is in damn good condition and will remain that way.  I am in good shape and feeling fine so don’t let that worry you.
4/14/44:  Dear Pop;
       I might not be writing so don’t let it worry you.  Our company got quite a good name for itself after those 17 islands and a night raid in rubber boats.
       They asked me to join another scout and sniper outfit but I don’t think I will, as it is not until you sign on that you do realize its danger.  I was lucky once and I don’t want to tax it.

       He had good reason not to want to tax his luck.  On the island of Eniwetok, he and five others rushed a machine gun nest that had kept the company pinned down.  Crawling on their bellies on either side of the nest the six of them were able to get close enough to lob in grenades, killing half the men inside.  When Marvin rushed in to kill the rest, his foot caught and sent him and his rifle sprawling. He rolled over to see his foot had caught on a sand-covered trapdoor that the other Japanese machine gunners were sneaking into. He made eye contact with one of them.  “He popped out of that hole like a little animal,” said Marvin.  “For a second I just lay there on my ass surprised as hell while he blinked at me. Then he lunged. He tried to stick his bayonet in my eye. So I took it away from him.  It wasn’t hard to do because he was just a little bastard, maybe 5 feet 3 or so.  I shoved that goddamned thing into his chest all the way to the gun barrel…”
       While Europe was feeling the effects of D-Day on June 6, 1944, the invasion of Saipan in the Pacific the following week proved equally harrowing.  Lee was there and later wrote his brother:

       The first night on the island I had a damn close call.  We were in a hell of a barrage and they were knocking the hell out of us.  The hole I was in was about 4 feet deep and 23 across.  There were four of us in it.  You know you can hear (the mortars) coming so I would stick my head up and call the shots, that is if they were to come visiting 25 yards I’d better duck.  If not we’d just let them go and hope for the best.  Well I watched one of our batteries fire and heard them go off in the hill except it sounded like 3 times as many and sure enough they were Nip guns firing at us.  I was looking for them and here comes one. I think it had all our names on it.  Man, it sounded like it was in the hole with us.  It hit about three feet from my head and blew off my pack, gas mask and canteen, killed one of the boys and wounded the next.  But what I can’t figure out is why it didn’t blow my head off; that it didn’t even scratch me yet it hit all the rest.  Damn, I saw red for the next ten minutes and it sounded like Big Ben in my head.

It was also while on Saipan that Lee had taken a letter off a soldier he had killed and out of curiosity brought it in to be translated.  It read, in part:

      How is everyone and how is my home town?  Please ease your worries since I am well as always. I’m doing my duties faithfully.  I am determined to do nothing but my best for my country.  I have no regret now.  No matter where you are, the moon looks the same.  Sorry that I’m always writing the same complaints.

       This letter had a powerful effect on him as it transformed the idea of the Japanese soldier from that of a faceless enemy to a living and breathing fellow human being.  To Marvin, it could have been written by a fellow American, or even one of the letters he had written home himself.

Photograph Description And Copyright Information

Photo 1
Dwayne Epstein
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 2
Point Bank web logo
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 3
Cat Ballou Moive Poster
Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law

Photo 4
Lee Marvin as Tim Strawn and Kid Shelleen in Cat Ballou

Photo 5
The Dirty Dozen movie poster
Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law

Photo 6
Lee Marvin as Major John Reisman from The Dirty Dozen

Photo 7
Jacket cover of Lee Marvin:  Point Blank

Photo 8
Lee Marvin, serving with the 4th Marine Division in the Pacific Theater. He was wounded in action during the World War II Battle of Saipan, in the assault on Mount Tapochau, during which most of his unit ("I" Company, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division) were killed. Marvin's awards are the Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.

Photo 9
Great Great Grandfather Robert Whiting
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper

Photo 10
Henry Kieke
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper

Photo 11
Harry Thomas
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper

Photo 12
Uncle Gene Rice
Copyright granted By Gene Rise

Photo 13
Chuck Rice
Copyright granted by Chuck Rice

Photo 14
Col. Wayne Cooper
Copyright granted by Col Wayne Cooper

Photo 15
Lyle Cooper
Copyright granted by Lyle Cooper

Photo 16
Lee Marvin’s Oscar nod win for Cat Ballou

Photo 17
Morris Epstein returning from overseas to home
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 18
Hank Epstein, Dwayne’s Uncle, kneeling in front on the left with the cap on, with his flight crew of the Shoo-Shoo Baby.
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 19
Lee Marvin singing autographs for Military members.

Photo 20
Dwayne Epstein and Morris Epstein
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein.

Photo 21
Dwayne Epstein in May of 1970
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 22
The Dirty Dozen movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 23
John Cassavetes and Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen

Photo 24
John Lennon rehearsing "Give Peace A Chance" in 1969.
Attributed to Roy Kerwood
CC By 2.5 

Photo 25
Dwayne Epstein while he was attending Mercer County Community College in New Jersey
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein.

Photo 26
The young Dorothy Parker
Public Domain

Photo 27
Barbara when Dwayne Epstein first met her
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 28
Dwayne Epstein and Barbara during a book singing for Lee Marvin:  Point Blank

Photo 29
Dwayne Epstein and Mike Miller
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 30.
Letter from Marshal Terrill to Dwayne Epstein
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 31.
Lee Marvin as Major John Reisman in The Dirty Dozen

Photo 32.
Article Dwayne Epstein wrote while attending Mercer County Community College
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 33.
Lee Marvin, back row second from left, at Camp Pendleton in California in May of 1943.

Photo 34
Public Relations still of Lee Marvin from the 1960s.

Photo 35
Lee Marvin and his violence quote.

Photo 36
Lee Marvin and John Wayne in Donovan’s Reef

Photo 37
Shack Out On 101 movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 38
7 Men From Now movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 39
The Wild One movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 40
The Big Heat movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 41
Bad Day At Black Rock movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 42
Raintree County movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 43
The Comancheros movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 44
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 45.
Donovan’s Reef movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 46.
The Killers movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 47.
The Professionals movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 48.
The Dirty Dozen movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 49.
Paint Your Wagon movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 50.
Monte Walsh movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 51.
Emperor of the North Pole movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 52.
The Icemen Cometh movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 53.
The Big Red One movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 54.
Dwayne Epstein being interviewed for the A&E Biography of Lee Marvin titled Lee Marvin:  Hollywood’s Straight Shooter which aired on August 10, 2001.

Photo 55.
Robert Marvin and Dwayne Epstein at the Marvin Family  Home in Woodstock, New York. 
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein.

Photo 56.
The Marvin Family Home in Woodstock, New York.

Photo 57
David Kagon
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 58.
Lee Marvin and Meyer Mishkin at the Paint Your Wagon movie premier in London, England.  1969.

Photo 59.
Christopher Martin and Dwayne Epstein
Copyright granted by Christopher Martin

Photo 60.
Web logo for point blank web page
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 61.
Bruce Davison at the time he met Lee Marvin

Photo 62.
The Lee Marvin Family.
Courtenay, Cynthia, Claudio, wife Betty, Lee, and Christopher

Photo 63.
Dwayne Epstein during a book reading for Lee Marvin: Point Blank

Photo 64.
The Crumb movie poster
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 65.
Lee Marvin For President bumper sticker
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 66.
Betty Marvin’s web page photo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 67.
Dwayne Epstein’s book reading/signing on Lee Marvin Point Blank.
Back row from left to right:  Diana Cabori, Lee Coduti, Randy Economy, Helene Duarte, Lori Best-White, Roy Lewis, and Dwayne Epstein
Sitting:  Michael Miller

Photo 68.
Turner Classic Movies Robert Osbourn featuring Dwayne Epstein’s book Lee Marvin:  Point Blank.

Photo 69
Jacket cover of Lee Marvin:  Point Blank

Photo 70.
Bill Krohn.

Photo 71.
Jacket cover of Hitchcock At Work
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 72.
Jacket cover of Steve McQueen:  Portrait of an American Rebel by Marhsal Terrill
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 73.
Marshal Terrill

Photo 74
Jacket cover of Lee Marvin: Point Blank

Photo 75.
Betty Marvin at her book singing for Tales of a Hollywood Housewife:  A Memoir By the First Mrs. Lee Marvin.

Photo 76.
Lee Marvin as Major John Reisman in The Dirty Dozen.

Photo 77
Jacket cover of People In The News Will Ferrell by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 78.
Jacket cover of People In The News Adam Sandler by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 79.
Jacket cover of People In The News Hilary Swank by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 80.
Jacket cover of People In The News Nancy Pelosi by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 81.
Jacket cover of People In The News Denzel Washington by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 82.
Jacket cover of People In The News Hillary Clinton by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 83.
Jacket cover of Lee Marvin: Point Blank

Photo 84a

Dwayne Epstein and Mike Hamilburg
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 84b.
Publisher Tim Schaffner accepting Dwayne Epstein’s  bronze medal in an award ceremony in New York on June 5, 2013.  Epstein earned the bronze medal in The Independent Publishers Award Competition for his biography of Lee Marvin  Point Blank. Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein.

Photo 85.
Schaffner Press web logo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 86
Dwayne Epstein at a book singing for Lee Marvin:  Point Blank
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein

Photo 87.
Lee Marvin and his resting place.

Photo 88.
Cynthia Marvin’s 1982 wedding day.
From left to right:  Christopher, Courtenay, Lee, Cynthia, Betty and Claudia.

Photo 89.
Christopher Marvin and Lee Marvin in Arizona in the 1970s.

Photo 90.
Lee Marvin and brother Robert Marvin in Woodstock, New York on Christmas Day 1968.

Photo 91.
Lee Marvin (left) and fellow Marine Wade Rayborn pose with some of the Japanese armaments captured in battle, early 1944.

Photo 92.
Lee Marvin’s marine identification card

Photo 93
Western Union telegram Lee Marvin’s parents received to report of his being wounded in action.

Photo 94.
Flying Fortress B-17
Public Domain

Photo 95.
Dwayne Epstein
Copyright granted by Dwayne Epstein.

Photo 96.
Jacket cover of Lee Marvin Point Black

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Love Story of Mr. and Mrs. Boone . . .

Christal Cooper

The Love Story of Mr. & Mrs. Boone: 
The Dwelling of Love, Mentality, & Candy 

The sweetest thing is not candy or pie
but knowing your heart is with me
amongst four walls that make us cry;
for the separation is painfully strong
but our dwelling place even more so,
the mental place we will always belong.

Excerpt from “To My Love In Prison”
By Audrey Q Rhodes
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Montgomery, Alabama resident Michelle Rene Robinson has a unique love story to tell along with an announcement:  she is engaged to Daoud Omar Boone, who is serving in an Alabama prison for the capital murder of his ex-girlfriend Sylvia Yvonne Perry, in which he proclaims his innocence.

Michelle first met Daoud at George Washington Carver High School in September of 2000 where she was a freshman and he was a senior.

 “He was my height so I thought he was a freshman.  It was adorable.  It was not love at first sight, but it was wonderful.  I noticed that he had pretty hazel eyes.  I’m infatuated with light hazel eyes.  He was so handsome.”

The two had friendly telephone conversations that verged on the romantic, but Boone, a friend of Robinson’s boyfriend Recko, tried to maintain propriety.
“One evening I missed my bus home and Recko asked Daoud if he would give me a ride home.  He took me home and we talked on the phone.  He was very respectable and he knew me and Recko were trying to start a relationship and he respected that.”

Robinson and Recko Hall, also friends with Boone, were together for 12 years and share a son, Jamari, who is now 5.

            The morning of November 14, 2007, Michelle turned on the television to watch/listen to the news, as she got ready to go to work at the Montgomery Humane Society.
            “I saw him in the courtroom and it shook me to my core and it all got realistic.  They said the trial was set and charged with capital murder.  I saw his back and he turned and looked at Julian McPhillips.  I knew he was innocent.”

On November 13, 2007 at around 11 p.m. Sylvia Perry was shot and killed in the parking lot of Igores:  by day a restaurant and by night a business of human trafficking, prostitution, strip parties, underage drinking, and drug use. 

At the time of Boone’s arrest, he had just returned from South Korea two weeks prior, and was scheduled to move to California for another tour of duty as a petty officer in the Navy. 

            Boone’s first trial was declared a mistrial, but he was found guilty of capital murder on his second trial.  On November 23, 2010 he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

       One month later, on Christmas Eve 2013, Michelle received a Christmas letter from Daoud.  He called her four days later, on December 29, 2013, which Michelle described as numbing and exciting at the same time.

       “It was too good to be true.  And it was bittersweet.  I could hear the guys through the background yelling at each other really loud.   To hear him say, “Hey Michelle” was gorgeous.  I told him that the thing I remembered about him the most was his long hair and pretty hazel eyes.  I told him that I wished I could see his pretty eyes right now.  There was silence.  I asked him if he was still there and he said yes and asked me what I was talking about.  I told him, ‘Your eyes, those beautiful hazel eyes.’  And he said, “Oh, those were contacts.’  I could have dropped the phone.  I said, ‘you shattered my world.’”

       In April of 2015 Michelle finally met Daoud during a visit at the W.E. Donaldson Correction Facility in Bessemer, Alabama.
       “I called the jail to find out what to wear and they also told me to bring quarters.  I rented a car.  I started at 3 a.m.  I was supposed to meet him at 7 a.m.  I got there at 5 a.m.  I was in the jail parking lot looking at the barbed wire fence and the towers.  “It’s 5 a.m. and these people are going to arrest me.’  I drove to a service station where the correctional officers go to on their way to work that shift.  I asked one correctional officer about visiting and he told me to show up at 6:30 a.m.  When I showed up at that time there is a long line of cars.  I was a nervous wreck to the very moment when they waved me through.  I’m inside the jail right now and I go to the window and slip a piece of paper with his name on it.  Daoud told me to make sure that I sit at the table with the vendor machine that has all the candy.”

       And that was what all the quarters were for:  Daoud ate grape lemonheads, lemon lemonheads, cherry lemonheads, green apple lemonheads, Gushers, Baby Ruth Candy Bars, five packs of Skittles, pizza, and drank lemonade, sweet tea and Gatorade.

The two have routine telephone conversations, monthly visits, and are constantly writing each other cards and letters.

 “We sort of kind of realized we were what each other was missing.  He was that voice I needed.  I was that voice and support he needed.”

       He asked her to marry him on the phone in January of 2015.  And she immediately said yes without hesitation.  This yes, Michelle insists, is not dependent on his guilt or innocence.

       “Without a shadow of a doubt, yes, I would still marry him even if he were guilty.  But he’s not.  People ask me how I can love someone in prison for capital murder?  I tell them that the heart wants what the heart wants and that time, separation, and distance doesn’t matter.  I’m with him until the ends of the earth.  I’m with him until the end.  I can talk about things and he has an open mind.   If he can be there mentally –if he can stimulate me mentally instead of physically – then this will work out.  I’m not looking at the time he is serving, but at the person he is.”

        Michelle’s family also sees the person Daoud is and believes in his innocence and in the love the two share. 
       “We are now a blended family.  His niece became my niece, and his sister became my sister in law.  My mom writes to him.  My sister Ebony is smitten.  I have acceptance from my family without having to explain.  They know him.”

            Perhaps the one person that was just as fierce of an advocate for Daoud as Michelle is Daoud’s father, Civil Rights Activist and Reverend Richard Boone.   

       Reverend Boon was a foot soldier for Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and before his death in October of 2013, was insistent that his son was innocent of the murder of Miss Sylvia Perry.
Now Michelle considers herself Daoud’s foot soldier and hopes she can continue to speak on behalf of the innocent like Martin Luther King Jr. and Reverend Richard Boone did.

       “I spend most of my time talking about Daoud, his case and his innocence.  I knew he didn’t do it.  I knew him and the person he was and the person he is.  And he didn’t do it.”

Photograph Description and Copyright Information

Photos 1, 3, and 25
Michelle Robinson in front of her Montgomery, Alabama home
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Michelle Robinson

Photo 2
Daoud Omar Boone
Copyright granted by Michelle Robinson

Photo 4
Michelle Robinson as a freshman in high school.
Copyright granted by Michelle Robinson

Photo 5
Daoud Omar Boone getting ready for his senior prom.
Copyright granted by Michelle Robinson

Photo 6
Michelle and Jamari early December of 2013
Copyright granted by Michelle Robinson

Photo 7
Michelle, Jamari, and Recko on Christmas Eve 2013.
Copyright granted by Michelle Robinson

Photo 8
Julian McPhillips
Web logo photo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 9
Crime scene photo of Igor’s
Public Domain

Photos 10 and 11
Daoud Omar Boone in military uniform
Copyright granted by Michelle Robinson

Photo 12
Michelle Robinson reading the first letter Daoud sent her.
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Michelle Robinson

Photo 13.
Daoud Omar Boone during his senior year.
Copyright granted by Michelle Robinson

Photo 14.

Photos 15 and 16
Michelle holding skittles
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Michelle Robinson.

Photo 17
Michelle showing some of the cards Daoud sent her.
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Michelle Robinson

Photo 18
Michelle looking at the letters Daoud has sent her over the past years.
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Michelle Robinson

Photo 19
Michelle’s engagement ring
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Michelle Robinson

Photo 20
Daoud Omar Boone
Copyright granted by Michelle Robinson

Photo 21.
Reverend Boone and his son Daoud Omar Boone.
Copyright granted by Michelle Robinson

Photo 22
ASU memorial reward for Rev Boone
Public Domain

Photo 23.
Reverend Boone
Copyright granted by Michelle Robinson

Photo 24.
Reverend Boone in sunglasses, second from the left (between woman in the hat and Martin Luther King Jr,)
Public Domain