Marvin's upbringing is highlighted by his troubles with authority and school. Today you could dub it Attention Deficit Disorder and Dyslexia but back then he was just a shit starter. Bouncing around a dozen schools on the east coast, Marvin dropped out and signed up for the Marines during World War II. After participating in 21 invasion missions in the Pacific, Marvin was injured and had had enough of war. Back in New York and having already dabbled in acting, Marvin set out to land in a Broadway play. Forces would take him to Los Angeles where he slowly built up his career working for directors like Don Siegel, Fritz Lang, Raoul Walsh, John Sturges and Richard Fleischer before latching onto tough guy helmers Robert Aldrich, John Ford and John Boorman playing opposite the likes of Marlon Brando, Charles Bronson, Jack Palance and John Wayne. Frustrated at playing villains and second banana, Marvin hit leading man status at age 40 with western comedy Cat Ballou and would go on to win the Oscar for Best Actor. The 60's were Marvin's go-go years with The Killers, The Professionals, The Dirty Dozen, Point Blank and Paint Your Wagon highlighting his most lucrative era. Known for starring in violent pictures, Marvin never tried to glamorize action or death, feeling that as filmmakers they could show how horrible violence could be to dissuade audience members from enjoying it. Never setting out to be an actor-producer or director a la Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Steve McQueen or James Garner, Marvin was at the whim of Hollywood's ebbs and flows. The 70's and 80's saw him working but never at the same level as his peak. Notable roles in Emperor of the North, Prime Cut, The Iceman Cometh, The Big Red One, Death Hunt and The Delta Force were largely ignored by audiences and only embraced years later.
There's a good deal of information surrounding the development, production and release of Marvin's films but I could have used a more facts, figures or interview snippets as each film gets maybe a couple pages. Tidbits like Marvin developing The Wild Bunch, selling it to Sam Peckinpah but then passing on the film to make Paint Your Wagon are great. As are his examples of telling it like it is. One great case is describing co-star Charles Bronson's less than sunny demeanor and constant droning about working in coal mines as a kid. Marvin would mock Bronson for not being in a mine for 30 years and riding around in a Rolls Royce. In a bid to cut down on the craziness of Hollywood and Malibu, Marvin and wife Pam moved to Tuscon, Arizona. Marvin loved to fish and would act occasionally to get out of the house. His last role was in Cannon Films' Chuck Norris hostage rescue vehicle, The Delta Force. After making a million bucks for Paint Your Wagon, Marvin allegedly accepted $50,000 for Force after the producers described it to him on the phone for 15 minutes, made a deal with his agent in 20 then shortly after put him on a plane where he shot the flick in 8 weeks. No fuss, no muss.
I was surprised to read that Marvin was only 63 when he died as he looked much older. Prematurely gray at 40, Marvin looks frail and weak in Delta Force from his years of drinking and 5 packs of cigarettes a day. Fading fast, Marvin was hospitalized in 1987, suffered a heart attack and died on August 29th after living a very full life. For any fan of Marvin or macho, honest films from the 50's and 60's, Point Blank is definitely a must read. Format wise, there's photos peppered through but nothing too rare and the content is actually only 200 of the 300 page length with the remaining 100 devoted to notes and index.