Monday, December 15, 2008

The Christmas Album: Lee


It's just another Monday in mid-December, until we noted that it is Day Fifteen of our Holiday jaunt. Even we find ourselves humming along with those Hawaiian-tinged guitar chords, the invocation "...Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright..." led by Lee Marvin as the unlikeliest but memorable Wise Man (or is it wise guy?) as one of the Magi bearing gifts. A startled Duke Wayne is probably trying to decide if Mr. Marvin is Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar. Or perhaps he's wondering how John Ford talked him and a clutch of other Hollywood veterans into appearing in a home movie masquerading as an "entertainment" in Donovan's Reef (1963). Only John Ford could have persuaded these legendary tough guys to take on the task of translating a traditional Christmas into a loopy paean to a "pantheistic paradise" in which even pugnacious Marvin--after some tedious fisticuffs--winds up not only participating in a holiday pageant at the leaky church, but married and playing with a toy train.

Lee Marvin, a Marine veteran of the Pacific in WWII, a former plumber's assistant, and unlikely actor, cut a path through the Hollywood jungle that won him an Academy Award for Cat Ballou (1965), even though many of us think he probably should have been seriously considered long before for his unredeemable baddie in The Big Heat (1953), his realistic role in Attack (1957) and not least of all for his brilliantly lacerating performances in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Point Blank (1967), Hell in the Pacific (1968), The Iceman Cometh (1973) or The Big Red One (1980).

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