Are you really an un-American lout if you're physically pffft? Well, for goodness' sake, of course you're not. And the proof of that can be seen next week on NBC's Dick Powell Theater (Tuesday, April 2, 9:30 p.m., E.S.T.) which, a lot of people think, is one of the best hour-long dramatic shows on television. In fact, after watching this athletic adventure, a TV rarity, slothful people everywhere who take a dim view of pushups, wheat germ, 50-mile hikes and certain utterances from the New Frontier will take heart. The way the play states the case for them, this out-of-shape hero (Ricardo Montalban), at 5 feet 11 and 175 pounds, gets the goat of the physiquey heavy (Lee Marvin), at 6 feet 3 and 190 pounds. He gets away with it in two splendid, dirty-dealing, karate-style fights that culminate with Marvin, a no-account dumbbell-parlor proprietor, being chucked over a cliff to his just deserts. Whereupon the puffing Montalban dusts off his hands, smiles at his wife and goes back in the house to finish his breakfast. Naturally, Bruce Geller, the play's author, has more to say than blessed are the weak sisters. "I want to show," he explains, "that there's a little bit of evil, a little lust for killing, in all of us. Also, sponsors go for this sort of thing."
For the sake of the plot—and, presumably, the sponsors—Lee Marvin has allowed his little lust for killing to get out of hand. Eighteen years ago, we learn, he served under Captain Montalban in a Marine raider outfit and enjoyed every murderous minute of it. So nowadays, after he's shut down his gymnasium for the day, he goes around murdering private citizens. His beef, he tells Montalban, is that criminals, for the price of a smart lawyer (Montalban has become a smart lawyer since the war, you understand), can wind up sitting pretty when they ought to wind up sitting in the chair. For example, the play opens with Marvin throttling a girl in a junkyard. The girl is innocent, it seems, but her father allowed a child to suffocate in an abandoned icebox, and his mouthpiece got him off with a fine of a mere $500. Junkyard Girl is Marvin's fifth tit-for-tat victim. But, as Marvin eventually finds out, smart lawyers can hurt killers as well as help them.
The name of Geller's play is Epilogue, and it was produced by Four Star Television, one of the major film makers in the country. Epilogue, or Four Star Production 5177, was filmed in and around Los Angeles in late February. Counting the cast of six, the extras and the filming crew, the number of people involved was about 75. It took six days to shoot, the total cost to Four Star was close to $140,000 and it will run on the air for 46 minutes and 40 seconds. Like most commercial movies, the play was filmed in a chronological disarray of scenes that took cutting room technicians another two weeks to reassemble in proper sequence.
The call sheet for Monday, Feb. 18 said that Lee Marvin and Ricardo Montalban had appointments with the makeup man at 6:30 a.m. They didn't mind the hour since they were being paid about $1,000 a day. Also required, the call sheet noted, would be two stunt men (who resemble the leads), two stand-ins and eight male extras. The day's shooting would take place at Club Del Mar, a social and health club on the beach in Santa Monica near Hollywood. Club Del Mar is 37 years old, looks every day of that and does not have the most luxurious gym. That, however, was the point. "We looked at three other places before we chose it," said Bruce Geller. "Vic Tanny's, for instance, was too shiny, too glossy. I conceive of Marvin—in this role, I mean—as a fairly scroungy individual, if you follow."
But Del Mar's sodden atmosphere was considerably brightened by Production 5177. The producers had contracted to use the basement locker room, the steam bath areas, the exercise room and the swimming pool for two days, and by 8 o'clock Monday the place was overrun with assorted sizes of klieg lights, microphone booms, sound recorders, camera equipment, electrical cables, wardrobe racks, trunks and crates and people, most of whom were drinking paper-cup coffee. In Del Mar's "shave-groom room" (men's room to noninitiates), Lee Marvin was having his hair cut by Makeup Artist Burris Grimwood ("Hell's bells, Lee, I'm no barber; why didn't you think of this Saturday?"), while Ricardo Montalban, seated in a corner, was reading Variety behind a mask of orange makeup. Montalban wore a natty Continental suit, and Marvin had on sneakers, slacks and a T shirt. Marvin's costume, from neckline to rubber soles, was powder blue (a color which prints tattletale gray on black-and-white film) and "Ocean-spray Health Club," a name cleared by the Four Star legal department, had been stenciled across his shirtfront by the costumers. Coming and going on earnest but seemingly disorganized missions were the grips (carpenters), the gaffers (lighting technicians), the electricians, the sound men and the propmen. Geller and Bernie Kowalski, the director, were upstairs in the Del Mar dining room finishing a breakfast of coffee and English muffins.
Suddenly a harsh, arresting voice cut through the technological babble. "All right, everybody, let's get going and let's have it quiet!" shouted Eddie Denault, the first assistant director, whose job is to oversee the crew, to supervise walk-throughs by the stand-ins and to assure, generally, that forward movement is kept to a maximum. Everybody had it quiet! "Lee, baby," said Denault, changing register, "we're starting off with scene nine." "Marvelous," said Marvin. Scene nine is a spooky, dim-lighted shot of Marvin walking through his gym at night. While Marvin pulled on a blue zipper jacket, Bernie Kowalski came into the shave-groom room and said something to the cameraman, George Diskant, who nodded "O.K." and passed an order to the camera operator, Pinky Arnett. (In the stratified Hollywood hierarchy, the cameraman, per se, never touches the camera.) Matty McCullen, the first propman, handed Marvin a folded newspaper. A Page One story is headlined: JUNKYARD MURDER: GIRL FOUND IN CAR TRUNK. A story on Page Three, with pictures, is headlined: STEPHEN BAIRD TO REPRESENT SAM FRESNO: TOP COUNSEL FOR ACCUSED KILLER. The picture of Top Counsel is an ancient glamour portrait of Lawyer Montalban. The picture of Accused Killer is a head shot of Jack Briggs, a member of the Four Star prop department, which printed the paper. Following Kowalski's directions, Marvin walked through the scene, slapping the paper on his thigh and whistling a catchy tune. "O.K., let's shoot it," said Kowalski. "Roll...and action, please...and cut, print, fine. Thank you, Lee." "Pleasure's all mine," said Marvin, flopping into a folding chair.
The next series of scenes—29 through 35—is a reunion between Captain Montalban and Pfc. Marvin, who have not seen one another since their jungle warfare days. Waiting for his entrance cue, Montalban, like a golfer addressing a tricky lie, waggled his fingers, shook his shoulders and made low animal noises with his mouth. "Mary Martin sent me to her voice coach," he whispered while crewmen adjusted lights and wrestled other equipment into position. "Never, never clear your throat, he told me. Instead, I learned to make sounds like this one: Mmmmmmm-mmmmmmmm-mmmooooommmm. It's like a car that won't start. My kids think I am nuts." "And action, please," said Bernie Kowalski softly, from around the corner. With a farewell waggle, Montalban moved off, feigning confusion and saying, "Finn?" (Marvin's name in Epilogue). "Once again, please," said Kowalski, and Montalban retreated, collecting himself. "Finn!" said Montalban. "That's better, Rick," said Kowalski. "Try it just once more, please." "Finn?!" said Montalban. "Perfect," said Kowalski, well pleased. "Cut and print it."
Light standards were lowered, the brakes on the camera dolly were released and everything was moved and set up in another corner for Marvin to make his entrance. The script informs us: "Up close we can see the man is in magnificent condition." Since "magnificent" is one of Geller's favorite words, it is better for accuracy to say Marvin is in pretty good condition, although he never goes near a gymnasium. ("With four kids and a wife who disapproves of drinking, who needs a gym?" he asks, reasonably.) "Hello, Captain," said Marvin as the camera turned noiselessly and everybody froze in watchful silence. Montalban smiled and put out his hand. "Cut," said Kowalski, hurrying over to Montalban. "Rick, don't be too friendly," he said. "He's your old comrade, but we already know you never liked the guy. Do it again, and this time try to receive his warmth without giving any in return. All right, gentlemen. Roll, please." "Take two," said an assistant camera operator, flatly, snapping his clapboard in front of the lens.
Marvin (cheerfully): I wasn't sure you'd remember me, Captain.
Montalban (receiving, not giving, warmth): Oh, I remember you, all right. I just wasn't sure I'd remember you. Eighteen years....