The eldest gentleman in the group said, “And does Miss Leigh know what she is going to have?” “Well yes, I know exactly what I’m going to have.” I looked right at the waitress and said, “I’ll have watermelon, please.” Needless to say, although this was Thursday, I realized too late that I had perhaps committed another small faux pas.
Among the Hollywood storytellers, there were a select few that could truly spin a yarn. I had my favorites in this elite group, and without exception, Joe Flynn and Larry Stortch were the best. And of those lesser-known Roy Cabine could hold court with the best with his many hilarious stories, which he experienced as Lee Marvin’s stand-in for many years. It appears Lee Marvin was a target for many a prank, and practical jokes are par for the course on most out-of-town location shoots. While filming out on a desert far from civilization, anyone is fair game for just about any caper. And the longer the duration of time spent in these remote places the wilder and crazier the antics became. Due to the inaccessibility of this particular spot on the Arizona map, few were able to get away or leave the location for a boys-night-out as it were. That is, in this case, only the star Lee Marvin. Who apparently went on nightly forays to the nearest desert hamlet, which for all intents and purpose was no more than a falling off place in the middle of nowhere. But for Marvin all that was needed to shake off the dust of the day’s work was did the berg have a bar? If so he was in his element.
Roy Cabine was a very fine and educated man of gentle nature, so his style of telling these tales was with sophistication and polish. And with the subject being somewhat on the crude side, he made even these stories quite bearable given his vocabulary, mannerisms, and savoir-faire. Without going into any of the gory details of what obviously occurred when Mr. Marvin went to town, Roy simply stated that Lee was absorbing the local culture and customs of the natives. One night after he had left for his nightly routine some of his coworkers decided to retaliate in a big way. Enough was enough for these envious men, and so they set about planning the do-to-end-all-do’s.”
As his driver drove Mr. Marvin into town every night, this enabled him to really absorb not only culture and customs, but also an excessive amount of alcohol. He would get rip-roaring drunk and returned to the campsite on the verge of passing out. With that in mind the perpetrators of the monkeyshines used this to their best advantage, knowing full well that Marvin would return ‘non compos mentis,’ and be oblivious to any buffoonery until morning.
The best tomfoolery they could come up with, given the limited resources, was to relocate Marvin’s tent directly over the pit that had been used for the outhouse. A new pit was dug for the fresh new outhouse site, and directly over the days old hole they pitched Marvin’s tent. Only a few planks were placed over the opening. The engineers of this joke became bilious from the close contact with the contents, which they had stirred up to activate the aroma, as if that was necessary. Nonetheless, the job now completed and everything in place, they waited patiently for the limo to bring back the victim. Just about on schedule Lee and the driver returned. The limo driver was directed to the new site of Lee’s tent. Someone ingeniously placed it all so that the driver was assured that everything was fine. Marvin, feeling no pain was none the wiser as he stumbled from the car and ambled into his tent and directly on the cot, which had indeed been placed directly over the “hell hole.”
He slept the entire night in that environment, snoring loudly enough to be heard by his neighbors, who were not that close! Morning came, and the observers watched as a very ill Marvin bolted from his tent and was unable to find the outhouse. He was positively green around the gills, and painted the air blue with inflammatory remarks about the toilet being moved, and no one telling him where it was. “Just let your nose tell you, Lee, you won’t be able to miss it.” Marvin took the fellows advice. Can you imagine the surprise when he ended up back in his own tent?
I was later to learn of Lee Marvin’s heroic efforts in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He had been rightly decorated for his bravery. One can now easily surmise that much of his excesses may have been the result of what we now know as ‘delayed stress syndrome.’
One more great story-teller was one of my favorite actors Ross Martin. Perhaps it was because he always reminded me of my brother. He is known primarily for his work on “Wild Wild West.” But before that I knew him as a wonderful character actor, who primarily played a villain. He was anything but a villain, and as is invariable the case the actors who play the worse sort of scoundrels are usually delightfully winsome. Ross was the epitome of lovable. On some set that I cannot even recall what it was it was so unmemorable, but which was undoubtedly “Wild Wild West,” he told Linda and I stories that kept us entertained all day. Our favorite was about his dogs. They were truly city curs. To remedy this he would take them on outings up in the mountains, hoping some of their natural abilities would manifest themselves. But alas, these dogs were destined to remain ignorant of their hunting instincts.
However, one experience had to have some effect on them. As Ross strolled through the woods with his canine companions they came upon a porcupine. The dogs began baying and barking in the unmistakable howl of a hound. Ross then with his hands stretched far apart would mimic their baying, as his hands opened and closed quickly like two dogs barking. He then brought his hands swiftly together as if approaching a porcupine. And then the baying turned to yelping in pain as his two hands drew quickly apart. His two canines experienced why porcupines are to be avoided. Once Ross was able to collect his animals he would spend the rest of the afternoon removing porcupine quills. Ross’ telling of this tale was truly that of a dramatic genius and a joy.
(Continued next month )