On November 8, 2009, a little bit of Hollywood arrived in the sleepy village of Salado, Texas. The event was sponsored by the Institute for the Humanities at Salado (http://www.salado-institute.org/) that was founded by the late Dr. Harry A. Wilmer and is continued by his widow Jane.
The Wilmer’s were good friends with Pamela and Lee Marvin and on the Academy award winning actor’s death Pam and the Wilmer’s established the Lee Marvin Lectureship for Word and Image in his memory. The lectureship was to be given by someone connected to the film industry and who shared Marvin’s passion and commitment to the same industry.
It’s fitting that the first lectureship given under that title would be from his co-stars of the 1980 film The Big Red One. The cast members of The Big Red One reunited to pay tribute to their Sergeant, Lee Marvin, and even their director (commanding General?) Samuel Fuller. Mark Hamill (Pvt. Griff) had other commitments, but Robert Carradine (Pvt. Zab), Bobby Di Cicco (Pvt. Vinci), and Kelly Ward (Pvt. Johnson) were in attendance.
Each man took the podium and told of their fallen comrades Lee Marvin, who died in 1987, and Sam Fuller, who died in 1997. Their reminiscences were both humorous and extremely moving. Interspersed with their talk were clips from the film, several of which were cut from the 1980 release of the film and had just been restored when the film was reedited to Fuller’s original vision in 2004.
If you’ve not seen the Big Red One, do yourself a favor and rent or buy the restored cut. Carradine later told a hilarious story of their first meeting with Marvin, Ward was visibly moved, as well as the audience, by the scene with Marvin carrying a youthful concentration camp victim, and Di Cicco presented a wonderful spoken biography of Marvin.
Some portions of Lee: A Romance by his widow Pamela Marvin, who also was in attendance, were read and it was immediately ordered from an online book vendor on my return home. Each actor told some fine tales of their time with the larger than life, combat seasoned star, who was really more down to earth than you may imagine. It was so well presented and heartfelt that I could’ve listened for several more hours.
I did get to sit at the table with the three stars and more tales were told and a lovely lady bought the table two bottles of wine that were most appreciated. The wine was consumed later, but my terrible pictures made me feel as if I had a bottle beforehand. The stars, however, were very friendly and made themselves available to answer any questions and a good time was had by all.
It was a fitting remembrance that put the audience in a patriotic mindset, made even more fitting as Veteran’s Day falls so soon after the lecture. The evening was made even more special by the attendance of several members of the 1st Infantry Division, aka The Big Red One, who where stationed at Fort Hood. Fort Hood is a familiar name to us Texans, but it has also been in the news of late with the terrible act committed on base.
My thoughts and prayers go out to those brave, fallen soldiers from the terrible events of the past week as to our veterans of all wars and our brave military. God bless them all.