In actor Lee Marvin’s acceptance speech for the ‘Best Actor’ Oscar for the 1965 comedy ‘Cat Ballou’, he said, ‘Half this award belongs to some horse out in the Valley’, referring to the then iconic shot in the film of he and the horse he’s on — both drunk — leaning against a wall.

‘Film industry’ word at the time, however, was that in reality half the award belonged to the other of his two wildly different back-to-back performances that year, the second one in the movie ‘Ship of Fools’.

‘Ship of Fools’ was a ‘return to form’ for director Stanley Kramer in the sense that he’d previously directed three black and white (for somberness) movies in a row with ‘important’ themes.  The third in that series was ‘Judgement at Nuremberg’, which like ‘Ship of Fools’ employed ‘Grand Hotel’-style casting, a laundry list of stars.

Set aboard a passenger ship in the days before WWII, the whole thing has such a soundstage look that it leads one to imagine its I’m-watching-a-play feel being intentional.  Whatever the case, it is a kind of buffet of discrete scenes, the ones between Simone Signoret and Oskar Werner heartbreaking.

This movie was the final screen appearance of Vivien Leigh, fittingly (I suppose) the forth of her four screen Southern Belles.  She has a couple of scenes with Lee Marvin, one very memorable climactic one involving his being whacked with a shoe.  However, one of her best scenes is with actor Werner Klemperer, who must have been thrilled to have this pairing in his resume.  (see: ‘Hogan’s Heroes’)

In this scene, Klemperer, who plays a ship’s officer, makes a pass at Leigh’s character, she rebuffs him and he proceeds to read her beads — over-the-hill divorcée on a cruise, etc, etc — and she replies, ‘How extraordinary that a person such as yourself would be saying such things to me… [silence…] probably all true…’  Then, after a beat, she valiantly collects herself, smiles triumphantly, flips the boa she’s wearing over her shoulder and says, ‘Well, I believe this evening’s festivities have come to a close!’ and strides away.

If I’ve used that line once, I’ve used it a hundred times.  No boa.

Lee Marvin’s half-an-Oscar scene in the movie is opposite actor Michael Dunn.  Both drunk, Marvin’s character is lamenting his faded professional baseball career, pantomiming so concisely missed swings at the ball, he finally collapses with a sort of anguished bleat.  Frightening.

In 1966, enjoying his post-Oscar contract power, on intuition Marvin handed over his script approval, final cut approval, etc, etc to John Boorman, the director of his next movie, the hallucinatory gangster movie Point Blank’.

‘Point Blank’ has a permanent spot in my Top Ten films.  I will not reveal how many times I may have seen it since seeing it the first time on the big screen in 1967.  Premiering the same month as ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, unlike the violence in that film, the violence in ‘Point Blank’ is more ‘balletic’ than ghastly.  I’ve just said that, and I’m sticking to it.

I met John Boorman very briefly at a sneak preview of his movie ‘Excalibur’, and gushed all over the poor man based on my fandom of ‘Point Blank’.

Now, that was ghastly.