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Phoenix (The Complete Action Series)
David Alexander
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Lee - Andrew Nette, Cameron Ashley, David Honeybone, Eric Beetner, Ray Banks, Luke Preston, Nigel Bird, Roger Smith, Johnny Shaw, Ryan K. Lindsay, Jimmy Callway, Adrian McKinty, Jake Hinkson, Scott Phillips, Heath Lowrance, James Hopwood, Jenna Bass, Erik Lundy I miss the Tough Guys. Cinema Tough Guys, I'm talking about. Guys like Robert Mitchum, Charles Bronson, Jack Palance, those kind of guys. Big, ugly guys with gnarly hands and slightly constipated expressions. I don't think we have those guys anymore. We have the Action Stars like Stallone and Schwarzenegger, and they are fine for what they do, but big muscles don't necessarily make a guy tough. Chuck Norris? You'd think, but let's face it. No real Tough Guy is going to be caught dead doing infomercials for some crappy piece of exercise equipment. I like Bruce Willis okay, but I don't think he is necessarily in the same category. Jason Statham? He's more of a kicking/punching/driving automaton than an actor. Again, fine for what he does, but he does not meet the qualifications.

But worse we now have former male strippers named "Channing" running around with guns. Something's gotta be off.

I think the days of the Cinema Tough Guy are quickly passing. Gone are the days of quiet men with hard looks who couldn't give a rat's ass about shaving their chests or having perfectly coiffed hair (and they'd never use the word "coif" anyway). They had tired faces from uncompromising lives. Like Danny Trejo in Machete, Cinema Tough Guys don't text. They took their bourbons neat and their women with a twist of lime, and I don't exactly know what that means but neither do Cinema Tough Guys and they don't give a damn. They may have been emotionally unavailable, but they were pretty busy, you know, kicking asses and taking names. 

You can keep your Channings, Hollywood. I'll stick with Lee.

Lee is an anthology of short stories featuring the generalissimo of Cinema Tough Guys, Lee Marvin as the main character, and follows the basic chronology of his life, from his time on a hospital ship coming back from WWII after being shot in the ass to his death in 1987. Coming from a variety of authors, the stories are fun ways to imagine the life of Lee Marvin, not just the characters he played but the man himself. Some of the stories feature hilarious takes on other contemporary Hollywood notables, some are hard-boiled crime pieces that build on our collective imagination of Lee Marvin's tough guy image. Obviously, these stories are fiction. I'm pretty sure Lee Marvin never robbed a guy, and I tend to think that in reality he was probably a little tamer than these stories present, but that's what makes them so fun. In fact, I finished this collection in just a day or so, reading during every spare moment because it's such a fun bunch of stories, but had to take some time to get my thoughts together to write a fitting review, as well as watch some Lee Marvin flicks on the way.

And Lee Marvin wasn't just some dude pretending to be a tough guy on screen. He had a face like a pissed-off hound dog and a voice like rumbling thunder on the horizon. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during WWII and returned wounded, got a job as a plumber's assistant but then broke into acting. Lee Marvin was progressive for his time, speaking out for gay rights in a Playboy interview and opposed the war in Vietnam, and you have to consider he must have been a tough guy to own up to his own views in a relatively conservative America. But Marvin had a toughness that one could feel, just through his attitude, even without knowing his background. He had that calm, quiet confidence. You knew this guy was no joke. While he became a success it never seemed to go to his head and wasn't always keen on the business itself: "You spend the first forty years of your life trying to get in this fucking business, and the next forty years trying to get out. And when you're making the bread, who needs it?"

Lee is a fitting tribute to the man and fun contribution to the legend. Yeah, Lee Marvin. I love that guy.

[Many thanks go to Tfitoby, who recommended this one to me.]