Release Year: 1976
Director: John Schlesinger
Writer: William Goldman (screenplay based on his own 1974 novel Marathon Man)
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider, William Devane, Marthe Keller, Fritz Weaver, Richard Bright, Marc Lawrence, Allen Joseph, Tito Goya, Jacques Marin
Rating: Nominated for 1 Oscar: Bet Supporting Actor (Laurence Olivier). Won 1 Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actor (Laurence Olivier). Nominated for 4 Golden Globes: Best Director, Best Actor – Drama (Dustin Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (Marthe Keller), Best Screenplay.
Sunday Classic #268, week 32 2019
Babe (Dustin Hoffman) a graduate student of history and avid runner gets caught in the middle of a conspiracy involving stolen diamonds, an exiled nazi war criminal, and a rogue government agent.
The many legends (some true) of top Nazis hiding in South America had a certain allure for Hollywood for a period, another good example being The Boys from Brazil (1978). Where Boys from Brazil had a somewhat outlandish, if highly entertaining plot, John Schlesinger’s Marathon Man is more down to earth and even features the post Watergate Hollywood trope of corrupt government officials. Ironically, Laurence Olivier (Spartacus, 1960) appears in both. In Marathon Man, a seriously ill (see Moviegeek info below) Olivier delivers a great and chilling performance; the man seemingly had a knack for playing chilling and nasty characters. Opposite him is a young Dustin Hoffman, as a young man attempting to become a historian so he can restore the good name of his late father, who was persecuted during the McCarthy age. Hoffman is great for the part, and convinces as the plot thickens and the pace hastens. The film has a surprising turn halfway through, a (in)famous dental scene, good thrilling scenes, and a satisfying end. A really good thriller that still works. Highly recommended – especially for Olivier!
Laurence Olivier took the part of Szell to make extra money to leave to his wife and children as he was expecting to die from the cancer he was suffering from during production. He was undergoing treatment as they were filming and had to use lots of painkillers to be able to get through shooting, which unfortunately affected his ability to remember lines. His performance garnered rave reviews and he recovered completely from his cancer, enabling him to enjoy the success of his performance.
Dustin Hoffman lost 15 pounds and ran 4 miles a day to get in shape for his role. He would never fake his heavy breathing in scenes, but would run half a mile before a scene so that he would actually be out of breath.
Hoffman was not a fan of Goldman’s original novel but mainly wanted to do the film because he wanted to work with director John Schlesinger again with whom he had collaborated on Midnight Cowboy (1969).
Picture Copyright: UIP