His name was Marvin Eisenman, but most of his film-buff pals knew him as Marvin of the Movies. He wasn’t a trained archivist or a professional librarian, but he kept careful track of all 42,000 movies in his collection and offered copies to friends, friends of friends, filmmakers, researchers, and scholars. He never asked for a nickel in return, so far as I know. His reward was the satisfaction of providing movies to people who wanted to see them. It was just as simple as that.
Marvin just passed away at the age of 83, and I will miss him—and his boundless enthusiasm. A mutual friend admitted to me that he was “the opposite of a critic.” He liked everything.
When I was working on a revised edition of my Classic Movie Guide I decided to add some B-movie musicals of the 1940s that Bruce Goldstein had screened at Film Forum in New York. The only problem: I hadn’t seen a number of them. So I called Marvin. As I rattled off titles (Mister Big, Moonlight in Havana, Earl Carroll Sketchbook) he’d—
—respond, “Got it…just got an upgrade on that…I think I have that on vhs,” and so on. A week later I had a stack of DVDs on my doorstep. Some of them looked great while others were barely watchable, copies of copies of 16mm transfers or old broadcasts, but at least I could check them out.
Marvin spent most of his career managing grocery stores, including the fabled Hollywood Ranch Market, where he got to meet a number of actors and others in the movie industry. When his wife became ill some years ago he bought his first video player, to amuse her, and discovered that he could not only watch old movies, but acquire them.
As he accumulated films, first on vhs and then on DVD, he started trading with other collectors around the world, always on the prowl for a rare or elusive title. If you challenged him to dig up something rare he took it almost as a dare and usually came through. At last count, on his computer, he had 42,000 titles including feature films, shorts, cartoons, and television episodes.
The story goes that one day producer Howard Koch was looking for a screening copy of The Manchurian Candidate, which had been out of circulation for many years. He called Marvin, who said he could provide a copy. Marvin then heard Koch say, “Hey, Frank, he’s got it!” That earned him an autographed photo from Old Blue Eyes, one of many souvenirs he collected for doing similar favors.
Sure, some people with clout could call a studio archivist, but setting up a screening of a 35mm print isn’t a simple matter, and a projectionist has to be paid. And studios can’t be bothered with requests from every former star or supporting player who wants to get ahold of a film they made years ago. Marvin was only too happy to help, and made the process a matter of a phone call.
Marvin Eisenman leaves behind his second wife Elaine, three children from his first marriage, five stepchildren, sixteen grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a large number of friends and fellow movie nuts who will be eternally grateful to this genial gentleman. He was a fixture in our lives, and it will be hard to deal with his loss. God bless you, Marvin of the Movies.
To see Marvin in action, click HERE.