MARVIN & TIGE (1984) Made for television movie starring John Cassavetes as a disheveled drunk.

marvindandtige_betaboxTheme Song: Bad emotive piano music.

Interesting Dated References: Lots of New York scenery in the early 80s. I recognized some famous places but I can’t really think of their names because I live in the midwest. I can tell you the location of 4 different Target stores though if you need me to. I could even tell you the subtle differences between said locations. I think one place in New york I recognize from the movie is that place where MTV used to have all their music awards shows back when people other than 12 year old girls watched the MTV Music Awards.

Best Line: “Rarely does one drink for the taste, however they still do it. Sometimes I drink to get high, to cool my nerves. Or when I need a little courage. Uh … you drink to forget. I guess I’ve used every one of those excuses at one time or another. Oh, I don’t need the drink, I don’t have to … I just don’t have a good reason to stop.”

Social Context: Plenty about race, family, age, and the like as represented by the relationship between an old drunk and a young orphan. A relationship that is totally implausible these days.

Summary: Marvin & Tige is essentially a made for television Hallmark Special type of movie. For some reason in the late 70s, and before the kidnapping scares of the early 80s, America was obsessed with the loving friendships that old crabby men can form with young lost boys. Movies like and The Earthling were shown on television constantly until everyone got freaked out and realized 75% of adults were trying to molest children.

The film begins as we follow the adorably black Tige arunning around New York finding food for his mom. The kid playing Tige is named Gibran Brown and aside from this movie, he never really did anything else. So, when Tige arrives home his sick mom acts all motherly. She’s got the worst fake “I’m sick” make-up job in the history of moviemaking, and by morning she’s dead. Tige sulks and pouts around the apartment while we learn from the neighbor lady that he has no other family and will have to go to an orphanage. That night, Tige goes to the park to slit his wrist with a switchblade and up walks John Cassavetes playing the overly-disheveled Marvin. You know Marvin, he’s the friendly drunk who picks up bottles and invites young boys back to his house for chili. Hey, in 1984 that was acceptable.

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So the adorable Tige goes back to Marvin’s house, which is filled with glass bottles set aside for recycling at a later date. Marvin explains to Tige all about sad thoughts and in the process burns the chili he was preparing.

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Cassavetes and the kid bond over a cheeseburger Tige had in his pocket and they proceed to form a relationship. Tige explains that his dad isn’t around and then Marvin offers him a bed to sleep in. Next thing you know it’s the morning and the two are sleeping fully clothed in a bed. Tige gets up early and leaves to wander the streets some more. He watches kids play with their dads and then hangs out at the 70s equivalent of Best Buy:

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This truly is a movie of the early 80s because everyone is nice to the kid. No one yells at him or tells him to get out of their store. That night he returns to Marvin’s house where Cassavetes is adorned in a fluffy pink robe. He offers Tige a few fish sticks and then they play cards. You know how nowadays when a film crew wants to make an apartment look dirty they buy a new apartment and use painting techniques to make it look all dirty? Well not back in the 70s and 80s. Back then, they actually filmed in a dirty apartment, which is why even the most terrible films from back then still look authentic. It was called atmosphere and it doesn’t exist anymore.

The next day Marvin and Tige go to the mall, people watch, and catch some Christmas carols. There’s actually some pretty nice dialogue going on here. Tige asks Marvin why he isn’t married and if he’s a “fag.” Tige also uses the word “nigga” several times, so even if this was a made-for-television type movie, it’s still rated PG and just goes to show how the standards have changed as far as what can be said.

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The two become fast friends and form some type of father/son dynamic. Sure sleeping in the bed is weird, but let’s remind ourselves that these were different times. The two quickly slip into regular domestic life shopping for groceries, doing puzzles, and other father/son things. The whole time Marvin is seen drinking and eventually Tige asks him about it, which leads to the excellent monologue cited above. So things go on, Christmas comes, Marvin buys Tige some roller skates, Marvin reveals his wife died, Tige reveals he can’t read, and a bunch more shit happens.

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Then Cassavetes uses his pink robe and a stick to teach Tige how to skate while really bad jazz music plays. Eventually Marvin goes to see about adopting Tige, but in order to do so he has to find Tige’s father whom, as stated before, wanted nothing to do with him. But since that got too serious, the director decided Marvin and Tige should go to some type of theme park where they are chased by a giant Pac-Man and ride a rollercoaster.

That’s actually a good scene because they mount a camera to the front of the car. So the duo debate about whites and blacks and literacy and other things about life. This eventually leads to an argument and the drinking thing comes up again. Tige pulls a knife on Marvin and they part ways as a bunch of dramatic piano music plays. Then over a bunch of shots of early 80s New York, Marvin runs around looking for Tige.

Eventually he finds him and as the next few days go on, Tige becomes really sick. This leads Marvin to try to track down Tige’s father. Just when I was starting to think, “Where the hell is Billy Dee Williams?,” he shows up as Tige’s father. Williams is a well-to-do businessman. Marvin asks him for a little help with getting Tige to a doctor and keeping him out of state custody. Williams eschews the idea of helping and Marvin returns home to find Tige near death. At the hospital Tige is found to be in a coma and suffering from malnutrition and pneumonia. Marvin repeatedly tires to contact Billy Dee Williams who is too busy getting finger waves put into his hair to care.

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Eventually Williams shows up at the hospital and he and Marvin have some coffee. They discuss how Williams has a new family and no one knows about Tige being his son. They decide to slowly introduce Tige to the family.

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So life goes on with Marvin and Tige, and eventually Marvin takes Tige to meet with the new adoptive family he has been talking about. Billy Dee Williams and Marvin have some scotch and talk to Tige in a surprisingly well-done scene where the kid calls out Billy Dee. Then they eat, which is followed by Billy Dee retreating to the den and having more scotch. Marvin soon joins him. They argue about the kid and then Marvin bails in a cab, abandoning Tige, but not before a dramatic goodbye where Marvin does the whole “I don’t need you” thing. I think I’m getting a little teary-eyed, but I have some other financial stressors going on at the moment so I’ll attribute it to that.

Flash forward a few weeks and the lonely drunk is wandering the streets again. Marvin gets home to find Tige standing in the doorway, well-dressed and healthy looking. They talk about life and happiness and then Tige invites Marvin to his 12th birthday party. Oh, and Tige tells Marvin he loves him right as Marvin is going for the liquor cabinet. Marvin accepts the invite and smooth jazz starts blaring at full volume.

Poster and Box Art: Judging by all the perfectly timed breaks in action and the lack of a formal poster, I’ve established this was in fact a made for television movie. The Betamax box is pretty lame, but hey, they weren’t trying to attract a huge audience here. Oh, and not that it matters, but Marvin & Tige was a book before it was a movie.

Availability: Used VHS are all over the place for really cheap. If you are a fan of Cassavetes, Billy Dee Williams’ hair, or men sleeping in bed with boys, you may want to pick one up. And I say that in all seriousness to the Cassavetes fans. This is a good movie, despite it’s somewhat cheesy subjet matter.

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13 comments

  • EVERYONE WHO SEE THIS MOVIE LOVE IT. WHITE. BLACK. IT DON’T MATTER. I USED TO LIVE WITH THIS OLD JEWISH HIPPIE GUY — THE POOREST JEW I EVER KNEW — AND ONCE WE WATCHED THIS MOVIE AND YOU KNOW HE WELLED UP ON HISSELF WHEN TIGE WAS SICK. YO I WAS TRIPPIN CUZ HE W’NT EVEN OUT THE BOX YET. FOR REAL

  • Does anyone know when most of this movie was filmed? I know for a fact that the Lighting of the Christmas tree was filmed on Thanksgiving, 1982, because I was in one of the choirs that sang on the bridge under the tree. However, I heard the movie’s release date was delayed because the Atlanta Child Murders case was still over the media, and they decided it’s topic would be too sensitive at that time. I thought though that most of that had gone down in 81 and early 82 (around the time I would’ve guessed this was [i]filmed[/i] – not released.. This leads me to wonder if it was filmed a couple years earlier, and they only later decided to put in the ’82 Xmas Tree Lighting.

  • I AM AN ACTRESS AND I THINK THE MOVIE IS BASED AND A GREAT STORY. I FIND IT INTERESTING TO HEAR OF ANOTHER ACTRESS WITH MY NAME.

    • Ms Carter,

      I think you should re-read the comment from Ms Bell. As she is talking about the character of Shirley Carter, not that it was the name of an actress. I am sorry but I just felt the need to point this out.

  • I’ve looked for anyway to get just the theme song since I saw the movie on HBO when I was 17 years old in 1984!!! I grew up fast at that time in California. And, had a daughter going on the age of 2 years old, right when I was 17. To my wonderful surprise, I have watched Marvin & Tige with my eldest granddaughter in about 2006. I had a better understanding of the film at that time, because it’s about LOVE. All I wanted to do was share this Movie Moment with my decendants because, I was too young to express the meaning of love & caring with my own child at age 17. Now, I have 2 grown daughter’s & 2 granddaughters. Now, I can really show them what made me cry & feel unloved. I just knew I would be turned away getting pregnant at 14. But, that’s what didn’t happen. Now, my Mom, God bless her soul, has taught me love, compassion & strength. I do my damndest to show it to my daughters & Granddaughters. Love, compassion & honestly sharing feelings is where it’s at. That’s what I’ve always wanted & I have always thought that Marvin & Tige got that from each other. Marvin & Tige is still one of my beloved movies!!!

    • I am looking for a copy of the movie Marvin & Tige. I played in the movie as Billy Dee Williams oldest daughter Shirley Carter. While on set filming I started out as an background extra and later was offered the part as Shirley Carter. I am the tallest daughter in the backyard scene when Tige comes to visit his father for the first time. The second time I am located across the street when Marvin comes home and I waved as we played hopscotch. I would love to show my kids this movie, I will pay for a copy. Thanks

      • It is a movie difficult to find online, let alone to see on television these days. I have it downloaded on .mp4 file.

  • A film as an art-form does truly make the impossible look real for the sake of entertainment. Marvin & Tige is of such taint. I watched ‘Marvin & Tige’ and was even surprised to find a few tears clouding my vision at times. Tige, after his mother death, spend the whole day at his apartmernt comtemplating the meaning of life decided not to take his life in the same apartment but to go to a scenic park – at night – to cut his wrist. Thank God he decided on the park for his final moment not ‘Marvin & Tige’ would have been ‘Marvins and the Bottles’ . Finding a caring family for bottles might not have pulled an audience to the TV set in the same way. But has luck would have it Marvin, the bottle bank, comes along and seeing Tige with pen knife across his wrist persuaded Tige to not killed himself but to come back to his apartment for a bowl of chilli. As a bowl of chilli sounded more appealing than slow death in the park, Tige put the knife away and the magic of the film took us down a road filled with heart churning feelings. The film is filled with sheer delight and wonders. The bonding between drunkard and orphan was very interesting to watch because it had all the hallmarks of a genuine need for each other. As the only reason for showing genuine concern and care is specifically motivated for sexual gratificaton according to the premise of western psychology, the question and assumptions of paedophilia was dismissed with a bed scene with homely intentions. A bed in the West has become such a sexual object that anyone of any age seen on it can only be pursuing carnal knowledge instead of a degree of rest and comfort. All the following scenes between the main two actors was worth watching. As I watch this film, the only possible conclusion I could entertained for this film will be to see Marvin adopting,caring and loving Tige, and Tige becoming the main reason for Marivin to give up the bottle and join the rat race again. But as the situation between blacks and whites in the real world is still one of grave concern the film did the next best thing and gave Tige to his rich father and his family. Obviously, Marvin suffered another blow to his heart even though he didn’t show it. He became a drunkard in the first place because has lovely green eyed wife died and now he will probably hit the bottle against because his lovely black skin Tige has gone. Marvin have every right to go back on the bottle. Putting a picture of Tige next to the framed jigsaw-pieces white swan on the wall left me wondering if Marvin will take a broken bottle and go to the park – at night – to slice his wrist and wait for an orphan boy to come along and offer him a bowl of chocolate cheerio.

  • Joy of all joys! An actually review that not only gives a good insight into the movie but is very homourous and had me laughing my guts out. This review inspired me to watch the movie so I did and I must confessed a few tears came streaming out my eyes. I felt, in his situtaion Tige should have been breaking down with proper crying and big tears to flood Atlanta not the singlely ones that came out his eyes in the close-up shots. But the movie is not bad as a social fantasy joint. You’re meant to get high on it, ask yourself a few questions about the state of human relationship and afterward get on with the reality that reeked of a state of alienation. The movie is credible because Tige’s performance is very genuine and free-spirited. Yes Marvin performance is credible too but that pink fluffy housecoat was too much to bear. The second to last scene outside the tige’ father’s house is the most powerful scene I have ever seen in a drama of this kind. Tears rolled down my face even at my age. The Director should have closed this scene with Tige running after the taxi and not being able to catch up to it. The final scene was natural, amazing and painful in a necessary way. In all, the movie works because the sincerity of the scenes and language between the two main actors touches the human heart. Even though they both love and need each other, due to political reality white Marvin have to give up black Tige to bring the movie back to the real reality we are force to face on a daily basis. In all, Marvin and Tige is a believable unbelievable heart-spin. I love it.

  • The question is, how many production assistants got punched in the face after that roller-coaster scene? Cassavetes looks like his hemorrhoids are killing him and he wants to puke up the whiskey he just drank.

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