Lamont Waltman Marvin Jr.
February 19, 1924
New York City, U.S.
|Died||August 29, 1987 (aged 63)|
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Partner||Michelle Triola (1965–1970)|
|Service/|| United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1942–1944|
|Rank||Private first class|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Lee Marvin (February 19, 1924 – August 29, 1987) was an American film and television actor. Known for his bass voice and premature white hair, he is best remembered for playing hardboiled "tough guy" characters. Although initially typecast as the "heavy" (i.e. villainous character), he later gained prominence for portraying anti-heroes, such as Detective Lieutenant Frank Ballinger on the television series M Squad (1957–1960). Marvin's notable roles in film included Charlie Strom in The Killers (1964), Rico Fardan in The Professionals (1966), Major John Reisman in The Dirty Dozen (1967), Ben Rumson in Paint Your Wagon (1969), Walker in Point Blank (1967), and the Sergeant in The Big Red One (1980).
Marvin achieved numerous accolades when he portrayed both gunfighter Kid Shelleen and criminal Tim Strawn in a dual role for the comedy Western film Cat Ballou (1965), alongside Jane Fonda, a surprise hit which won him the Academy Award for Best Actor, along with a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, an NBR Award, and the Silver Bear for Best Actor.
Lee Marvin was born in New York City to Lamont Waltman Marvin, WWI veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers and an advertising executive, and Courtenay Washington (née Davidge), a fashion writer. As with his elder brother, Robert, he was named in honor of Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who was his first cousin, four times removed. His father was a direct descendant of Matthew Marvin Sr., who emigrated from Great Bentley, Essex, England in 1635, and helped found Hartford, Connecticut. Marvin studied violin when he was young.  His father was abusive and his mother failed to provide the love kids need. In childhood, Lee Marvin suffered from dyslexia and ADHD. As a teenager, Marvin "spent weekends and spare time hunting deer, puma, wild turkey, and bobwhite in the wilds of the then-uncharted Everglades".
He attended Manumit School, a Christian socialist boarding school in Pawling, New York, during the late 1930s, and Peekskill Military Academy in Peekskill, New York. He later attended St. Leo College Preparatory School, a Catholic school in St. Leo, Florida, after being expelled from several other schools for bad behavior (smoking cigarettes and fights).
Marvin enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on August 12, 1942. Before finishing School of Infantry, he was a quartermaster. Lee served in the 4th Marine Division as a scout sniper in the Pacific Theater during World War II, including assaults on Eniwetok and Saipan-Tinian. While serving as a member of "I" Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Lee participated in 21 Japanese islands landings and was wounded in action on June 18, 1944, during the assault on Mount Tapochau in the Battle of Saipan, during which most of his company were casualties. He was hit by machine gun fire, which severed his sciatic nerve, and then was hit again in the foot by a sniper. After over a year of medical treatment in naval hospitals, Marvin was given a medical discharge with the rank of private first class. He previously held the rank of corporal, but had been demoted for troublemaking.
Marvin's decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Navy Commendation Medal with V Device
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
After the war, while working as a plumber's assistant at a local community theatre in upstate New York, Marvin was asked to replace an actor who had fallen ill during rehearsals. He caught the acting bug and got a job with the company at $7 a week. He moved to Greenwich Village and used the G.I. Bill to study at the American Theatre Wing.
He appeared on stage in a production of Uniform of Flesh, the original version of Billy Budd (1949). It was performed at the Experimental Theatre, where a few months later, Marvin also appeared in The Nineteenth Hole of Europe (1949).
Marvin began appearing on television shows like Escape, The Big Story, and Treasury Men in Action.
He made it to Broadway with a small role in a production of Uniform of Flesh, now titled Billy Budd, in February 1951.
Marvin's film debut was in You're in the Navy Now (1951), directed by Henry Hathaway, a movie that also marked the debuts of Charles Bronson and Jack Warden. This required some filming in Hollywood. Marvin decided to stay in California.
He had a similar small part in Teresa (1951), directed by Fred Zinnemann. As a decorated combat veteran, Marvin was a natural in war dramas, where he frequently assisted the director and other actors in realistically portraying infantry movement, arranging costumes, and the use of firearms.
He guest starred on episodes of Fireside Theatre, Suspense and Rebound. Hathaway used him again on Diplomatic Courier (1952) and he could be seen in Down Among the Sheltering Palms (1952), directed by Edmund Goulding, We're Not Married! (1952), also for Goulding, The Duel at Silver Creek (1952) directed by Don Siegel, and Hangman's Knot (1952), directed by Roy Huggins.
He guest starred on Biff Baker, U.S.A. and Dragnet, and had a showcase role as the squad leader in a feature titled Eight Iron Men (1952), a war film directed by Edward Dmytryk and produced by Stanley Kramer (Marvin's role had been played on Broadway by Burt Lancaster).
He was a sergeant in Seminole (1953), a Western directed by Budd Boetticher, and was a corporal in The Glory Brigade (1953), a Korean War film.
Marvin guest starred in The Doctor, The Revlon Mirror Theater , Suspense again and The Motorola Television Hour.
He was now in much demand for Westerns: The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953) with Randolph Scott, and Gun Fury (1953) with Rock Hudson.
Marvin received much acclaim for his portrayal as villains in two films: The Big Heat (1953) where he played Gloria Grahame's vicious boyfriend, directed by Fritz Lang; and The Wild One (1953) opposite Marlon Brando (Marvin's gang in the film was named "The Beetles"), produced by Kramer.
He continued in TV shows such as The Plymouth Playhouse and The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse. He had support roles in Gorilla at Large (1954) and had a notable small role as smart-aleck sailor Meatball in The Caine Mutiny (1954), produced by Kramer.
Marvin was in The Raid (1954), Center Stage, Medic and TV Reader's Digest.
He had a part as Hector, the small-town hood in Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) with Spencer Tracy. Also in 1955, he played a conflicted, brutal bank-robber in Violent Saturday. A critic wrote of the character, "Marvin brings a multi-faceted complexity to the role and gives a great example of the early promise that launched his long and successful career."
Marvin played Robert Mitchum's and Frank Sinatra's friend in Not as a Stranger (1955), a medical drama produced and directed by Stanley Kramer. He had good supporting roles in A Life in the Balance (1955) (he was third billed), and Pete Kelly's Blues (1955) and appeared on TV in Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre and Studio One in Hollywood.
Marvin was in I Died a Thousand Times (1955) with Jack Palance, Shack Out on 101 (1955), Kraft Theatre, and Front Row Center.
Marvin was the villain in Seven Men from Now (1956) with Randolph Scott directed by Boetticher. He was second-billed to Palance in Attack (1956) directed by Robert Aldrich.
Marvin had roles in Pillars of the Sky (1956) with Jeff Chandler, The Rack (1956) with Paul Newman, Raintree County (1957) with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift and a leading role in The Missouri Traveler (1958). He also guest starred on Climax! (several times), Studio 57, The United States Steel Hour and Schlitz Playhouse.
Marvin debuted as a leading man in M Squad as Chicago cop Frank Ballinger in 100 episodes of the successful 1957–1960 television series. One critic described the show as "a hyped-up, violent Dragnet ... with a hard-as-nails Marvin" playing a tough police lieutenant. Marvin received the role after guest-starring in a Dragnet episode as a serial killer.
When the series ended Marvin appeared on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, NBC Sunday Showcase, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, The Americans, Wagon Train, Checkmate, General Electric Theater, Alcoa Premiere, The Investigators, Route 66 (he was injured during a fight scene), Ben Casey, Bonanza, The Untouchables (several times), The Virginian, The Twilight Zone ("The Grave" and "Steel"), The Dick Powell Theatre, and The Investigators.
Marvin returned to feature films with a prominent role in The Comancheros (1961) starring John Wayne and Stuart Whitman. He played in two more films with Wayne, both directed by John Ford: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and Donovan's Reef (1963). As the vicious Liberty Valance, Marvin played his first title role and held his own with two of the screen's biggest stars (Wayne and James Stewart).
In 1962 Marvin appeared as Martin Kalig on the TV western The Virginian in the episode titled "It Tolls for Thee." He continued to guest star on shows like Combat!, Dr. Kildare and The Great Adventure. He did The Case Against Paul Ryker for Kraft Suspense Theatre.
For director Don Siegel, Marvin appeared in The Killers (1964) playing an efficient professional assassin alongside Clu Gulager, grappling with villain Ronald Reagan and Angie Dickinson. The Killers was the first film in which Marvin received top billing. Originally made as a TV-movie, the film was deemed so entertaining that it was exhibited in theatres instead.
He guest starred on Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre.
Marvin finally became a star for his dual role in the offbeat comedic Western Cat Ballou (1965) starring Jane Fonda. This was a surprise hit and Marvin won the Academy Award for Best Actor. He also won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 15th Berlin International Film Festival in 1965.
Playing alongside Vivien Leigh and Simone Signoret, Marvin won the 1966 National Board of Review Award for male actors for his role in Ship of Fools (1965) directed by Kramer.[N 1]
Marvin next performed in the highly regarded Western The Professionals (1966), in which he played the leader of a small band of skilled mercenaries (Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Woody Strode) rescuing a kidnap victim (Claudia Cardinale) shortly after the Mexican Revolution. He had second billing to Lancaster but his part was almost as large.
He followed that film with the hugely successful World War II epic The Dirty Dozen (1967) in which top-billed Marvin again portrayed an intrepid commander of a colorful group (played by John Cassavetes, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Jim Brown, and Donald Sutherland) performing an almost impossible mission. Robert Aldrich directed. In an interview, Marvin stated his time in the Marine Corps helped shape that role "for playing an officer how I felt it should have been seen, from the bias of an enlisted man's viewpoint".
In the wake of these films and after having received his Oscar, Marvin was a huge star, given enormous control over his next film Point Blank. In Point Blank, an influential film from director John Boorman, he portrayed a hard-nosed criminal bent on revenge. Marvin, who had selected Boorman for the director's slot, had a central role in the film's development, plot, and staging.
In 1968, Marvin also appeared in another Boorman film, the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful World War II character study Hell in the Pacific, also starring famed Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. Boorman recounted his work with Lee Marvin on these two films and Marvin's influence on his career in the 1998 documentary Lee Marvin: A Personal Portrait by John Boorman. The Case Against Paul Ryker with Bradford Dillman, which Marvin shot for TV's Kraft Suspense Theatre and had been telecast in 1963, was released theatrically as Sergeant Ryker in 1968 after the runaway success of The Dirty Dozen.
Marvin was originally cast as Pike Bishop (later played by William Holden) in The Wild Bunch (1969), but fell out with director Sam Peckinpah and pulled out to star in the Western musical Paint Your Wagon (1969), in which he was top-billed over a singing Clint Eastwood. Despite his limited singing ability, he had a hit with the song "Wand'rin' Star". By this time, he was getting paid $1 million per film, $200,000 less than top star Paul Newman was making at the time, yet he was ambivalent about the movie business, even with its financial rewards:
You spend the first forty years of your life trying to get in this business, and the next forty years trying to get out. And then when you're making the bread, who needs it?
Marvin had a much greater variety of roles in the 1970s, with fewer 'bad-guy' roles than in earlier years. His 1970s movies included Monte Walsh (1970), a Western with Palance and Jeanne Moreau; the violent Prime Cut (1972) with Gene Hackman; Pocket Money (1972) with Paul Newman, for Stuart Rosenberg; Emperor of the North (1973) opposite Ernest Borgnine for Aldrich; as Hickey in The Iceman Cometh (1973) with Fredric March and Robert Ryan, for John Frankenheimer; The Spikes Gang (1974) with Noah Beery Jr. for Richard Fleischer; The Klansman (1974) with Richard Burton; Shout at the Devil (1976), a World War I adventure with Roger Moore, directed by Peter Hunt; The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday (1976), a comic Western with Oliver Reed; and Avalanche Express (1979), a Cold War thriller with Robert Shaw who died during production, as did the film's director, both from heart attacks. None of these films were big box-office hits.
Marvin was offered the role of Quint in Jaws (1975) but declined, stating "What would I tell my fishing friends who'd see me come off a hero against a dummy shark?"
Marvin's last big role was in Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One (1980), a war film based on Fuller's own war experiences.
His remaining films were Death Hunt (1981), a Canadian action movie with Charles Bronson, directed by Peter Hunt; Gorky Park (1983) with William Hurt; and Dog Day (1984), shot in France.
For TV he did The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission (1985; a sequel with Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Richard Jaeckel picking up where they had left off despite being 18 years older).
His final appearance was in The Delta Force (1986) with Chuck Norris, playing a role turned down by Charles Bronson.
Marvin was a Democrat. He publicly endorsed John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. Due to injuries that he sustained in the war, that led to PTSD, Lee became anti-war minded and opposed the Vietnam War. In a 1969 Playboy interview, Marvin said he supported gay rights.
Marvin married Betty Ebeling in April 1952 and together they had four children, son Christopher Lamont, and three daughters: Courtenay Lee, Cynthia Louise, and Claudia Leslie. After a separation of two years, they divorced in January 1967. In her 2010 book, Tales of a Hollywood Housewife: A Memoir by the First Mrs. Lee Marvin, Betty claimed that Lee had an affair with actress Anne Bancroft.
He married Pamela Feeley in 1970 following his famous relationship with Michelle Triola. Pamela had four children from three previous marriages; they had no children together and remained married until his death in 1987.
In 1971, Marvin was sued by Michelle Triola, his live-in girlfriend from 1965 to 1970, who legally changed her surname to "Marvin". Although the couple never married, she sought financial compensation similar to that available to spouses under California's alimony and community property laws. Triola claimed Marvin made her pregnant three times and paid for two abortions, while one pregnancy ended in miscarriage. She claimed the second abortion left her unable to bear children. The result was the landmark "palimony" case, Marvin v. Marvin, 18 Cal. 3d 660 (1976).
In 1979, Marvin was ordered to pay $104,000 to Triola for "rehabilitation purposes", but the court denied her community property claim for one-half of the $3.6 million which Marvin had earned during their six years of cohabitation – distinguishing nonmarital relationship contracts from marriage, with community property rights only attaching to the latter by operation of law. Rights equivalent to community property only apply in nonmarital relationship contracts when the parties expressly, whether orally or in writing, contract for such rights to operate between them. In August 1981, the California Court of Appeal found that no such contract existed between them and nullified the award she had received. Michelle Triola died of lung cancer on October 30, 2009, having been with actor Dick Van Dyke since 1976.
Later there was controversy after Marvin characterized the trial as a "circus", saying "everyone was lying, even I lied". There were official comments about possibly charging Marvin with perjury, but no charges were filed.
This case was used as fodder for a mock debate skit on Saturday Night Live called "Point Counterpoint" and a skit on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson with Carson as Adam, and Betty White as Eve.
A heavy smoker and drinker, Marvin had health problems by the end of his life. In December 1986, Marvin was hospitalized for more than two weeks because of a condition related to coccidioidomycosis. He went into respiratory distress and was administered steroids to help his breathing. He had major intestinal ruptures as a result, and underwent a colectomy. Marvin died of a heart attack on August 29, 1987, aged 63. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
|1951||You're in the Navy Now||Radio Man||Uncredited|
|1952||Diplomatic Courier||MP at Trieste||Uncredited|
|We're Not Married!||"Pinky"||Uncredited|
|The Duel at Silver Creek||Tinhorn Burgess|
|Hangman's Knot||Rolph Bainter|
|Eight Iron Men||Sgt. Joe Mooney|
|1953||Down Among the Sheltering Palms||Pvt. Snively||Uncredited|
|The Glory Brigade||Cpl. Bowman|
|The Stranger Wore a Gun||Dan Kurth|
|The Big Heat||Vince Stone|
|The Wild One||Chino|
|1954||Gorilla at Large||Shaughnessy, Policeman|
|The Caine Mutiny||"Meatball"|
|The Raid||Lt. Keating|
|1955||Bad Day at Black Rock||Hector David|
|Violent Saturday||Dill, Bank Robber|
|Not as a Stranger||Brundage|
|A Life in the Balance||The Killer|
|Pete Kelly's Blues||Al Gannaway|
|I Died a Thousand Times||Babe Kossuck|
|Shack Out on 101||Slob / Mr. Gregory|
|1956||Seven Men from Now||Bill Masters||Made by Batjac Productions, John Wayne's company.|
|Attack||Lt. Col. Clyde Bartlett|
|Pillars of the Sky||Sergeant Lloyd Carracart|
|The Rack||Capt. John R. Miller|
|1957||Raintree County||Orville "Flash" Perkins||Nominated—Laurel Award for Best Male Supporting Performance|
|1958||The Missouri Traveler||Tobias Brown|
|1961||The Comancheros||Tully Crow||Nominated—Laurel Award for Best Male Supporting Performance|
|1962||The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance||Liberty Valance||Bronze Wrangler for Best Theatrical Motion Picture|
Nominated—Laurel Award for Best Action Performance
|1963||Donovan's Reef||Thomas Aloysius "Boats" Gilhooley|
|1964||The Killers||Charlie Strom||BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role (also for Cat Ballou)|
Nominated—Laurel Award for Best Action Performance
|1965||Cat Ballou||Kid Shelleen and Tim Strawn||Academy Award for Best Actor|
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role (also for The Killers)
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Laurel Award for Best Male Comedy Performance
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor (also for Ship of Fools)
Silver Bear for Best Actor
Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
|Ship of Fools||Bill Tenny||National Board of Review Award for Best Actor (also for Cat Ballou)|
|1966||The Professionals||Henry "Rico" Fardan||Laurel Award for Best Action Performance|
|1967||The Dirty Dozen||Major John Reisman||Laurel Award for Best Action Performance|
|1968||Hell in the Pacific||American Pilot|
|1969||Paint Your Wagon||Ben Rumson||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy|
|1970||Monte Walsh||Monte Walsh||Fotogramas de Plata Award for Best Foreign Performer|
Nominated—Laurel Award for Best Action Performance
|Prime Cut||Nick Devlin|
|1973||Emperor of the North Pole||A No. 1|
|The Iceman Cometh||Hickey|
|1974||The Spikes Gang||Harry Spikes|
|The Klansman||Sheriff Track Bascomb|
|1976||Shout at the Devil||Col. Flynn O'Flynn|
|The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday||Sam Longwood|
|1979||Avalanche Express||Col. Harry Wargrave|
|1980||The Big Red One||The Sergeant|
|1981||Death Hunt||Sergeant Edgar Millen|
|1983||Gorky Park||Jack Osborne|
|1984||Dog Day||Jimmy Cobb||French title: Canicule|
|1986||The Delta Force||Col. Nick Alexander||(final film role)|
|1950||Escape||Episode: "Whappernocker Song"|
|The Big Story||Episode: "Eugene Travis, Memphis Tennessee Reporter"|
|Treasury Men in Action||Episode: "The Case of the Deadly Fish"|
|1952||Rebound||Sgt. Krone / Bull||2 episodes|
|Fireside Theatre||Episode: "Sound in the Night"|
|Biff Baker, U.S.A.||Michler / Captain Hollis||Episode: "Alpine Assignment"|
|1952–1953||Dragnet||James Mitchell / Henry Ross||2 episodes|
|1953||The Doctor||Episode: "The Runaways"|
|The Revlon Mirror Theater||Red Johnson||Episode: "Lullaby"|
|The Motorola Television Hour||Episode: "Outlaw's Reckoning"|
|Plymouth Playhouse||Episode: "Outlaw's Reckoning"|
|1954||The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse||John Temple||2 episodes|
|Center Stage||Zach Toombs||Episode: "The Day Before Atlanta"|
|Medic||Larry Collins||Episode: "White Is the Color"|
|1954–1959||Schlitz Playhouse of Stars||Jim Patterson / Russ Anderson||3 episodes|
|1954–1961||General Electric Theater||Sid Benton / Clerk / Joe Kittridge / Dick Giles / Art Temple / Captain Morrissey||7 episodes|
|1955||TV Reader's Digest||Charlie Faust||Episode: "How Charlie Faust Won a Pennant for the Giants"|
|Fireside Theatre||Jigger||Episode: "Little Guy"|
|Studio One||Teale||Episode: "Shakedown Cruise"|
|1955–1958||Climax!||Mannon Tate / 'Little Man' Brush / Charter Plane Pilot / Capt. Cavallero||4 episodes|
|1956||Kraft Television Theatre||Milo Bogardus||Episode: "The Fool Killer"|
|Front Row Center||David Hawken||Episode: "Dinner Date"|
|1957||Studio 57||Episode: "You Take Ballistics"|
|The United States Steel Hour||Episode: "Shadow of Evil"|
|1957–1960||M Squad||Detective Lt. Frank Ballinger / Lt. Frank Ballinger / Barney||117 episodes|
|1959||Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse||Captain David Roberts||Episode: "Man in Orbit"|
|1960||NBC Sunday Showcase||Ira Hayes||Episode: "The American"|
|1960–1961||Wagon Train||Jud Benedict / Jose Morales||2 episodes|
|1961||Route 66||John Ryan / Woody Biggs||2 episodes|
|The Barbara Stanwyck Show||Jud Hollister||Episode: "Confession"|
|The Americans||Capt. Judd||Episode: "Reconnaissance"|
|Checkmate||Lee Tabor||Episode: "Jungle Castle"|
|Alcoa Premiere||Hughes||Episode: "People Need People"|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
|The Investigators||"Nostradamus" (Walter Mimms)||Episode: "The Oracle"|
|1961–1962||The Untouchables||Mike Brannon / Victor Rait / Howard Carson / Nick Acropolis||3 episodes|
|1961–1963||The Twilight Zone||Sam "Steel" Kelly / Conny Miller||Episodes: "The Grave" and "Steel"|
|1962||Ben Casey||Gerry Bramson||Episode: "A Story to Be Softly Told"|
|Bonanza||Peter Kane||Episode: "The Crucible"|
|The DuPont Show of the Week||Juan de Nuñez||Episode: "The Richest Man in Bogotá"|
|The Virginian||Martin Kalig||Episode: "It Tolls for Thee"|
|1962–1964||Dr. Kildare||Buddy Bishop / Dr. Paul Probeck||2 episodes|
|1963||The Dick Powell Show||Finn / Dave Blassingame||2 episodes|
|Combat!||Sgt. Turk||Episode: "The Bridge at Châlons"|
|Kraft Suspense Theatre||Sgt. Paul Ryker||2 episodes|
|The Great Adventure||Misok Bedrozian||Episode: "Six Wagons to the Sea"|
|1963–1964||Lawbreakers||Himself – Host / Narrator||35 episodes|
|1965||Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||Nick Karajanian||Episode: "The Loving Cup"|
|1968||Sergeant Ryker||Sgt. Paul Ryker||Kraft Suspense Theatre|
|1985||The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission||Maj. John Reisman||Television film|
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