Lee Marvin

Lee Marvin
Lee Marvin

Marvin in 1971.
Born February 19, 1924(1924-02-19)
New York City, New York, United States
Died August 29, 1987(1987-08-29) (aged 63)
Tucson, Arizona, United States
Cause of death Heart Failure
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, United States
Residence Tucson, Arizona
Nationality American
Alma mater St. Leo Preparatory College
Occupation Actor
Years active 1950–1986
Home town Hartford Connecticut
Political party Democrat
Spouse Betty Ebeling (1951–67, divorced)
Pamela Feeley (1970–87, his death)
Partner Michelle Triola (1965-1970)

Lee Marvin (February 19, 1924 – August 29, 1987) was an American film actor.[1] Known for his gravelly voice, white hair and 6' 2" (1.88m)[2] stature, Marvin at first did supporting roles, mostly villains, soldiers and other hardboiled characters, but after winning an Academy Award for Best Actor for his dual roles in Cat Ballou (1965), he landed more heroic and sympathetic leading roles.


Early life

Marvin was born in New York City. He was the son of Lamont Waltman Marvin, an advertising executive and the head of the New York and New England Apple Institute, and his wife Courtenay Washington Davidge, a fashion writer and beauty consultant.[3] He was named in honor of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who was his first cousin, four times removed.[4] His father was a direct descendant of Matthew Marvin, Sr., who emigrated from Great Bentley, Essex, England in 1635 and helped found Hartford, Connecticut.[3]

Marvin studied violin when he was young.[5] As a teenager, Marvin "spent weekends and spare time hunting deer, puma, wild turkey and bobwhite in the wilds of the then-uncharted Everglades."[6] He attended St. Leo Preparatory College in St. Leo, Florida after being expelled from several schools for bad behavior.[7]

Marvin left school to join the United States Marine Corps, serving as a Scout Sniper in the 4th Marine Division.[8] He was wounded in action during the WWII Battle of Saipan, during which most of his platoon were killed. Marvin's wound (in the buttocks) was from machine gun fire, which severed his sciatic nerve.[9] He was awarded the Purple Heart and was given a medical discharge with the rank of Private First Class.[10] Contrary to rumors, Marvin did not serve with producer and actor Bob Keeshan during World War II.[10]


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 then began an amateur Off-Broadway acting career in New York City and served as an understudy in Broadway productions.

In 1950, Marvin moved to Hollywood. He found work in supporting roles, and from the beginning was cast in various war films. 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. His debut was in You're in the Navy Now (1951), and in 1952 he appeared in several films, including Don Siegel's Duel at Silver Creek, Hangman's Knot, and the war drama Eight Iron Men. He played Gloria Grahame's vicious boyfriend in Fritz Lang's The Big Heat (1953). Marvin had a small but memorable role in The Wild One (1953) opposite Marlon Brando (Marvin's gang in the film was called "The Beetles"), followed by Seminole (1953) and Gun Fury (1953). He also had a notable small role as smart-aleck sailor Meatball in The Caine Mutiny. He had a substantially more important part as Hector, the small town hood in Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) with Spencer Tracy.

During the mid-1950s, Marvin gradually began playing more important roles. He starred in Attack, (1956) had a good supporting role in the Western Seven Men from Now (1956) and starred in The Missouri Traveler (1958) but it took over one hundred episodes as Chicago cop Frank Ballinger in the successful 1957-1960 television series M Squad to actually give him name recognition. 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 memorable Dragnet episode as a serial killer.

In the 1960s, Marvin was given prominent supporting roles in such films as The Comancheros (1961), John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and Donovan's Reef (1963), all starring John Wayne, with Marvin's roles getting larger with each film. 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).

For director Don Siegel, Marvin appeared in The Killers (1964) playing an efficient professional assassin alongside Clu Gulager. The Killers was also the first film in which Marvin received top billing and the only time Ronald Reagan played a villain, rendering an extremely convincing performance in his last movie role before entering politics.

Marvin won the 1965 Academy Award for Best Actor for his comic role in the offbeat Western Cat Ballou starring Jane Fonda. He also won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 15th Berlin International Film Festival.[11]

Next Marvin performed in the hit 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 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 (future stars John Cassavetes, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Jim Brown, and Donald Sutherland) performing an almost impossible mission. In the wake of these two films and after having received an Oscar, Marvin was a huge star given enormous control over his next film. In Point Blank, an influential film for director John Boorman, he portrayed a hard-nosed criminal bent on revenge. Marvin, who had selected Boorman himself for the director's slot, had a central role in the film's development, plot line, 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 Toshirō Mifune. 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 in order 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 song with "Wand'rin' Star". By this time he was getting paid a million dollars per film, $200,000 less than top star Paul Newman was making at the time; yet he was ambivalent about the film business, even with its financial rewards:[5]

"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 then when you're making the bread, who needs it?"

Marvin had a much greater variety of roles in the 1970s and 1980s, with fewer 'bad-guy' roles than in earlier years. His 1970s films included Monte Walsh (1970) with Jeanne Moreau, the violent Prime Cut (1972) with Gene Hackman, Pocket Money (1972) with Paul Newman, Emperor of the North Pole (1973) opposite Ernest Borgnine, as Hickey in The Iceman Cometh (1973) with Fredric March and Robert Ryan, The Spikes Gang (1974) with Noah Beery, Jr., The Klansman (1974) with Richard Burton, Shout at the Devil (1976) with Roger Moore, The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday (1976) with Oliver Reed, and Avalanche Express (1978) with Robert Shaw. 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?".[12] Marvin's immediately-previous co-star Robert Shaw accepted the part, which gave Shaw his most prominent role and vaulted the supporting player into mainstream leading man status.

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) with Charles Bronson, Gorky Park (1983), Dog Day (1984), and The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission (1985; a sequel with Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Richard Jaeckel picking up where they'd left off despite being 18 years older); his final appearance was in The Delta Force (1986) with Chuck Norris.

Personal life

A father of four, Marvin was married twice. His first marriage to Betty Ebeling began in February 1951 and ended in divorce on January 5, 1967; during this time his hobbies included sport fishing off the Baja California coast and duck hunting along the Mexican border near Mexicali.[6] He and Ebeling had a son, Christopher (b. 1952), and three daughters: Courtenay (b. 1954), Cynthia (b. 1956) and Claudia (b. 1958).[citation needed]

He was married to Pamela Feeley (who had been his girlfriend in Woodstock, New York a quarter century earlier) from October 18, 1970 until his death.[13]

Gravestone, Arlington National Cemetery

During the 1970s, Marvin resided off and on in Woodstock, caring for his dying father,[14] and would make regular trips to Cairns, Australia to engage in marlin fishing.[15] In 1975 Marvin and Pamela moved to Tucson, where he lived until his death.

Marvin was a liberal Democrat who opposed the Vietnam War and declared his support for the gay rights movement in a January 1969 interview with Playboy magazine. He publicly endorsed John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election.

In December 1986, Marvin underwent intestinal surgery after suffering abdominal pains while at his ranch outside Tucson. Doctors said then that there was an inflammation of the colon, but that no malignancy was found. He died of a heart attack on August 29, 1987 after being hospitalized for more than two weeks because of "a run-down condition related to the flu."[16] He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery where his headstone reads "Lee Marvin, PFC US Marine Corps, World War II".[17]

Community property case

See also Marvin v. Marvin

In 1971, Marvin was sued by Michelle Triola, his live-in girlfriend from 1965–1970, who legally changed her surname to 'Marvin'.[5] Though 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.[18] She claimed the second abortion left her unable to bear children.[18] The result was the landmark "palimony" case, Marvin v. Marvin, 18 Cal. 3d 660 (1976).[19] 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 non-marital 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 non-marital relationship contracts when the parties expressly, whether orally or in writing, contract for such rights to operate between them. After the case, Marvin was the subject of controversy when he said that the trial was a "circus" and that "everyone was lying, even I lied."

In August 1981, the California Court of Appeal found there was no such contract, and thus nullified the award she had been made.[20][21] Michelle Triola died of lung cancer on October 30, 2009.[22]

This case was used as fodder for a mock debate skit on Saturday Night Live called "Point Counterpoint".[23]

Partial filmography

Television appearances

Marvin's appearances on television included M Squad, Climax!, Biff Baker, U.S.A., Dragnet (as murder suspect Henry Ellsworth Ross), The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford, General Electric Theater, The Investigators, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Route 66, The Untouchables, Checkmate, The Dick Powell Show, Combat!, The Twilight Zone, Kraft Suspense Theatre, and Dr. Kildare, as well as westerns such as Wagon Train, Bonanza, and The Virginian.

See also

  • The Sons of Lee Marvin, a secret society dedicated to Marvin


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, September 2, 1987.
  2. ^ =Lee Marvin height: 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) | http://www.celebheights.com/s/Lee-Marvin-1011.html
  3. ^ a b Lee Marvin's ancestors from a collection of celebrity family trees at freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com
  4. ^ [1] "...born in New York City, he was named in honor of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who was his first cousin, four times removed.".
  5. ^ a b c Roger Ebert. "An interview with Lee Marvin". Esquire (October 1970). Chicago Sun-Times. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19701010/PEOPLE/41115001/1023. 
  6. ^ a b "Elk Hunting with Lee Marvin". "Gun World May 1964. CulturePulp blog. http://culturepulp.typepad.com/culturepulp/2008/08/elk-huntingwith-lee-marvin.html. 
  7. ^ Zec, Donald. Marvin: The Story of Lee Marvin. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980, ISBN 0-312-51780-7, pp. 20-25
  8. ^ Wise, James E.; Anne Collier Rehill (1999). Stars in the Corps: Movie Actors in the United States Marines (2 ed.). Naval Institute Press. p. 43. ISBN 9781557509499. http://books.google.com/books?id=l3Z78rt_oHsC. 
  9. ^ "The real thing: Marvin and Point Blank". The First Post. 2007-02-15. http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/index.php?menuID=4&subID=1180. 
  10. ^ a b "Captain Kangaroo Court". Snopes. 2009-05-24. http://www.snopes.com/military/marvin.asp. 
  11. ^ "Berlinale 1965: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. http://www.berlinale.de/en/archiv/jahresarchive/1965/03_preistr_ger_1965/03_Preistraeger_1965.html. Retrieved 2010-02-30. 
  12. ^ Zec, Donald. Marvin: The Story of Lee Marvin. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980, ISBN 0-312-51780-7, p. 217
  13. ^ Marvin, Pamela, Lee. London, Faber and Faber Limited, 1997, ISBN 978-0571190287
  14. ^ Flick, A.J., Marvin in Love, Classic Movies, 1997. http://www.classicmovies.org/articles/aa112397.htm
  15. ^ Want to see a marlin? from The Cairns Post website
  16. ^ Dennis Hevesi (1987-08-31). "Lee Marvin, Movie Tough Guy, Dies". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DEFD7163AF932A0575BC0A961948260&sec=&spon=&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  17. ^ "Lee Marvin at FindAGrave.com". http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1600. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  18. ^ a b Woo, Elaine (2009-10-31). "Michelle Triola Marvin dies at 75; her legal fight with ex-lover Lee Marvin added 'palimony' to the language". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-michelle-triola-marvin31-2009oct31,0,2805574.story. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  19. ^ Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 C3d 660 from online.ceb.com
  20. ^ Laskin, Jerry. "California "Palimony" Law -- An Overview". Goldman & Kagon Law Corporation. http://www.palimony.com/7.html. Retrieved 2006-10-04. 
  21. ^ Unmarried Cohabitant's Right to Support and Property from peoples-law.org
  22. ^ "'Palimony' figure Michelle Triola Marvin dies". Associated Press. October 30, 2009. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091030/ap_en_tv/us_obit_michelle_triola_marvin. Retrieved 2009-10-30. [dead link]
  23. ^ "Point Counterpoint: Lee Marvin & Michelle Triola". NBC. March 17, 1979. http://www.hulu.com/watch/2306/saturday-night-live-point-counterpoint-lee-marvin-and-michelle-triola. 

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  • Lee Marvin — (* 19. Februar 1924 in New York; † 29. August 1987 in Tucson, Arizona) war ein US amerikanischer Schauspieler. In den 1960er und 1970er Jahren konnte er als Darsteller raubeiniger Einzelgänger mehrere Filmerfolge verbuchen. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Lee Marvin — [Lee Marvin] (1924–87) a US actor who played mainly tough characters but won an ↑Oscar for a comic role in the ↑western Cat Ballou (1965). His other films included The Killers (1964), The Dirty Doz …   Useful english dictionary

  • Lee Marvin — (19 de febrero de 1924 29 de agosto de 1987) fue un actor estadounidense. Nació en la ciudad de Nueva York. Su padre era un ejecutivo de la publicidad y su madre una redactora de modas. El joven Marvin fue muy revoltoso, de forma que era… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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