Tuesday, February 19, 2013


By the looks of actor Lee Marvin you would not think he was an actor. Maybe he could be a construction worker or a mechanic. However, despite his rugged and non Hollywood looks, Marvin was one of the best tough guy character actors out there. On this day, February 19th, Lee Marvin was born in 1924. 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 (née Davidge), a fashion writer and beauty consultant. He was named in honor of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who was his first cousin, four times removed. Lee Marvin's ancestors had helped to found Hartford, Connecticut.

Marvin studied violin when he was young. 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 St. Leo College Preparatory School in St. Leo, Florida after being expelled from several other schools for bad behavior.

Marvin left school to join the United States Marine Corps, serving in the 4th Marine Division. was wounded in action during the WWII Battle of Saipan, in the assault on Mount Tapochau, during which most of his company ("I" Company, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division) were killed. Marvin's wound (in the buttocks) was from machine gun fire, which severed his sciatic nerve. He was awarded the Purple Heart and was given a medical discharge with the rank of Private First Class. Contrary to rumors, Marvin did not serve with producer and actor Bob Keeshan during World War II.

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. Marvin won the 1965 Academy Award for Best Actor for his comic role in the offbeat Western Cat Ballou starring Jane Fonda, and the st as they say is Hollywood history. By the 1960s, Lee Marvin was a sought after actor, and he continued to be until his untimely death at the age of 63 on August 29, 1987...

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday to a man who had an utterly compelling screen presence.