WolfmanOz at the Movies #54


A real tough guy

Born Lamont Waltman Marvin Jr. on February 19th, 1924, Lee Marvin, known for his premature white hair and bass voice, grew from playing hard-boiled vicious tough guy characters into one of the leading movie stars of the 1960s, and one of my favourites from this era.

His childhood was tough. His father was abusive and he suffered from dyslexia and ADHD but in 1942 in enlisted in the US marine Corps where he served as a scout sniper in the Pacific Theatre during WWII and participated in 21 Japanese islands landings.

He was badly wounded at the Battle of Saipan in 1944 and after over a year of medical treatment in navy hospitals he was given a medical discharge with decorations including the Purple Heart, the Presidential Unit Citation, the American Campaign Medal, the WWII Victory Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon. This was one serious guy who served with outstanding distinction in some of the most brutal battles of WWII.

After the war he sort of accidentally fell into acting in upstate New York and by the early 1950s he was starting to appear in films, invariably as a supporting villain.

He became noticed with 2 roles in 1953: as the vicious hoodlum in The Big Heat who threw boiling coffee into the face of his girlfriend and opposite Marlon Brando in the motorcycle gang film The Wild One.

Throughout the 50s he would alternate between films and TV, often playing the heavy, and by 1957 he debuted as the leading man in the TV series M Squad as a Chicago cop.

For me, his breakout film role was as the title character in 1962s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Here he was cast opposite two of Hollywoods greatest superstars in John Wayne and James Stewart and he more than held his own as the terrifyingly vicious outlaw. It’s my favourite John Ford western.

https://youtu.be/TLVJjFtYwfA

Another top villainous role was as the efficient professional assassin in 1964s The Killers, but in 1965 he finally became a top star for his totally offbeat and marvellous comic dual role in the spoof western Cat Ballou.

https://youtu.be/7OvnyyjUpIY

I have always found Cat Ballou rather uneven but whenever Marvin is on screen the film lights up. He cleaned up nearly all the major best actor awards in 1965 including winning the Academy Award.

Now Marvin was in the major league and followed up with Ship Of Fools and another favourite of mine in Richard Brooks western The Professionals with Burt Lancaster.

He had the biggest hit of his career in 1967 with the extremely popular and entertaining The Dirty Dozen where he plays a major assigned to lead a group of army misfits to perform an almost impossible and suicidal mission just before D-Day.

https://youtu.be/nQa7w8FmPFA

At the end of decade he even appeared in a western musical, Paint Your Wagon with Clint Eastwood. Although overlong and tedious in stretches; and, despite his extremely limited singing ability, he had a number one hit with his rendition of the song Wand’rin’ Star.

In the 1970s Marvin had a more variety of roles but the quality of the films he was appearing were not of the standard of his films of the 1960s.

He did have one last top leading role as the sergeant in Samual Fuller’s excellent 1980 war drama The Big Red One about the experiences of a US infantry unit in North Africa and Europe.

A heavy drinker and smoker throughout his life, Marvin died of a heart attack on August 29th, 1987, aged only 63.

He was buried with full military honours at Arlington National Cemetery.

Enjoy.


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Louis Litt
January 19, 2023 7:41 am

Wow – thanks Wolfie for the education on Lee Marvin. I will see his movies in a different light.
My fave of his was “Shout at the Devil” with Roger Moore in the late 70s.
A cracking adventure soldier of fortune film set in Africa during WW 1 or 2 .
He owned the camera and every line was hilarious – the old one was when he saw his grandchild naked after birth, looked down stairs and cries “it’s deformed” to which hits sil or daughter reply “ it’s a girl”.

OldOzzie
OldOzzie
January 19, 2023 8:45 am

WolfmanOz,

Have Dirty Dozen DVD and watched many times – Lee Marvin’s despite his extremely limited singing ability, he had a number one hit with his rendition of the song Wand’rin’ Star. reminds me of Pierce Brosnan’s singing in Mama Mia, which I also enjoy.

My Son-in-Law in Melbourne last week introduced me to 2 Guy Ritchie Films,
2015 Man from UNCLE & The Gentlemen – both excellent, we then followed up watching Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels and Snatch (with subtitles on to understand Brad Pitt’s Pikey Accent)

eb
eb
January 19, 2023 9:02 am

The anti-war film, “Hell in the Pacific”, with Toshiro Mifune, was quite good too.
Saw an interview with him, musta been made in the late seventies if I remember correctly. Apparently he got on really well with John Ford and John Wayne. No surprise I guess.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
January 19, 2023 9:18 am

Marvin was great in The Big Heat, which I personally consider his breakout role, even if he wasn’t a big name until the 60s, and in the 50s he was also grouse in the likes of Bad Day at Black Rock and Attack.

His best film for me is Point Blank, which is a must-see (and also Payback, Mel Gibson’s terrific remake).

I’ve got no time for either Cat Ballou or Paint Your Wagon.

Petros
Petros
January 19, 2023 9:59 am

Was he the one that used to go marlin fishing in Queensland?

tommbell
tommbell
January 19, 2023 10:16 am

I remember watching Marvin in Prime Cut far too many years ago! The sausage scene has lived with me ever since…

Fair Shake
January 19, 2023 11:21 am

Petros,
yes Marvin went to Cairns quite a bit and recall seeing photos on a pub wall of him with game fish. In the photo he looked ‘well lived in’. They would have been great days to have a bit of coin and go rogue.

Jock
Jock
January 19, 2023 11:54 am

I worked for AMATIL in the late 70s early 80s. With two colleagues we met Marvin on a flight from London to NY. He was sitting in front of us on the flight. And fortuitously had run out of cigarettes. Amarillo owned wd & ho wills , so we of course offered him a packet of b& h. He was delighted and even more so when told we were from Australia. A lovely guy who had no delusions. I think he was going through the palimony thing at that stage. A great memory of a great actor and war hero. From the days when men counted.

Jock
Jock
January 19, 2023 11:55 am

Amatil not Amarillo! Autozuck kicked in.

Roger
Roger
January 19, 2023 11:58 am

He was badly wounded at the Battle of Saipan in 1944…

Severed sciatic nerve; he played it down when quizzed on Parkinson (or was it Dick Cavett?) saying he got shot “in the butt”.

There’s a great interview with Marvin towards the end of his life in which he talks about his experiences being directed by John Ford and working with Wayne.

Here’s part 4, you’ll find the rest from there.

Bruce
Bruce
January 19, 2023 1:30 pm

There was once a generous sprinkling of actual “combat wombats” in Hollywood.

One of my favourites is Mel Brooks.

US Army infantry sergeant, Normandy to Germany; an interesting gig for a very young Jewish chap.Unlike Australian politicians, he could get away with donning a full nazi uniform and breakdance to a funky number.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmzPnpn63nA

Johnny Rotten
Johnny Rotten
January 19, 2023 1:54 pm

I loved Hank Marvin in Cat Ballou. He played two parts.

BELEDEIAEOgsILhCABBDHARCvAUoECEEYAEoECEYYAFAAWNEeYPtPaABwAXgAgAHIAogBzROSAQcwLjIuNy4xmAEAoAEBwAEB&sclient=gws-wiz-serp#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:d2f522fb,vid:2wlGJ_j0viE

Johnny Rotten
Johnny Rotten
January 19, 2023 1:56 pm

This is a better link

https://youtu.be/2wlGJ_j0viE?t=8

Johnny Rotten
Johnny Rotten
January 19, 2023 2:09 pm

There was once a generous sprinkling of actual “combat wombats” in Hollywood.

One of my favourites is Mel Brooks.

US Army infantry sergeant, Normandy to Germany; an interesting gig for a very young Jewish chap.Unlike Australian politicians, he could get away with donning a full nazi uniform and breakdance to a funky number.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmzPnpn63nA

‘Brillo’ and it sounds like some early Rap Music……………….

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
January 19, 2023 3:42 pm

The anti-war film, “Hell in the Pacific”, with Toshiro Mifune, was quite good too.

Watched it with fascination one day when it once randomly came onto TV. Mesmerizing performances by two great actors – and only them, since the two of them were the entire cast.

My favourite is Gorky Park where he’s again a villain. Villains get all the best lines, as they say!

Peter West
January 19, 2023 7:37 pm

I certainly haven’t seen all of John Ford’s movies, but even in my limited sample, there’s strong competition for best. But it’s hard to go past The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I saw it again a couple of years ago. Boy, has it improved with age. The whole drama of myth and reality, politics and the media, is contained in the title. It’s one of the great essays on American politics, in around 90 minutes.

Miss Anthropist
Miss Anthropist
January 19, 2023 8:39 pm

Saw for the umpteenth time Liberty Vallance the other day. How good is Lee Marvin? Wanted to jump through the screen and give him a kicking. Every time.
How any right thinking person couldn’t like Cat Balloue is beyond me. The world is full of humourless grey people one guesses.
Marvin was one of the best. Charles Bronson too.
Trying to catch up with every episode of Rawhide as well..
I like Westerns with good actors.
But The Stone Tomahawk? Spooks me.
Back to very occasionally lurking. One has a life.

johanna
johanna
January 20, 2023 5:56 am

My favourite is Gorky Park

A magnificent film.

As for Lee Marvin, thanks for the links to the interviews. What an extraordinary bloke – top line soldier and actor – and immune to Hollywood bullshit. Also, very sharp and perceptive.

Great choice, wolf.

Jorge
Jorge
January 20, 2023 8:48 am

Point Blank and Prime Cut: two great films.

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