H intense character made him perfect as a military officer or Wild West gunfighter in many of his early roles

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lee Marvin was one of Hollywood’s tough guys, taking no guff in such films as The Killers (1964), The Professionals (1966), The Dirty Dozen (1967) and Point Blank (1967). Marvin walked like a man and talked like a man — and yet, for someone who seemed so close to his characters in many ways (he served as a Marine in World War II), Marvin was more complex. Marvin was no hippie, but he held views that were clearly in line with the changing times, even while his on-screen persona was relentlessly macho.
Lee Marvin grew up in New York City. His father was an advertising executive and his mother an editor and writer for the fashion and beauty market. Sounds like a good start for a happy if not privileged childhood — but Marvin revealed that his father was abusive and his mother failed to provide the motherly love kids need. So Marvin acted out at school, getting kicked out of just about every prep school he attended for fighting.

He also ran away a few times, including once at the age of four. Marvin once said, ″I claim the Marine Corps taught me how to act.″ He was referring to acting in movies but perhaps, it could be applied to other aspects of his life.

Lee Marvin joined the U.S. Marines in 1942, when he was 18 and World War II was in full swing. Marvin was a survivor of the Battle of Saipan, one of the bloodiest conflicts in the entire war. Marvin suffered a grievous injury in the battle, and received the Purple Heart Medal. He was also decorated with the Presidential Unit Citation, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.

Recovering from his injuries, Marvin was discharged in 1945 with the rank of private first class. He had actually risen to the level of corporal earlier in the war, but had been demoted.

When Marvin came home, he went to work as a movie extra, without complaint, but he didn’t find success in Hollywood overnight. One of his earliest jobs was an uncredited role in the 1951 comedy You’re in the Navy Now. In a stroke of luck, the director, Henry Hathaway saw something in Marvin and invited him to Hollywood. When Marvin couldn’t find an agent due to his lack of speaking roles, Hathaway gave him some dialogue. As Marvin said, ″Hathaway picked me out of that movie, he picked Charles Bronson and he picked Jack Warden. So maybe, he had an eye.″

H intense character made him perfect as a military officer or Wild West gunfighter in many of his early roles. Successes included his role supporting Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953), his turn alongside Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, and Ernest Borgnine in Bad Day At Black Rock (1955), and his three seasons in the lead role as Lt. Frank Ballinger, a Chicago cop, in the TV series M Squad (1957-60). Eventually, he showed his comedic range, winning an Oscar playing a drunken gunfighter and his evil twin in the Jane Fonda comedy western Cat Ballou.

Those who knew Marvin said the war took its toll on him. He drank a lot and smoked a lot of cigarettes, not unlike many men from that era. The famous director, John Boorman told the best drinking story of Marvin, or anyone for that matter.

According to his biographer, Wayne Epstein, “because his mother was a working woman when he was a child, he didn’t see women necessarily as the lesser sex. He saw them as equal and he treated them as such. As his lawyer said to me, he treated women as equals in all their various gradations.”

Despite being from a bygone era, many claim Marvin was ahead of his time on many social issues. He publicly supported gay rights in the Stonewall Riots era, going on at length in a 1969 Playboy magazine interview. Though his language might not pass muster today, the general live-and-let-live idea that, as he said, “what transpires between two adults is definitely their own business,” were well ahead of their time:
The way the law treats [gay men] is really sick. If I were a homosexual and I saw a cop, I’d shudder. The motivation that makes a man get into the vice squad has got to be one of devious intent. … His line is “Look at that perverted son of a bitch!”After acquiring firsthand evidence, which he gets in a men’s room, he then arrests the homosexual. He’s sicker than the guy he arrested. There’s no chance for a happy homosexual — presumably there are such individuals — who’s just pursuing his own individual sexual outlet, ’cause here comes the fuzz.

 

by Movies

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