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Tragic Details About Lee Marvin’s Life and Death

Lee Marvin is responsible for some of Hollywood’s most famous tough-guy characters. The man oozed cool vibes and it showed on screen. His reserved style led to the success of films such as The Dirty Dozen and Point Blank.

And while Marvin certainly embodied the Hollywood Heavy, there are other ways to describe him.

Decorated war hero and Oscar-winning actor are a few of the many titles that befit Lee Marvin. His life was full of adventures that aren’t well known.

Keep watching as Facts Verse takes a closer look at, and discusses some of the interesting bits of trivia, tragic details, and surprising stories in the life and death of the great Lee Marvin.

Lee Marvin was a Decorated War Hero

Before he became an actor, Lee Marvin was a Marine. He joined the service in 1942 during WWII at age 18.

In his tenure, Marvin fought in the Battle of Saipan. Saipan was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and Marvin himself suffered an injury. This led to a Purple Heart.

Marvin also earned the Presidential Unit Citation, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific campaign medal, and a fleet of others.

Lee Marvin healed from his injuries and was discharged from the US marines in 1945. These actions alone are enough to make him a hero and a legend, but Marin would have success in many other facets of life.

Before we take a look at some of the other details from Lee Marvin’s life, let’s take a moment. If you are enjoying this video, give us a like. Also, for similar pop culture stories, consider subscribing to the Fact verse page.

Started Grinding as a Movie Extra

After the military, Marvin approached the film industry. However, it wasn’t an instant success for the young actor.

He had to play many uncredited extras before he would get noticed. Because of his past, Marvin was perfect for playing soldiers in war movies. Some of his early extra roles were in Down Among the Sheltering Palms and You’re in the Navy Now.

It was Henry Hathaway, the director of the latter who noticed Marvin. So, impressed was Hathaway, he gave Marvin some dialog. Hathaway was the same man who saw early talent in Charles Bronson and Jack Warden. He clearly had a knack for picking actors.

From there Marvin began earning bigger roles in westerns and war films.

Marvin was a Heavy Drinker

It wasn’t uncommon for actors in the 1960s to take part in the spirits. However, many that knew Marvin understood the war also weighed heavy on him. This translated into some heavy drinking.

John Boorman, a director who worked with Marvin a number of times, recalls one particular occurrence of Marvin’s drunken behavior:

Boorman claimed Marvin was so drunk one night, he hailed a cab. However, the actor couldn’t remember where he lived. When he couldn’t spot the house, Marvin stopped a kid who was selling maps of the stars in the street. Buying one, Marvin showed the cabbie his house. On arrival, the new homeowner answered the door and told Marvin that he sold him this house a few years ago!

This is an amusing anecdote, but we must remember the heavy toll the war experiences had on Marvin. He was one of the most legendary Hollywood drinkers, but he always bought a tour de force to his pictures.

Lee Developed an Anti-War Sentiment

Although he was in quite a few war films, Lee Marvin had an anti-war stance. After the real-life war experiences in his youth, he couldn’t condone it. Specifically, and like many others, Marvin was against the Vietnam war.

Although The Dirty Dozen was among his most famous films, personally, it was one of his least favorites. He felt this way because the plot depicted war time unrealistically. Having a firsthand-knowledge, he wanted war in films to be honest.

To that point, some of his favorite movies that he made were Hell in the Pacific and The Big Red One. Both of these movies, Marvin suggested, showed the darker sides of war, and they showed a more realistic view. 

Marvin Beat Some Acting Legends in 1966

If you weren’t convinced by just watching some of his movies to understand he was a great actor, take a look at the competition Lee Marvin edged out in 1966.

In his western film Cat Ballou, Marvin played the drunken gunfighter Kid Shelleen. The role was another one of the memorable parts of his career. So good was Marvin that he brought home the best actor Oscar that year.

And while he was terrific, it was certainly not a freebie. Up against Lee Marin for best actor were a few acting legends. Lawrence Olivier, who did Shakespeare better than anyone, was nominated for Othello. Rod Steiger was up for his film The Pawnbroker. Even Richard Burton who had 7 nominations in his life was in the mix.

However, on Oscar night, all these great actors took a back seat to Lee Marvin. This is pretty impressive company to beat out in the acting department.

Not that an Oscar is the only way to prove your worth, but it certainly helped galvanized Marvin’s career.

He Almost had Some of Film’s Famous Roles

Speaking of acting legends, Lee Marvin came close to landing some of the most iconic characters in the history of Hollywood.

Marvin was respected by many directors and his resume nearly looked much different. Among the roles he turned down were Quint in Jaws, Dirty Harry, The lead in the Wild Bunch, and the role of Patton in the film of the same name.

The list goes on. Longtime collaborator John Boorman wanted Marvin and Marlon Brando in Deliverance. On Marvin’s advice, Boorman agreed they were both too old to play the characters. Even Sergio a Leone wanted Marvin for his western For a Few Dollars More.

Many of these films are regarded at the best of all time. It would have been interesting to see how Marvin looked as some of these characters. It very well may have led to more Oscars for the actor.

Yet, him turning down these parts for various reasons is an equally interesting tale.

A Part of Law History with the “Palimony” Case

Between his two marriages, Lee Marvin became romantically involved with Michelle Triola. The pair lived together for six years beginning in 1965. Triola gave up her would-be acting career to stay at home with Marvin. However, the two were never married.

When Marvin met his future wife in 1970, he broke things off with Triola. It was not a clean break. Triola insisted that Marvin promised her half his earnings. She ended up taking him to court over the issue. Because they weren’t married, but still lived together, the case was dubbed the “Palimony” suit.

The case was widely publicized and the first on this large a scale. The courts ruled that because there was no marriage license, she was not entitled to half his money. However, they did award Triola around 100K in damages.

This was a small sum compared to half of the 4 million dollars that Marvin was worth. It was a unique case and it made Lee Marvin a piece of legal history.

His Wife Wanted His Shoes

After the Michelle Triola fiasco, Lee Marvin married Pamala Feely in 1970. After Marvin’s death, she wanted to remember her husband by a very specific piece of movie memorabilia.

In 1967, Marvin made one of his best films in Point Blank. His job was to bring to life the author Richard Stark’s character Parker. Parker is a professional thief. Point Blank followed the plot of his first appearance The Hunter.

In the film, there is a very famous scene where Marvin walks down the terminal of LAX airport. His footsteps loudly reverberate for several seconds as Marvin plots his revenge. John Boorman the director recalls the scene claiming: “The polished brogues beat a knell on the concrete floor, the rhythm of the reaper”

Not only did this scene leave an impact on the viewer, but it also stayed with Marvin’s wife. When asked if she wanted any of his movie props to remember him, Feely requested this specific pair of shoes.

Buried in Arlington National Cemetery

Lee Marvin died in 1987 at age 63. His death was the complications of a heart attack.  He spent his last days on his quiet ranch in Arizona. The actor claimed after a busy life, he enjoyed the serenity of the desert with the company of the coyotes.

As a soldier of the nation’s conflicts, Lee Marvin had the honor of being buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

While he died at a relatively young age, Lee Marvin’s legacy will live on forever. As an actor, he has over 100 credits to him name.

These are some of the tragic details, interesting stories, and bits of trivia about the great Lee Marvin. In his life he earned metals for bravery in the war and awards for acting on the screen. Not only is he one of the most iconic actors in Hollywood history, but he is also one of the most interesting people in general.

So, what did you think? What is your favorite Lee Marvin movie? Where do you think he stacks up in the list of movie tough guys? Sound off in the comments below.

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