DRUNK DRIVING WITH LEE MARVIN…AND FRIENDS

L.A. Herald-Examiner article covering Lee Marvin’s 1965 drunk driving arrest.

Biographers have to make choices in terms of what to leave in and what to leave out, and in writing Lee Marvin Point Blank, one of the toughest choices concerned Lee Marvin’s drinking, especially when it came to drunk driving. Like the author, readers may find it fun at first, but after awhile it leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. I cut back considerably, keeping in mind what would be enough to make the point that Marvin had a problem versus turning off the reader, entirely.
Lee’s agent, Meyer Mishkin, and his lawyer, Lou Goldman, did what they could to keep the public from knowing but some times, it boiled over into the mainstream press. Mishkin showed me the court order dated December 30, 1965: “To Lee Marvin — Order of probation. The records of this department show that you are a negligent driver and that you have violated the traffic laws and have been involved in an accident. Therefore, as provided in section 14103 of the Vehicle code, you are herby notified that you are being placed on probation by this department. This order is effective January 3, 1966 to July 2. You must obey the provisions of the vehicle code of California and all traffic regulations. You must send all licenses in your possession to this department for probation.”
Another newspaper showed a full version of the photo taken at the time…

The full image of actor Lee Marvin shown in handcuffs and being interviewed for local TV at the time of his drunk driving arrest.

According first wife, Betty Marvin: “He could be totally out of control. Once, I was devastated. He was driving down some back road near MGM and he hit some guy [Robert Hathaway] on a motorcycle. You know the story? He accused the guy on the bike of deliberately getting in his path so he could get a part in a movie. Lee thought the guy planned the whole thing.”

Not known to the general public was such stories as the following, also told by Betty Marvin: “I’ll tell you one day that was absolutely shocking to me. We had been to the beach. It was a beautiful warm day. We had been swimming and we came back. He said, ‘It’s such a beautiful day, let’s put the top down and go to the Luau Bar and have a rum drink.’ I said, ‘Oh, okay.’ We get dressed and we invited our neighbors, who were quite conservative. He was Paul Fix the character actor, and his wife Beverly. Lee called them: ‘C’mon Uncle Paul. We’re just going to go the Luau and have a rum on me.’ I’m thinking, ‘One rum, uh-huh.’ Bright sunny day. We go in and immediately he has two or three strong drinks and a few appetizers. I’m thinking we better get home because the babies are coming home from school or whatever. We have to go. I will never forget it. It was about 4:30 or 5 in the afternoon. We are at the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood Blvd. Traffic is crazy. Of course Lee insisted on driving. ‘Sweetheart let me drive.’ ‘No, I’m driving!” Beverly and Paul are in the back and we’re driving in this big convertible and we had the top down. Of course he runs right block past Westwood Blvd. He gets out of the car. Here’s this woman sitting in her seat. She’d just been hit like this. [Slaps her hand]. He said to her, “Start your car and drive away from here or I’ll kill you!’ She is just beside herself. She drives on, you know the cops are coming. We drive away. He says, ‘I don’t want to talk about it. That’s it.’ The phone rings the next morning. Of course, he has hit the executive secretary to the head of the studio at MGM, I think it was. That’s who he hits. He’s ready to sue him, right? They had to quickly settle that. I must say, Meyer had his work cut out for him.”

 

 

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