He may not have been the best looking guy in the world, but Lee Marvin did grace many a magazine cover in his time, and even after! His un-matinee looks aside, there was something about him the camera did indeed like and below are several examples that not only chart the trajectory of his career, but his personal likes, his audience and his lasting appeal…..
When the New York Hearld-Tribune’s TV supplement ran a magazine cover story in 1958 on the amount of violence on television, they had on their front the likes of Darren McGavin in “Mike Hammer,” Ty Hardin in “Bronco,” Richard Boone in “Have Gun Will Travel” and Marvin in “M Squad.”
In fact, the success of “M Squad” was such, that even after it left the air and went into syndicated reruns, another newspaper TV supplement ran a magazine cover story on it and profiled its star in 1962….
In between films & TV appearances Marvin had time to indulge in one of his lifelong hobbies which naturally garnered the cover of an appropriate magazine….
He continued to be profiled between the covers of periodicals over the next few years as his popularity slowly gained momentum but only the NY Daily News Sunday edition chose to do a cover story on the actor. The year was 1966 and the print date was just hours before the Academy Awards in which Marvin surprised everybody…
By 1967 he was the number one male box office star in America making appearances in every major magazine in the country. When he made the magazine cover once again it was to promote his latest project already in theatres at the time.
The Dirty Dozen Offscreen: Director Robert Aldrich shows Lee Marvin how to kick John Cassavetes when he’s down.
Making The Dirty Dozen (1967) in England took intense concentration on the part of all concerned but The Dirty Dozen offscreen was something else. Of course, after a day’s work several of the pubs in London took their usual dents from Marvin & company, as detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank. On the job, however, was another story entirely.
The above image is a case in point. Director Robert Aldrich (right) is not giving his opinion of the films of John Cassavetes (center). He’s showing Lee Marvin how he wants to see Cassavetes kicked when he’s down during the opening scene of the film. Note the padded mattress used for rehearsal but NOT seen in the onscreen version .
With apologies to Monty Python, Marvin took such important knowledge to heart as he demonstrates his prowess with a “pointed stick” ….
The Dirty Dozen offscreen: The bemused victim is producer Ken Hyman (right) while fellow Lee Marvin crony Bob Phillips (center) vocalizes instructions.
By the way, the photo above was graciously contributed by Phillips who was a former college football star, US Marine and Chicago police detective. He was exactly the kind of guy Lee Marvin would want to pal around with, which is exactly what he did. The interview I conducted with Phillips remains one of my favorites as he contributed some of my favorite stories to the text of my book. He and Marvin spent a good part of their time wreaking havoc and having fun on one movie set or another. Amazingly, despite such bizarre shennigans as the hysterical pub brawl in London and the infamous female reporter incident (gotta read the book!), both men were always ready and able to work the next day. The old saying is true: They just don’t make’em like that any more!
Lee Marvin’s star finally ascended when he was in his 40s and the promotional material for his films, such as paperback movie tie-ins, prove it. Below are more examples….
As detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank, Roy Chanslor’s novel The Ballad of Cat Ballou (above left) was kicking around Hollywood for some time before it was finally changed and turned into a comedy farce with Lee and Jane Fonda in 1965. Hollywood provided the appropriate imagery on the cover to sell books. Frank O’Roarke’s A Mule For Marquesa was also changed when it made it to the screen in 1966. Writer/Director Richard Brooks offered it to Burt Lancaster & Marvin. Marvin loved it but when Lancaster read it, he thought he’d be playing the Marvin role. Brooks said he’d be boring in that role so Lancaster would be playing the dynamite expert. “I read the book and there’s no dynamite expert in it,” Lancaster reportedly told Brooks. “There will be when I’m done with it,” Brooks responded.
Marvin closed out the decade with the poorly received Paint Your Wagon (1969) which time has been more kind to than when it first came out. The same can be said for Point Blank (1967) which has become so popular with the passing of time, it resulted in this post-release tie-in in the 80s from Britain, shown above right.