Marvin Movie Quotes
As many fans know by seeing his films and reading Lee Marvin: Point Blank, Marvin had a unique ability to make memorable lines of dialogue in a film eminently quotable. Even in the earliest stages of his career, his resonant voice and often sarcastic delivery made Marvin movie quotes stand out from the rest of the cast and even the basic premise of the film. Personal friends and associates noted the same thing when viewing his films.

Lee Marvin (“Meatball”) and Claude Akins (“Horrible”) in Edward Dymytrk’s The Caine Mutiny (1954).

Take for example his almost throw-away line in The Caine Mutiny uttered when he and fellow sailor Claude Akins are carrying some heavy equipment through a passageway on ship and want to clear the decks:

“Lady with a baby, coming through!”

Adolph Heckeroth, Marvin’s boss at Heckeroth’s Plumbing in Woodstock, had a son, Bill, who took over the company, and remembered the line (and his father’s former employee) so well, he said he repeated constantly at work whenever he needed to clear the area.

During a conversation with Marvin’s son, Christopher, another one of the great Marvin movie quotes came into play. I was helping him do some gardening when a weed seemed a little harder to remove than first thought. Automatically, we both uttered the same line his father said to one-armed Spencer Tracy when their two characters first met in Bad Day at a Black Rock:

Henchmen Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin watch as Spencer Tracy gets off the train and prepare to confront him in John Sturges’ Bad Day at a Black Rock (1955).

“You look like you could use a hand.”
The laughter and high-fives continued for some time after.

And then there’s his less than stellar film and performance in the all-star cast 3-D opus Gorilla at Large (1954). Marvin’s good friend from his Woodstock days, David Ballantine  told me with tongue planted firmly in cheek that he considered it Marvin’s greatest role. Ballantine told me that his friend’s role as Officer Shaunessey, charged with keeping an eye on the title character, remains his favorite because….well, you’ll have to read Lee Marvin Point Blank to find that out. In the mean time, there’s this memorable Marvin line of dialogue given the weighty dramatic delivery it deserves….

Lee Marvin utters his memorable line to Lee J. Cobb in Gorilla at Large (1954).

“They haven’t made a gorilla yet that can out smart, Shaunessey!”

Hey, any actor can do Shakespeare but let’s hear Olivier bellow out that beauty!
– Dwayne Epstein

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MONTE MARVIN: DEC. 19, 1896 – APRIL 6, 1971

Lee Marvin’s father, Monte Marvin, passed away April 6, 1971 and to say the two men had a complicated relationship is indeed an understatement. Lee both idolized and resented his father through the years as the the two of them grappled with first Lee’s tumultuous childhood and later, his adventurous aduldhood.
One example is the way in which both men remembered Lee’s childhood. In 1965, Lee had this to say about it: “I was a misunderstood child. I got kicked out of 15 prep schools all over the East — mostly for smoking. One of them was a Quaker school and I got booted there for throwing a guy out of a second story window. It didn’t hurt him much.”
Countering that statement, Monte told an interviewer in 1970 that his son was: “Wild, harmless, innocent but a crazy kid. But there was never a period of misunderstanding. I wouldn’t say that he understood me but I understood him. I used to take him fishing. He was thrown out of not — not 15 schools, but let’s say six schools. What a kid. I just had to put him someplace…I put him in Admiral Farragut [Naval Academy]. Shelled out $600 for uniforms, he was there two weeks and Admiral Robson said, ‘Take him away, take him away.’”
Lee’s good friend from Woodstock, David Ballantine, witnessed the relationship firsthand and noted: “One thing I recall Lee said about Monty was that he said, ‘Someone may go in and they may sit in a bar. They will make shit for everyone sitting in the bar and they’ll come to Monty and they’ll pass him by and walk around him and start in on the other side.’ Monty was pretty tough. Monty was in the First World War. Went back in the Second World War. Was offered a commission. Wouldn’t take it. Enlisted as a private. Got into an AA battery and went overseas. So Monty, you can see where somewhat of the non-Douglas Fairbanks form of swashbuckling came from. …I don’t think Monty was..like many men of his generation he was not a dad type. He had not read Dr. Spock. He had not bonded with his children. …There was a dignity about him and it may have been hard for their children to take because some are made to be the pals to their children and the children are pretty much doing what they want to do and sometimes ending up very badly. This did not mean some people didn’t end badly who had serious parents in the past. Of a generation different than the themselves rather than the parents trying to be the same generation of the children, which makes for confusion on everybody’s part.”

Monte Marvin (left) and son Lee pose a for a LIFE magazine photographer in 1965.

Monte Marvin (left) and son Lee pose a for a LIFE magazine photographer in 1965.

Readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank are quite familiar with Lee and Monte’s moments of both bonding in conflict. At the end of Monte’s life, they had a grown closer but were still unable to communicate their feelings. As Lee said in Rolling Stone magazine about his father’s passing: “When the Chief died….I went down to Florida….He was in a coma…I came over and kissed him on the head and said, ‘That’s it. Chief. I’ll see you down the line?’ And then I got on a plane and guess what was playing: I Never Sang For My Father.

People hated it, man, but I loved it. It got it all out there. …Gene Hackman and Melvyn Douglas…Melvyn Douglas is amazing. What a great actor. One of the greatest of all time. I remember that after the movie, people were saying how depressing it was, and I started an argument with them. I was holding forth man to the whole plane. It was great. I got it out. Like that…I felt, you know, cleansed of it…..I think I understand my father more everyday. On some days I can almost…..”

Portraying father and son, Melvyn Douglas (left) and Gene Hackman in 1971's I Never Sang For My Father, looking eerily similar to the photo of Lee and Monte Marvin

Portraying father and son, Melvyn Douglas (left) and Gene Hackman in 1971’s I Never Sang For My Father, looking eerily similar to the photo of Lee and Monte Marvin

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What exactly is the momentous Marvin memento? Well, a little back story is required. When Lee Marvin came home after the war, he settled with his family in the upstate New York area of Woodstock. The closest friend he made those years after the war was David Ballantine. The two men shared many interests including fishing, hunting and gun collecting. Before Marvin knew what he was going to with his life, and even the years after he decided to become an actor, the entire Ballantine family had a great influence over his life. In fact, it was David’s father, E.J. “Teddy” Ballantine who opened Marvin’s eyes to a life as an actor. David’s brother, Ian, and sister-in-law, Betty, started the very succesful publishing company Ballantine Books. Betty was a trusted confidante to the former combat Marine, so much so that he was her insight that led me to discover Marvin’s PTSD which became a most important theme in Lee Marvin: Point Blank.
In the years following Marvin’s phenomonally successful acting career, his friends and family from Woodstock were never too far from his memory. He would visit whenever he could and when something reminded him of his friends back east, he was sure to let them know it. Case in point, this letter from 1969, written and mailed on Monte Walsh stationary….
ballantine envelope

The contents of the letter were 2-fold. First, a quickly typed letter to David in which Marvin recounts the following anecdote on the beach at Malibu….

Dear David,

You are going to think I’m full of shit but here it is. Yesterday I was walking down the beach amongst the driftwood and trash line and feeling a little possesive, my beach, when I spot this green Scotch bottle, a pint, and know the label used to read Ballantine’s. The cork is still in it and I think, the bastards, why don’t they leave the cork out and then it would eventually sink and not litter up ‘MY BEACH.’ Proceeding to do the same, I pick it up and lo….there is something in it. Ah Ha. Some children have secreted a secret map or call for help in it. Okay, I’ll play the game. I can not pull it out of the slim neck so I bring it back to the house and get a hammer and go out to the trashcan to break it. I DO NOT WANT BROKEN GLASS ON ‘MY BEACH.’ So doing, lo and behold. The rest is self-explanatory. I thought you might get a kick out of it, I did. Love to you all, & Pam,


ballantine letter




What was the 2nd part of the letter that Lee felt was self-explanatory and worthy of writing in the first place? It was of course, the following content of the bottle…..
ballantine content


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