TV westerns made good use of Lee Marvin through out the 1950s and 60s. Readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank are very familar with his work in the medium, especially one particular live TV show from 1953 with Eddie Albert. Interviewing Albert for the book was a research highlight and as readers know, the anecdote concerning the show’s airing is classic live television at its best…or worst! After much searching, I finally found a picture from that half hour episode of the short-lived ABC series entitled “The Plymouth Playhouse.”
Marvin appeared in many TV productions with western themes, both live and filmed, such as the GE Theatre episodes, “The Doctors of Pawnee Kill” with Kevin McCarthy (1957), “Mr Death and The Redheaded Woman” with Eva Marie Saint (1954); U.S. Steel Hour’s “Shadow of Evil” with Jack Cassidy & Shirley Jones (1957); Climax’s “The Time of the Hanging” with William Shatner; and the unknown, stained image seen below……
When they anthology show faded from TV in the 60s, and Marvin’s career hit a ceiling of success until Cat Ballou, he still made appearances on such shows as Wagon Train (one of his best!) and the last great anthology show, a western-themed episode of The Twilight Zone. One of the longest running westerns on TV was Bonanza for which Marvin appeared as a villainous (natch!) miner who terrorized series regular Pernell Roberts in the episode titled “The Crucible”….
One particular 1962 episode of the popular series The Virginian — in which ex-con Marvin kidnaps series regular Lee J. Cobb — was hastily intercut with another episode starring Charles Bronson and released theatrically in 1976 as The Meanest Men in The West to cash in on both veteran actor’s late life success. Marvin’s episode had been titled “It Tolls For Thee.” The story goes that when the director called out “LEE!” to come to the set, Marvin, who had been teasing Cobb during the production, watched as the older actor rose from his chair. Marvin asked him how he knows they’re calling for Cobb. Cobb smiled back, “Easy,” replied Cobb, “I’m the one with the talent.”