LEE MARVIN’S MOTHER, COURTENAY WASHINGTON DAVIDGE

Lee Marvin’s mother, Courtenay Washington Davidge, is clearly a worthy subject for this Mother’s Day blog entry. To say Lee Marvin didn’t like his mother is an oversimplification of a very complicated relationship. Family and friends related to me several examples of Lee’s attitude towards his mother, all of which went into the pages of Lee Marvin: Point Blank. Although he rebelled her emphasis to maintain social graces, it did leave an indelible mark on him throughout his life. When he was at his most boorish and outlandish, he instinctively knew when to pull back back his behavior by muttering, “Uh-oh. Courtenay wouldn’t like it.” Such was the effect she had on her sons, Lee and Robert.

(L-R) Unidentified neighbor holding Cynthia, Lee’s mother, Courtenay in glasses, son Christopher, Lee holding daughter, Claudia, wife Betty (barely visible) and daughter Courtenay.

Speaking of Robert Marvin, my ability to convince him to go on the record with me for the first time, resulted in some wonderful treasures unearthed from the Marvin family archives. Many of those images appeared exclusively in the pages of Lee Marvin: Point Blank. However, this being Mother’s Day, here are other images documenting the life of Lee Marvin’s mother, the proud Virginian steel magnolia, Courtenay Davidge Washington Marvin. Happy Mother’s Day, one and all!
– Dwayne Epstein

A rare photo of a VERY young ad serious looking Courtenay during her school days in the early 20th century.

Portrait of Courtenay believed to be in her late teens or early twenties.

Dated December 21st, 1914, Courtenay tries several poses for what might have been p.r. images for her burgeoning writing career.

Courtenay and future husband Monte Marvin in the early days of their relationship  prior to their marriage in 1921 (left) and then a decade after they were married (right) in front of their apartment in Queens, New York.

On the roof of their NY apartment, Courtenay poses with baby Lee for Monte’s camera.

(L-R) Courtenay, Lee’s older brother, Robert, and Lee pose on the rocks one summer in Woodstock, New York.

Young Lee sits on his mother’s lap with brother Robert beside them.

Several images of of a blonde Courtenay with sons Robert and Lee as they enjoy the sun and surf.

Proud parents Courtenay and Monte visit Lee following his completion of basic USMC training.

Fashion conscious Courtenay was a working woman in the field of beauty journalism long before it became the norm. Robert told this writer he remembers many a sleepless night listening to her clacking away on her typewriter as she freelanced for PHOTOPLAY, SCREENLAND, VANITY FAIR and the cosmetic line of Helena Rubinstein, among many other assignments.

After the war, the Marvins settled in Woodstock. (L-R) Courtenay, Lee ‘s then girlfriend, Helen Wagner ,and Lee stand in front of his car. The crumpled rear fender and roof are recounted in a very funny story in the pages of LEE MARVIN: POINT BLANK.

Courtenay died suddenly March 23rd, 1963, of a massive stroke. Here she’s pictured towards the end of her life in the garden of Lee’s home in Santa Monica. Rest in Peace, Mrs. Marvin.

 

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DADS & GRADS? LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK!

Dads & grads have always had a special designation for Father’s Day. Why that is, I have no idea. Always reminds me of corny ads from my childhood to this day….

Not too imaginative, I grant you, but you get the point. At least such ads aren’t nearly as gaudy and off-putting as the ones for Memorial Day and President’s Day sales. What does any of this have to do with Lee Marvin? Well if it helps, Lee Marvin had a dad and also was a dad.

(L-R) Lee Marvin’s father, Monte, Lee, and Lee’s son, Christopher, holding the family dog, Liberty.

It may or may not be as well known but Lee was not a grad. He left school a year before graduation to join the USMC during the war and never did get his diploma. After the war he attended night school briefly to try to get his high school diploma but never finished any of the necessary classes.
However, in 1969, he did receive an honorary degree of fine arts from the school that would have been his alma mater, St. Leo in Florida. It had become an accredited university and as such, extended an invitation of an honorary degree to the Oscar-winning actor.

Lee Marvin, 2nd from right, receiving his Honorary Degree from St. Leo, along with then Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, 2nd from left.

So, when it comes to such things as dads & grads, Lee Marvin sort of qualifies. Now, the bigger question is what exactly is the point of this blog entry? Well, if you’re looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift or a nice little something for the graduate in life, look no further than Lee Marvin Point Blank. Most dads are familiar with Lee Marvin’s work and are fans while most graduates can become a fan by learning more about him. Makes sense now, doesn’t it? Available on Amazon at a half-priced soon to be extinct hardcover, reduced price Kindle and trade paperback with lots of extras. Feel free to check it out. You’ll be glad you did.
Oh, and happy Father’s Day!
– Dwayne Epstein

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ARMISTICE DAY, VETERANS DAY & THE MARVINS

Armistice Day began Nov. 11th, 1918 when WWI officially suspended combat on the 11th day of the 11th month on the 11th hour. In time, the name of Armistice Day became Veterans Day in 1954, honoring all those who served in the military on Nov. 12th.
For the Marvin family, there was not a single military conflict in which the family ranks were not involved and seriously depleted, going all the back to the American Revolution. As Lee Marvin liked to say, “It’s my country. We fought for it, we Marvins.” However, since Armistice Day, began with the end of WWI, the involvement began a little closer in Lee’s lineage, which meant his father, Lamont Waltham “Monte” Marvin.

Monte Marvin in his WWI uniform.

Monte was a 1st, Lt. during the war and in charge of a unit in the 302nd Engineers stationed in France. He later served in WWII as a battalion Sgt, again in France, having resigned his commission. As he wryly told a reporter years later, “I was too young for the first war and to old for the second, so I ended up in both.”

An older Monter Marvin in uniform during WWII.

The Marvin men all served in WWII, with Lee’s brother Robert serving in the ground crew of the Army Air Corp. and Lee seeing the most combat as a Marine in the USMC’s island hopping campaign in the Pacific.
All told, the Marvins did their part to earn respect and recognition for their duty in the service. This being Veterans’ Day — and a very special one, as it’s the 100th anniversary of the Armistice signing of WWI — take a moment some time today and remember those who served. Their contribution deserves our thanks.
How to show that remembrance? One way is to read Lee Marvin Point Blank and discover in the actor’s own words via never-before-seen letters exactly what he experienced firsthand and how he really felt about the war at the time he went through it. You won’t be disappointed. Happy Veterans Day.
-Dwayne Epstein

Monte Marvin (left) and son Lee photographed for LIFE Magazine in the 1960s.

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