USMC Charity Work

Lee Marvin & charity are not words that are often thought of in the same sentence but they certainly came together when it came to the actor’s dedication to the USMC. Throughout his life, he would often give generously to Marine-related causes, but usually kept a low-profie about it. Of course, if media attention meant bringing more attention to the cause, then he would certainly do so. In 1968, at the height of his popularity, he was the on-air host and narrator of an ABC-TV special entitled, “Our Time in Hell” featuring recently discovered color footage of embattled WWII Marines in the Pacific. He waived his fee for the show and instead, had it turned over to an organization that helped civilian victims of the Vietnam War, as recounted in Lee Marvin Point Blank (p. 172). Below, are two more examples of Lee being recognized for his charity work with the USMC. All that his known of these events are what is written on the back of the pictures…..


Lee Marvin recives a USMC award for his charity work

Above simply states “Marine Award, 1966.” The gentleman to the right is unknown.


Lee Marvin presents (recieves?) a check for his USMC work.

The above photo is from The CItizen News archives and is also an unknown event but appears to be Lee happily presenting (or recieving?) a check from a USMC officer. Neither gentlemen other than Marvin are known. Anybody want to chime in with information? Please do!

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Lee Marvin as Ira Hayes in the dramatic TV special, “The American.”

Ironically, Lee Marvin never portrayed a Marine in any of the films he made but he did on TV, twice, and within a year of each other. Both times he gave what was arguably his best performances as tormented members of the USMC.
On the short-lived anthology show “Breck’s Sunday Night Showcase” he played real-life Pima Indian and WWII hero Ira Hayes in the episode entitled, “The American,” directed by John Frankenheimer as shown above. Marvin’s performance was poignant, subdued and powerful. Later the same year (1960), Tony Curtis played Hayes in the film The Outsider which Frankenheimer hated.
The following year Marvin played a psychologically disturbed Marine entering into a facility to join an experimental group therapy project in a special entitled, “People Need People.” The show was based on fact, with Arthur Kennedy playing real-life doctor Harry Willner, whom Marvin would later befriend and do an amazing thing with as described in Lee Marvin Point Blank.



The TV epsiode had an impressive ensemble, including James Gregory, Kier Dullea, Paul Sand, Jocelyn Brando, Marion Ross and  Bert Remsen. The show’s on-air host, Fred Astaire, was reportedly so shaken by Marvin’s performance, it took him all day to shoot his introduction in what normally would have taken no more than an hour. Marvin received his only Emmy nomination for his performance.

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Of all the the members of his family who did their part for the war effort, none did more than Lee Marvin himself. Dropping out of high school in Florida and enlisting in the Marines on August 12, 1942, the rare images below that he sent home, depict the raw recruit practicing his bayonet stance and his Marine salute on Parris Island as he he himself states in Lee Marvin: Point Blank.

As training dragged on, his enthusiasm may have waned to the reality of life in the service, but his anxiousness to get in the fight never did as shown below…

When basic training was complete, he received advanced training that allowed the teenager to proudly showed of his class A uniform and well-earned sharpshooter medals he wrote about in Lee Marvin: Point Blank

Anxious to ship out, an extremely rare, and badly developed, photo below by a buddy, captures a candid smile from the rough-hewn Marine…

Shortly before he was to ship out, Marvin received a surprise visit from his father, which he writes about rather poignantly (and is remembered bittersweetly by his first wife)…

Once overseas and in the midst of the Marines Pacific island-hopping campaign, Marvin sported a mustache and a much more mature look in his eye than can only come from witnessing the horros of real war.

A rare moment of respite is shown below between skirmishes with the Japanese on such islands as Tarawa, Kweijalean, and Eniwetok, before the bloody battle of Saipan in June, 1942 which would almost take his life. Of the harrowing experience, he would simply tell his parents, “I have had my fill of war.” The bullet that nearly killed him resulted in a 13-month convolesence whilte the rest of his outfit was decimated on Iwo Jima, Pvt. Lee Marvin was given an honorable discharge in July, 1945.

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