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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THIS VALENTINE’S DAY TRY SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT

This Valentine’s Day weekend, may I suggest trying a gift a little different from the traditional? Let’s face it, candy gets eaten real quick and flowers don’t last much longer. Give your loved one the gift of a book as it’s the gift that keeps on giving year after year.

Lee Marvin says it best.

To be more specific, I suggest Lee Marvin Point Blank. It may be the perfect gift for the holiday. But don’t take my word for it alone. Take it from no less an authority than Vanity Fair, as who should know better? Back in 2013, the magazine’s online staff writer James Wolcott probably said it best, or at least better than I ever could and I certainly thank him for it. Oh, and no, I don’t owe him any money.

“FEBRUARY 14, 2013 3:15 PM
“Wash his face. He’s fine.”
BY JAMES WOLCOTT
It being Valentine’s Day, I can think of no more romantic way to waste the day (before I get to work) than by dipping in and out of a tender, caring, just-published biography of America’s former sweetheart, Lee Marvin. In Lee Marvin: Point Blank, written by Dwayne Epstein, the action star who terrorized the West with a bullwhip in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, taught a squad of murderers and borderline psychos how to love again in The Dirty Dozen, and let Angie Dickinson use him as a punching bag for her furious little fists in the movie that gives this bio its subtitle weaves through the pages like the big rangy scary cat he was.”

So, there you have it. The perfect summation as to why Lee Marvin Point Blank is the perfect gift. You’ll also find out how Marvin himself celebrated the day with his loved ones and it may surprise you.
So go ahead. Give the gift that keeps on giving….or else!

  • Dwayne Epstein
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IN HONOR OF VALENTINE’S DAY, LEE MARVIN STYLE

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I was rather stumped for a blog idea that would be appropriate for the occassion. At first, I though of simply uploading the image below. No, it’s not from the set of The Untouchables, although Lee did appear on it frequently enough. Actually, it’s a rare picture of Lee and first wife, Betty Marvin at a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Party in the 50s courtesy of Betty Marvin

Betty Marvin (left) with husband Lee (bottom right) dressed approriately for a St. Valentine's Day Massacre Party.

Betty Marvin (left) with husband Lee (bottom right) dressed approriately for a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Party.

herself.. Cool, huh?

Howevever, even better than the image is a completely different blog entry that was posted in Vanity Fair online shortly after Lee Marvin: Point Blank was released. Writer James Wolcott takes an interesting look at the subject that may seem far afield, but nails it nontheless. What do you think?

“FEBRUARY 14, 2013 3:15 PM

“Wash his face. He’s fine.”
BY JAMES WOLCOTT
It being Valentine’s Day, I can think of no more romantic way to waste the day (before I get to work) than by dipping in and out of a tender, caring, just-published biography of America’s former sweetheart, Lee Marvin. In Lee Marvin: Point Blank, written by Dwayne Epstein, the action star who terrorized the West with a bullwhip in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, taught a squad of murderers and borderline psychos how to love again in The Dirty Dozen, and let Angie Dickinson use him as a punching bag for her furious little fists in the movie that gives this bio its subtitle weaves through the pages like the big rangy scary cat he was.

I’d often wondered why Marvin and director Sam Peckinpah never worked together in movies. Such simiarities. Both tough ex-Marines, both heavy intakers of alcoholic content, both volatile, both white-haired with a silvery patina to their appearance. Maybe it was because their experience shooting a TV’s Route 66 killed off any chance of bromance:

…Frustrated with his career, at odds with director Sam Peckinpah, and hating the dreary Pittsburgh location, the actor drank too much during work hours and paid the price. “What I remember most was his eyes,” recalled co-star Bert Remsen [who would go on to become a member of Robert Altman’s rep company, appearing in California Split, Thieves Like Us, Nashville, et al]. “He’d come in from the night before with his eyes all red and that strange walk he had, and say with that voice, ‘Hiya baby! You going out drinking with me tonight?'” I’d say, ‘No way! I gotta work the next day.’ He could do it though. He’d come in all disheveled and go throw up in the corner. Sam would say, ‘Wash is face. He’s fine.’ He’d do the scene and never miss a line…”

It’s never good to work woozy, however, and during this episode there was a fight scene with Martin Milner where one of the actors zigged when he should have zagged and the result was a punch that split Marvin’s nose wide open, the resulting damage putting his career in jeopardy. He was fortunate, notes Epstein, that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was shot in black and white, masking the discoloration.

The pages devoted to Donovan’s Reef, the “rollicking comedy” (an extinct genre) that reunited Ford, the Duke, and Marvin, confirm the impression that I acquired at an early age that Donovan’s Reef is one of the booze-bathed movies of all time, a sot’s vision of tropical paradise. “For tax reasons [Ford] had to sell his beloved yacht, The Araner, so he decided to use it in the movie before selling it off, and figured he could have a good time drinking on board during the film.” This is the sort of consideration that seldom comes up in film-studies courses. As it turned out, Ford wasn’t allowed to drink for health reasons, so he “had to referee” while Wayne and Marvin went watery-eyed.

I once heard someone compare Donovan’s Reef to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but that person might have been drinking too.”

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