LEE MARVIN TV WESTERNS: RARE IMAGES & ANECDOTES

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.”

Lee Marvin & Eddie Albert in 1953's live TV western drama, "Outlaw's Reckoning" with costar Vicki Cummings.

Lee Marvin & Eddie Albert in 1953’s live TV western drama, “Outlaw’s Reckoning” with costar Vicki Cummings.

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……
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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”….

Lee Marvin as the deranged miner who terrorizes Pernell Roberts in the 1962 episode of Bonanza entitled The Crucible.

Lee Marvin as the sadistic miner who terrorizes Pernell Roberts in the 1962 episode of Bonanza entitled 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.”

Lee Marvin as Kalig, the ex-con who kidnaps Judge Garth (Lee J.Cobb) fo sending him up the river in 1962's The Virginian.

Lee Marvin as Kalig, the ex-con who kidnaps Judge Garth (Lee J.Cobb) for sending him up the river in 1962’s The Virginian.

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BUZZ KULIK ON DIRECTING SERGEANT RYKER

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Film & TV director Buzz Kulik, worked with Lee Marvin a few times and was gracious enough to grant me a phone inter view for Lee Marvin Point Blank. Most of what he told me went in the book. However, This little tidbit didn’t make the cut but is worth retelling…
Director Buzz Kulik: There is one story that stands out. I had worked with him on live TV. I liked him and thought he was a wonderful actor. He had a tough time with booze, though. Drunk, he could be belligerent. He couldn’t hold his liquor that well. Because of his past experience with it, I had heard he was difficult. So, what I did was talk to the head of security at the studio. I told him to tell the guards at the gate, “If he leaves at lunch, gets out on to Lankershim, hits the bars, gets into a fight, I want to know about it, right away. Tell me if he leaves.” I talked to Lee. I said, “I don’t want you to go off the lot for lunch. When we break for lunch, you could have lunch with me or whomever, but don’t leave the lot.” He said “Okay.” About five or seven days into shooting I called a lunch break. The hour goes by and Lee doesn’t come back. I wait a half hour, and he still didn’t show up. I yelled at security. I called all the gates. I said, “Look, all I asked is that you tell me if he leaves.” Nobody saw him leave. He finally showed up, bombed. Do you remember the old show, “Wagon Train?” Well, they filmed at Universal. When we broke for lunch, Lee wandered over there, sat with some of the old timers, and they must have had some booze in their dressing room because when he got back, he was all tanked up. He was very apologetic. I made him apologize to the cast and crew. What we wound up doing was shooting a different scene that day. I shot the scenes where he was at the defense table and all he had to do was listen. If you watch those scenes now, I think you can see him kind of hanging down. [laughs] He was a wild man.

 

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