In Lee Marvin Point Blank I cover all of the actors films and most of his TV & stage work, but depending on the amount of time on screen, much of his earlier work is given less space, such as 1955’s I Died a Thousand Times, toplining Jack Palance. In an almost scene-for-scene remake of Humphrey Bogart’s classic, High Sierra, Palance is overshadowed but the outstanding cast and breathtaking color photography. The cast consisted of such pros as Shelley Winters, Lon Chaney, Jr., Earl Holliman, Howard St. John, Nick Adams, and a whacked out partying teenager played by Dennis Hopper.
Lee Marvin’s contribution to I Died a Thousand Times is minimal at best. However, since his face was becoming fairly well known, he did receive prominence in some of the advertising….
He and Holliman play Palance’s henchmen for an upcoming heist with Marvin being brutal to his girlfriend, Shelley Winters, and then cowering in fear when challenged b Palance. It may have been this film for which Marvin famously said, “People see me in a movie and they know two things: I’m not gonna get the girl and I’ll get a cheap funeral by the final reel.” Some times it was one or the other but on this occasion, it was both.
The film’s female lead, Shelley Winters, would work again with Marvin in the actor’s last film, Delta Force (although they had no scenes together). About I Died a Thousand Times, the usually acerbic actress was surprisingly kind in remembering Lee Marvin in her memoir:
“My agent Herb Brenner quickly volunteered reasons why I should do it. He told me ‘This one is a big color picture in CinemaScope. Jack Palance will star with you and Lee Marvin, who is a very good character, will be featured.’ Lee Marvin was a fine character actor then, and he was always full of fun, and very intelligent, drunk or sober. Though sometimes loaded while we were working, he was always in control of the scene. Every night, over martinis, after shooting twelve hours, we would meet in the bar and discuss nothing for hours.”