What exactly is the momentous Marvin memento? Well, a little back story is required. When Lee Marvin came home after the war, he settled with his family in the upstate New York area of Woodstock. The closest friend he made those years after the war was David Ballantine. The two men shared many interests including fishing, hunting and gun collecting. Before Marvin knew what he was going to with his life, and even the years after he decided to become an actor, the entire Ballantine family had a great influence over his life. In fact, it was David’s father, E.J. “Teddy” Ballantine who opened Marvin’s eyes to a life as an actor. David’s brother, Ian, and sister-in-law, Betty, started the very succesful publishing company Ballantine Books. Betty was a trusted confidante to the former combat Marine, so much so that he was her insight that led me to discover Marvin’s PTSD which became a most important theme in Lee Marvin: Point Blank.
In the years following Marvin’s phenomonally successful acting career, his friends and family from Woodstock were never too far from his memory. He would visit whenever he could and when something reminded him of his friends back east, he was sure to let them know it. Case in point, this letter from 1969, written and mailed on Monte Walsh stationary….
ballantine envelope

The contents of the letter were 2-fold. First, a quickly typed letter to David in which Marvin recounts the following anecdote on the beach at Malibu….

Dear David,

You are going to think I’m full of shit but here it is. Yesterday I was walking down the beach amongst the driftwood and trash line and feeling a little possesive, my beach, when I spot this green Scotch bottle, a pint, and know the label used to read Ballantine’s. The cork is still in it and I think, the bastards, why don’t they leave the cork out and then it would eventually sink and not litter up ‘MY BEACH.’ Proceeding to do the same, I pick it up and lo….there is something in it. Ah Ha. Some children have secreted a secret map or call for help in it. Okay, I’ll play the game. I can not pull it out of the slim neck so I bring it back to the house and get a hammer and go out to the trashcan to break it. I DO NOT WANT BROKEN GLASS ON ‘MY BEACH.’ So doing, lo and behold. The rest is self-explanatory. I thought you might get a kick out of it, I did. Love to you all, & Pam,


ballantine letter




What was the 2nd part of the letter that Lee felt was self-explanatory and worthy of writing in the first place? It was of course, the following content of the bottle…..
ballantine content


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Like any actor, Lee Marvin required head shots at the start of his career to pass around to agents and casting directors. Below are extremely rare and exclusive examples of those first head shots….
L-R NO.3,NO2, BTM NO6From 1946 to 1950, Marvin pounded the pavement of New York’s theater district and did quite well for himself finding work as both heavy and character actor. The shots below illustrate his attempt at versatility and somewhat softer visage…..
MISC. GROUPAccording to Woodstock friend Betty Ballantine, Marvin was proud of the pictures as she comically related: “He was a very impressive heavy. I remember, it was the following year (1950), in the fall, he came and maybe he had gotten the touring job or something. He came to me with two photographs. His first professional mug shots. One very serious and one grinning showing all his teeth, teeth like a horse. He said, “Which one do you want?” For god’s sake! I said diplomatically, “Yes, I’ll take the smiling one.” (laughs). It was cute in it’s own way.” The photo she was referring to can be seen in the bottom left corner below:

After several years of theater and live TV work in NY, Marvin took fellow actor James Doohan’s sage advice and headed west (Lee Marvin Point Blank, p. 70). It proved to be a smart move as he racked up multiple credits in a short period and snared an agent, Meyer Mishkin, who believed in the actor’s potential as much as Marvin himself. Below is Marvin’s listing in the all important Player’s Guide of 1952, the industry casting bible. Listed as a character actor/comedian (!) note the credit for the film The Dirty Dozen. It would later be changed before release to Eight Iron Men by producer Stanley Kramer. The title would, however, show up a few years later in the actor’s resume……

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