One of the myriad of things that separated Lee Marvin from the current crop of action stars was his theatrical background. It isn’t widely known but Marvin had extensive experience on stage from 1947 to 1951 and stated that his first real goal as a professional actor was to make it to Broadway. Following his debut at Woodstock’s Maverick Theatre, he trod the boards in summer stock productions up and down the Eastern seaboard in the late 40s as this Playbill below attests….
WATKINSGLENThe experience hardened him to the rigors of an actor’s life as he explained years later (Lee Marvin Point Blank, p. 65). It also resulted in his acceptance into the American Theater Wing on the G.I. Bill in which he steeped himself in the classics and learned the practical hands-on experience of becoming a working actor. At  the ATW, as shown below, Marvin (far right) cavorts with fellow actors in Shakespearean garb….

ATWYears later that training stayed with him and he surprised many in his later years with his knowledge of The Bard’s work (Lee Marvin Point Blank, pp. 233-234).  The ATW did lead to more work and he soon after was able to join Actor’s Equity….



He toured in such plays as Murder in The Cathedral, The Hasty Heart and A Streetcar Named Desire (not as Stanley Kowalski as one might assume but as Blanche Dubois’s lumbering suitor, Mitch). Below is a very rarely seen color image of Lee on stage from an unknown WWII drama…
ONSTAGEThe work continued and the goal was finally attained in 1950…..

It wasn’t the lead, it wasn’t the main villain, it wasn’t even an important role but the barely speaking role of a Marine in Her Majesty’s Service who escorted Billy Budd to and from his trials and tribulations. In fact, the cast list was 2 pages long with Marvin mentioned on the 2nd page….

castThe goal achieved, Hollywood beckoned and he never looked back. He would on occasion speak of doing more stage work and did do some at the La Jolla Playhouse in the late 50s. He never found the perfect project he was looking for and other than the American Film Theater’s version of O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh in 1973, legitimate theater’s loss was cinema’s gain.



Share Button


1955 was a VERY busy cinematic year for Lee Marvin with no less than eight different movie appearances in theaters across America at the time. The first release was probably the most memorable, as January 7th saw the release of the now classic, Bad Day at Black Rock. The making of the film is explored rather extensively in LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK via exclusive interviews with screenwriter Millard Kaufman and costar John Ericson (pictured below on the far right).
Shown below is an extremely rare instance of Lee Marvin’s parents getting involved in their son’s film promotion, which is not something they often particpated in. The event likely involved their participation as they lived very close to Kingston in nearby Bearsville in upstate New York’s scenic Hudson River Valley. They may have even done it more often had they been asked, since they were both still only in their fifties and professionally well-versed in the realm of public relations. Courtenay’s writing for film and fashion magazines and Monte’s work in sales in both Florida and New York’s agricultural sales markets gave them creedence.
The caption on the back of the press photo reads as follows: “January 24, 1955, far left is Kingston NY mayor Frederick H. Stang and his wife, followed by Monte and Courtenay Marvin, parents of Bad Day at Black Rock costar Lee Marvin who are all on local radio to promote ‘Go to the Movies Month in Kingston.’ The film was the premiere of Kingston’s remodeled Broadway Theater of the Walter Reade Theater chain. John Ericson is pictured far right.”


Lee Marvin’s parents, Monte & Courtenay Marvin, helping to promote Bad Day at Black Rock.

The question is, where was Lee? Probably filming one of the many films he made but had yet to still come out that year!

Share Button