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…. From 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….. According 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……
It isn’t widely known but in Lee Marvin’s long and varied career he worked with almost every member of the original cast of Star Trek in one medium or another. In the early days of live TV, William Shatner played his hotheaded younger brother in a Playhouse 90 western titled “Time of the Hanging.” During the run of Marvin’s series M Squad, Leonard Nimoy appeared twice as a criminal who tangles with Marvin’s Lt. Ballinger. An early 60s anthology show called The Great Adventure had Marvin playing an unlikely Armenian grape grower with young Walter Koenig playing his son. He also had a great scene in the film Raintree County as a maverick Union soldier who captures a gentlemanly Confederate officer played by DeForest Kelley. All in all, a pretty good batting score of Star Trek cast members for Marvin without ever appearing on the show!
But of all the Star Trek cast members he worked with, none were able to say they knew Lee Marvin nearly as well as James ‘Scotty’ Doohan. The two actors started out together in Woodstock New York’s Maverick Theater after the war and appeared in several plays together, including Marvin’s professional debut in “Roadside” (see picture below with Doohan on the right).
I was lucky enough to interview Doohan for my book Lee Marvin: Point Blank back in the 90s and worked most of what he told me into the text. However, for various reasons, not all of what he had to say made the final cut so below is the unpublished transcript of that conversation. The words are his own with elliptical dots replacing my questions. Enjoy, Trekkies:
James Doohan: He was a very, very impressive guy. I loved him immediately. He was just terrific. We got along like a house on fire. Always were good friends. No if, ands, or buts, fights, or anything else. He was just terrific. …He was never a phony and we got a lot of phonies in this business. He was as true to himself as he could possibly be…. He was the characters that he played. He would actually be perfect for them. He was just a great guy. Became a great self-actor….At The Maverick Theatre, yeah. It was really a nice theater. We got pretty darn good crowds. We were just a bunch of actor/students. Somebody said, “I saw this guy. He’s friends of the Ballantines. I saw this guy and geez, he’d be perfect for one of the parts that we have,” Tex in “Roadside.” (Does voice) I played old Pap Rader. Anyway… We did about 10 plays. … It was a very exciting thing. The most specific thing that I remember about Lee is that of course that he was a Marine and I was and officer in the Royal Canadian Artillery and had taken some commando training and also infantry training. One day, we were fiddling around outside in the beautiful sunshine and everything else. Lee said, “Hey Jimmy, catch!” There was a rifle coming at me (laughs). I thought “Oh wow-wee!” I caught it, and I don’t have the best hand equipment in the world because I had three bullets hit this one finger….machine gun on D-Day. I was number one off of our beach on D-Day…. That’s why he would like throw the rifle at me. “Hey, catch this!” He said it after it was in the air (laughs) I had to look up and there was a a goddamned rifle coming at me, perfectly thrown ,though. So you have chance to grab it perpendicular… I just said, “Oh, okay.” He was just, “You know what you’re doing,” except I didn’t know as much as he knew.
– Dwayne Epstein