With Veterans Day upon us, it’s a perfect time to write about Lee Marvin’s understandably complex emotions regarding his time in the service after his harrowing time in the war. That harrowing experience is detailed in his own words in Lee Marvin Point Blank as never before, but what of his thoughts after the war?
Well, for starters, as the war was winding down in the summer of 1945, there’s this copy of a letter Lee’s father Monte Marvin typed to Robert Marvin, Lee’s brother, who was still overseas…..
Reading Monte’s letter to Robert, it doesn’t take much see how bitter Lee Marvin really was after the war. He grappled with those feelings the rest of his life and channeled much of what he was feeling into his acting. Fortunately for him, he was not alone as the postwar years meant many projects and people dealing with the same feelings…..
Once he decided to become an actor, Lee Marvin spent more time in uniform in theatrical productions on stage and on film than probably any other actor and clearly, that was no accident. He felt an obvious obligation to honestly portray what he went through despite the toll it had taken on him both physically and psychologically. His undiagnosed PTSD (also explored at length in the book) raged on through years of Veterans Days, Memorial Days, and more.
When Johnny Carson once asked him if he went to any USMC reunions, Marvin joked that he only went to a few and stopped after hearing the same boring lies and war stories. The truth is he stayed in contact with other soldiers from his outfit and when the opportunity presented itself, he did whatever he could to help the cause of his fellow Marines. Besides donations to appropriate charities, one example combined both charity and heightened awareness. At the height of his cinema popularity, he took time to host and narrate a TV special entitled “Our Time in Hell”…..
The title of the show may seem obvious but it also came from an often stated short poem whose author is unknown but who’s sentiment is not:
“And when he gets to heaven,
to Saint Peter he will tell:
‘Another Marine reporting, sir,
I’ve served my time in hell.’ ”
I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say Lee Mavin did much to help us understand what veterans have done for us and what they went through at a very high cost both during and after their service. So, in honor of that tremendous sacrifice, thank you veterans and may you always be treated with the dignity and respect you deserve. Happy Veterans Day!