Lee Marvin’s mother, Courtenay Washington Davidge, is clearly a worthy subject for this Mother’s Day blog entry. To say Lee Marvin didn’t like his mother is an oversimplification of a very complicated relationship. Family and friends related to me several examples of Lee’s attitude towards his mother, all of which went into the pages of Lee Marvin: Point Blank. Although he rebelled her emphasis to maintain social graces, it did leave an indelible mark on him throughout his life. When he was at his most boorish and outlandish, he instinctively knew when to pull back back his behavior by muttering, “Uh-oh. Courtenay wouldn’t like it.” Such was the effect she had on her sons, Lee and Robert.
(L-R) Unidentified neighbor holding Cynthia, Lee’s mother, Courtenay in glasses, son Christopher, Lee holding daughter, Claudia, wife Betty (barely visible) and daughter Courtenay.
Speaking of Robert Marvin, my ability to convince him to go on the record with me for the first time, resulted in some wonderful treasures unearthed from the Marvin family archives. Many of those images appeared exclusively in the pages of Lee Marvin: Point Blank. However, this being Mother’s Day, here are other images documenting the life of Lee Marvin’s mother, the proud Virginian steel magnolia, Courtenay Davidge Washington Marvin. Happy Mother’s Day, one and all!
– Dwayne Epstein
A rare photo of a VERY young ad serious looking Courtenay during her school days in the early 20th century.
Portrait of Courtenay believed to be in her late teens or early twenties.
Dated December 21st, 1914, Courtenay tries several poses for what might have been p.r. images for her burgeoning writing career.
Courtenay and future husband Monte Marvin in the early days of their relationship prior to their marriage in 1921 (left) and then a decade after they were married (right) in front of their apartment in Queens, New York.
On the roof of their NY apartment, Courtenay poses with baby Lee for Monte’s camera.
(L-R) Courtenay, Lee’s older brother, Robert, and Lee pose on the rocks one summer in Woodstock, New York.
Young Lee sits on his mother’s lap with brother Robert beside them.
Several images of of a blonde Courtenay with sons Robert and Lee as they enjoy the sun and surf.
Proud parents Courtenay and Monte visit Lee following his completion of basic USMC training.
Fashion conscious Courtenay was a working woman in the field of beauty journalism long before it became the norm. Robert told this writer he remembers many a sleepless night listening to her clacking away on her typewriter as she freelanced for PHOTOPLAY, SCREENLAND, VANITY FAIR and the cosmetic line of Helena Rubinstein, among many other assignments.
After the war, the Marvins settled in Woodstock. (L-R) Courtenay, Lee ‘s then girlfriend, Helen Wagner ,and Lee stand in front of his car. The crumpled rear fender and roof are recounted in a very funny story in the pages of LEE MARVIN: POINT BLANK.
Courtenay died suddenly March 23rd, 1963, of a massive stroke. Here she’s pictured towards the end of her life in the garden of Lee’s home in Santa Monica. Rest in Peace, Mrs. Marvin.