Just because I spent nearly 20 years researching Lee Marvin for my book Lee Marvin Point Blank, does not mean I’ve seen everything about him, as I recently discovered this little gem of him which is eerily reminiscent of the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
Anyone not old enough to remember the Jerry Lewis Telethon to benefit those stricken with Muscular Dystrophy, is missing out on a hard-to-explain show business phenomenon the likes of which we’ll probably never see again. Every Labor Day, Jerry Lewis would stay on the air for 22 hours while he begged for money to help his kids. In between were local and major business people, novelty acts, Broadway acts, community volunteers, lots of Vegas acts and literally the biggest names in show business (John Lennon, anyone?). My friends and I looked forward to it every year for one specific reason: Come 3: 00 in the morning, Jerry would get really weird, nasty, snarky and hilarious. “Gimme the damned check and get the hell of the stage,” was said more than once by the King of Comedy. With our dark senses of humor, my friends and I loved it! But I digress..
This clip below was something I recently came across and was quite surprised to see Lee Marvin making like Jerry Lewis. Apparently, it was from 1959, around the time that Marvin was doing “M Squad” and my guess is he was talked into it by his agent, Meyer Mishkin, who always was looking to raise Marvin’s profile where ever and whenever possible. Know as the WHAS Crusade for Children, it still exists to this day as one of the longest running telethons in broadcast history. Named for the station’s call letters out of Louisville, Kentucky, and benefitting local children stricken with Cerebral Palsy and the like, it began in 1954, serving Kentucky and southern Indiana.
In watching the clip, you gotta give Marvin his props. He’s smooth and likable with the kids on live TV and even though he has a cheat sheet binder, he can hold his own with Jerry Lewis any day. It’s dated, it’s blurry and clunky, but watch to the end and the kid with the glasses and bowtie. Hey it’s live TV. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein