In doing research for Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was extremely lucky to eventually win over the confidence of Lee’s older brother Robert, who still lived in the Marvin family home in Woodstock when I met up with him in 1995. Several visits to the Marvin family homestead in upstate New York’s Hudson River Valley yielded some of the best and most exclusive research information of my entire project. It also allowed me a better sense of what Lee Marvin’s life was like as a youngster and after the war. Luckily, I brought my Nikon with me and took some pictures as it really hadn’t changed all that much in the ensuing years, in spite of the famous rock concert…. Above is the legendary Hudson River on the drive up to the Marvin homestead. Below, is the cementary called The Artist’s Colony which is the final resting place of Lee’s mother, Courtenay, who passed suddenly in 1962 of a brain hemmorage…
Almost ten years later, Lee’s father, Monte also passed due to complications involving alcoholism and was laid to rest next to Courtenay….
In the small village of Woodstock, the Maverick Theater, where Lee made his profesional acting debut, is long gone but the Village Green, which played an inauspicous role in in his fledgling acting career (Lee Marvin Point Blank, pp. 60-61), is still very much in existence as it was in his day. It would not be hard to imagine him here as he was described in the book….
On the outskirts of Woodstock, nestled in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, in a small burg called Bearsville, lies the Marvin home….
Standing near the front porch of the family home with Robert Marvin shortly after our first in-person meeting. Note the Caskills in the background…..
Lee Marvin made his professional theatrical debut in the summer of 1947 in Woodstock New York’s Maverick Theater production of “Roadside.” it proved to be a magical summer for all involved. What that summer meant to Marvin is detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank. Luckily, some images of Marvin’s stage appearances that summer have survived….
A double-exposed image of Marvin with another actor from the Maverick’s production of the controversial WWII racially charged play “Home of the Brave” is show above.
Summer stock also meant learning roles as soon as possible, no matter the part. Below is an example of Marvin in appropriate age make-up (and attitude) for the A.A. Milne comedy, “Mr. Pim Passes By”….. Can you pick out Marvin in the 2 images below? These rare images show Lee and his fellow actors in rehearsal for the play “Thunder Rock.” The images illustrate the size of the Maverick not being very large but it certainly accommodated… David Ballantine, who was Lee’s best friend in Woodstock after the war, witnessed that time and may have summed it up best when he told me the following: “Years later I saw a girl from those days at the Woodstock library fair. I said to her, this about the Maverick Theater: ‘My god, was it really as good as I remember it was, or was it just the glow of many years?’ She said, ‘No, David. It was that good.’ It worked very, very well.”
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