Ron Soble, a veteran character actor of the 1950s and 60s, was one of the few people who worked with Lee Marvin who refused to go on the record for Lee Marvin Point Blank. A shame, really, as the brief story he told me was a good one.
I met Ron Soble back in the 1990’s at the Beverly Garland Hotel’s Hollywood Collector’s show where I would collect wonderful quotes and interviews en masse from those who worked with Marvin. When I asked Soble if he had ever worked with Marvin, he told me about the episode of The Virginian they were in together.

Lee Marvin in the “It Tolls For Thee” episode of The Virginian directed by Sam Fuller.

I was familiar with the episode but had not seen it at that point. Turns out that it, and another episode with Charles Bronson, were sloppily edited together to cash in on their late life fame and released theatrically as an embarrassing mess called, The Meanest Men in the West.
Soble gave me some background on the episode with Marvin and then told me what I considered to be a hilarious anecdote about the off-camera doings of this particular episode.

Network caption to previous photo explaining to newspapers the episode plot.

I should explain, Soble was a pretty trippy guy, kind of like the way Jack Palance was a pretty trippy guy. I remembered him best as the creepy gambler who challenged Steve McQueen in the beginning of The Cincinnati Kid and wound up with a rusty razor to his jugular. Trekkies may remember him from an episode on the original Star Trek series where he played Wyatt Earp. The clenched teeth way he spoke in his scenes was indeed the way he spoke in life. Strange man.

Ron Soble as part of Lee Marvin’s gang in The Virginian.

The story he told me had to do with a between-camera-set-ups moment he overheard between Lee Marvin and Lee J. Cobb. According to Soble, the cast was sitting around waiting to be called to the set as Lee Marvin did what he often did between takes, needle his co-stars. This time his target was Cobb, a legendary actor who originated the role of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The fact that the acting legend was now a regular on a TV western was the point of Marvin’s needle.

(L-R) Lee J. Cobb as Judge Garth & Lee Marvin as Kalig in The Virginian.

A voice was suddenly heard stating, “Lee! You’re wanted on the set.” Cobb rose to the call until Marvin asked him, “How do you know they’re calling you?” With sharp comic timing, Cobb responded, “Because I’m the Lee with the talent.”
Great little anecdote, right? Well I laughed until Soble said I couldn’t use it. When I asked why he just shrugged his shoulders. I persisted but he never changed his mind. I assumed he thought it would hurt somebody’s feeling but he never relented.
Well, I recently saw on the ‘net that Soble passed away back in 2002. His permission no longer needed, you’re now reading the anecdote here. Not much, I know,  but I would’ve put in the book if he let me. There are a few other tidbits I’ll write about in due time here but until then, there’s always Lee Marvin Point Blank and what IS in the book is just as good, if not better than what is not. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein

The one with the talent?

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TV westerns made good use of Lee Marvin through out the 1950s and 60s. Readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank are very familar with his work in the medium, especially one particular live TV show from 1953 with Eddie Albert. Interviewing Albert for the book was a research highlight and as readers know, the anecdote concerning the show’s airing is classic live television at its best…or worst! After much searching, I finally found a picture from that half hour episode of the short-lived ABC series entitled “The Plymouth Playhouse.”

Lee Marvin & Eddie Albert in 1953's live TV western drama, "Outlaw's Reckoning" with costar Vicki Cummings.

Lee Marvin & Eddie Albert in 1953’s live TV western drama, “Outlaw’s Reckoning” with costar Vicki Cummings.

Marvin appeared in many TV productions with western themes, both live and filmed, such as the GE Theatre episodes, “The Doctors of Pawnee Kill” with Kevin McCarthy (1957), “Mr Death and The Redheaded Woman” with Eva Marie Saint (1954); U.S. Steel Hour’s “Shadow of Evil” with Jack Cassidy & Shirley Jones (1957);  Climax’s “The Time of the Hanging” with William Shatner; and the unknown, stained image seen below……

When they anthology show faded from TV in the 60s, and Marvin’s career hit a ceiling of success until Cat Ballou, he still made appearances on such shows as Wagon Train (one of his best!) and the last great anthology show, a western-themed episode of The Twilight Zone.  One of the longest running westerns on TV was Bonanza for which Marvin appeared as a villainous (natch!) miner who terrorized series regular Pernell Roberts in the episode titled “The Crucible”….

Lee Marvin as the deranged miner who terrorizes Pernell Roberts in the 1962 episode of Bonanza entitled The Crucible.

Lee Marvin as the sadistic miner who terrorizes Pernell Roberts in the 1962 episode of Bonanza entitled The Crucible.

One particular 1962 episode of the popular series The Virginian — in which ex-con Marvin kidnaps series regular Lee J. Cobb — was hastily intercut with another episode starring Charles Bronson and released theatrically in 1976 as The Meanest Men in The West to cash in on both veteran actor’s late life success. Marvin’s episode had been titled “It Tolls For Thee.” The story goes that when the director called out “LEE!” to come to the set, Marvin, who had been teasing Cobb during the production, watched as the older actor rose from his chair. Marvin asked him how he knows they’re calling for Cobb. Cobb smiled back, “Easy,” replied Cobb, “I’m the one with the talent.”

Lee Marvin as Kalig, the ex-con who kidnaps Judge Garth (Lee J.Cobb) fo sending him up the river in 1962's The Virginian.

Lee Marvin as Kalig, the ex-con who kidnaps Judge Garth (Lee J.Cobb) for sending him up the river in 1962’s The Virginian.

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