Here’s an example of why Lee Marvin hated working in TV. Having to do a 1950s commercial during the run of M Squad for the sponsor, Pall Mall cigarettes, was one of his greatest pet peeves as elaborated on at length in Lee Marvin Point Blank. One such example of his disdain was the following quote: “Creatively, an actor is limited in TV. The medium is geared for pushing goods. Sell the product, that’s the goal… But I’m not interested in pushing the products; I’m interested in Lee Marvin and where he’s going as an actor. There’s the rub. Lee Marvin was going nowhere creatively in the series.”
It probably did not help his cause very much that the president of the American Tobacco Company, maker of Pall Mall sponsoring the show, picked up the tab for M Squad mainly because of Marvin. After viewing the show’s pilot, the president allegedly responded, “That kid really smokes!” My, how things have changed since the days of the real Mad Men!
Personally, I think Lee Marvin makes a surprisingly decent pitchman. I also do like the idea that there may have actually been somewhere a thing as the M Squad pistol range.
Here now are several examples of Lt. Frank Ballinger, aka Lee Marvin, hawking Pall Mall in three different commercials. It may come over as rather cringe worthy watching it now in these much more enlightened times, but he was not alone. In fact contractually speaking, Josh Randall, aka Steve McQueen did it for Wanted Dead Alive (1958) and was parodied by Leonard DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) as TV actor Rick Dalton. Yes, folks, they really did such ads and people really did smoke unfiltered cigarettes. My, how the world has changed. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein