The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa on May 10, 1970 · Page 54
Get access to this page with a Free Trial
Click to view larger version
May 10, 1970

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa · Page 54

Publication:
Location:
Des Moines, Iowa
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 10, 1970
Page:
Page 54
Cancel
Start Free Trial

Page 54 article text (OCR)

Lee Marvin— Continued.from Page Ons roles with his Academy Award performance in "Cat Ballou." Seldom has aa actor, especially ati old-line actor, been thrust so quickly into prominence. Yet Marvin continues to function outside the "Establishment," using the money his stardom has brought to re-. treat from, rather than buy his way into, the Hollywood pecking order. Said" one of his closest friends: "He's the only guy in this business I know who goes off by himself, without the ent- tourage or the sycophants." A product of a socially prominent New York family who has made his living and finally his fortune from the Hollywood film industry, Marvin backhands the sophisticates in both societies. "I'd much rather see 'Laurence^oL Arabia' or 'Dr. Zhivago' than 'Midnight Cowboy'," he said emphatically. "The stopped, fixed the child with a withering look, and said, "Not Cat Ballou, kid. Jane Fonda was Cat Ballou. I was Kid Sheleen, and don't you forget it." Although the role let Marvin escape from the drudgery of television and "M Squad," he looks back on that TV period without rancor. "I like those old TV stories," he said. "You presented a problem in the first two minutes and spent the next 22 resolving it. The viewers knew the ground rules and what was going on, and when we finished, they said, 'Good enough. Now, what's next?' We shot- each one of those episodes in two days, and thank God I don't have to do (hat any more. But it worked. It did the job and it paid me well, and I'm not ashamed of it. "YoiTgei little satisfaction from television, though. A lot of people see it, but _ihey_jd0nl_get Jnside—the—stor-ywWhen you see Gary Grant kissing some broad on a movie screen and their heads-are Drunk role 'hit pretty close.,, I trained for it 41 years 1 Vfirst two are pictures, and the other's an example of the junk being made today. Realism is going into the men's room at a gas station, but Arabia — ah, Arabia — to me is a dream, a totally theatrical experience. I'm not knocking just 'Midnight Cowboy.' What I'm talking about- is subject matter. And I'm talking as an _ audience, not an actor. I don't have any desire to do Shakespeare." It's a temptation to take Marvin at simple face value. Sitting on the deck of his Malibu beach house, he fondle'd a pile of pictures of his fishing sloop and his voice softened as he said, "This is what I dig now. There are some people I love dearly in Hollywood, .but, generally speaking, this atmosphere is not for me. So when I'm not working, I just stay on the beach, Or 1 go fishing. It's a great feeling —/'and it took a long time to get things that way. Now I know that once you're a winner, winning isn't enough. Then the game starts — the game of life. That's what we're" "here for. That's whereJ am now." CJHORTLY AFTER Marvin won the O Oscar for his portrayal of the drunken gunslinger, he was approached on the street by a -small-boy. who pointed at him and told his mother; "Look, look, there's Cat Ballou." Marvin With "Cot BaHou" Oscar 38 feet high, you get involved. When you knock it down to 12 or 13 inches, you aren't involved. You're a spectator. But TV entertains people, and believe me, everybody needs some entertaining' these days."Marvin's route to the starring role in "M Squad" was about as improbable as the instant fame he's-achieved since. His ancestral roots go deep in blue-blood New England. The first American Marvin arrived with Thomas Hooker from England in 1634, and among the descendants are the first chief justice of the . stale of Connecticut and Ross Marvin, who died with Admiral Peary during his polar explorations. Marvin, born in New York City, bounced around at various private schools before World War II saved both the schoolmasters and Marvin from further abrasions. He said, "The attack on Pearl Harbor didn't mean a hell of a lot to me because I didn't know what Pearl Harbor was. It was a movie thing, with a director saying, fight, so we said, come on, let's go. It was a chance to get out of high school." Marvin was sent to'^he South Pacific and saw action in the battles of Kwaje- lein' and Eniwetok before he was wounded on Saipau. "I've been back there." he said. "I saw the tree I was .behind when I was hit and all that. I've got no bad dreams." But the fact remains that this period of conibat deeply affected Marvin's life. The most obvious manifestation is a film called "Hell in the Pacific," which 'was conceived and hounded to execution by Marvin two years ago. "TTELL in the Pacific" was a simple, ...., .Ll straightforward .stony of .two fighting men from warring nations, an American and a Japanese, accidentally thrown together, who sublimated their hostility in order to co-operate in survival, then parted without achieving any substantial degree of understanding. It never caught on, partly because of the rah-yea title that tended to steer off the natural audience for this subtle, often beautiful film.'But to Marvin there are other reasons it didn't do well. "It was too close to'home." he said. "It scared hell out of too many Americans, just as the black man scares them. I know very few people would accept it. You're supposed to hate the enemy, you know, add it one of fnur H« croaked "WandViV Star" '. %'TJ Not ashamed of "M Squad" people understood — well, that's about all I expected. "But whatever chance it had was destroyed by the brains at the studio. We didn't shoot the ending people saw. The way we did it, I look at him, he looks at me, I say, 'You S.O^B.,' and I walk off and he walks off. The end. But the big brains, they said, 'Hey, what does that mean?' "It means they have no place to go, • that's what it meansr-but the big brains couldn't have it that way, so they built a miniature set, and while we're playing that last scene they show a lot of planes screaming overhead that we're not responding to, and then they blow up. the whole works. I didn't know they did that Until months later, after it was released. "Then they had the- secretaries and the swabbies in the men.'s room check the title they liked best, so we ended up with 'Hell in the Pacific' because they wanted to get the John Wayne audience. Well, they didn't get it, and it serves them right." I T TOOK a long time to attain his present eminence. While recovering from his war wounds at the family home,in upstate New York in 1945, he met the owner of a community theater in Woodstock, N.Y., worked for him briefly, liked it,, and decided to use his G.I. Bill of Rights to study at the American Theatre Wing in-.Ne-w- YSrk-Gity. He was in the right place at the right time with the right talents. Live television drama was proliferating, . and Macvin had more than 250 TV roles while winning critical acclaim on Broadway in "Billy Budd," "Streetcar Named Desire" and "the Hasty Heart." Director Henry Hathaway hired him for a supporting role with Gary Cooper in '•You're in the NaYy Now," filmed near New York. When Marvin had to go to Hollywood for some interior shots, he stayed. He's been there ever since. For 15 years, he built a reputation as — a solid professional in character roles that led to his selection as Lieutenant BaUiuger in the "M Squad" series. It also led director Stanley Kramer — who remembered a 'way-out comedy bit Marvin did in a film called "The Wild— Ones" "-"-xto cast him as the down-and- out baseball player in "Ship of Fools." At almost the same time — and for the same reasons —-Marvin was chosen to play the alcoholic giinslinger in "Cat Ballou." And suddenly a career that had been bounded by second-echelon roles was launched into star orbit. He now has the power and prestige to dictate his own artistic course and tha financial Independence to cut out from Hollywood whenever he chooses. "Whoever is on top out here," he said, "they're the ones to be knocked over tha next time. But that 'doesn't disturb me. I've worked out my financial situation so the big money I've made with my last six or eight films will pay me off annually for a long time. I really don't need another film right now. My agent says ideally we should have a film to break at Easter or the Fourth of July and at Christmas each year. That's enough. The rest of the time I can fish." B UT THINGS were different a few years ago. I had talked to Marvin shortly after he made "Cat Ballou," and he said then, "I put myself down. I said to myself: Will the real Lee -Marvin stand up? Not the drunk, but the guy who is lost. Everybody hates a winner. Know what I was thinking when wa were making 'Cat Ballou'? I was thinking this would be my last picture. It was that difficult for me — constantly reaching beyond myself. Now that I think I know what I'm doing, I'm scared. Before this, I just didn't know any better." Lee Marvin has made it profes? sionally, but with material success came divorce, psychoanalysis and .the aggravation of a drinking problem that sometimes got publicly out of hand. Marvin doesn't gloss over the drinking, but said he thinks he's on top of it. "I. only drink in places where I should now," he said. "The part of the drunken gunfighter in 'Cat Ballou' hit pretty close to home for me. I traineol for that role for 41 years. But it became a kind, of reprimand of my drinking habits. I got a look at myself." His 13-year marriage to the former Betty Edeling ended in divorce in 1965. She lives only a few miles from Marvin's beach home, and Lee sees his four children — son Christopher, 17, and three younger daughters, Courtenay, Cynthia and Claudia — frequently. H E HAS no reluctance to tackle any sacred cow. When asked, for en- ample, if he thought actors were demanding too much money for films, he eyed me coldly and said, "They don't have to hire me, pal. I never ask anybody for anything. Can you believe that? My agent and I just say, what kinda sauce are you giving? And they say, whatever you get, we'll pay. As far as money is concerned, there's no way anybody can make me feel guilty. No way. "I made a deal once wh^ere I said: Now .look, I'll do it for tliis"anibunt if you'll take the difference in my salary- and pay it to better actors in the other parts. And they said, we can't make a deal like that. All they want is the glory of bringing a picture in under budget. "Richard Brooks is one director who figured out how to beat that situation. He jusf did a film called 'Happy Ending.' which he directed and produced — and brought in 49 days under schedule. But he made the schedule. He's beautiful because he knows that's the only thing that impresses the guys at the Chase Manhattan Bank. What tha hell da they know about pictures?" Mjjinas Sunday Reg is tar 3-TV

Get full access with a Free Trial

Start Free Trial

What members have found on this page