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Lee Marvin in WWII

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In a career that included 31 films, Lee Marvin ofter played a tough-as-nails military man. He had the background for it, having been a Marine in real-life in WW2.

Hollywood actor Lee Marvin served as a Private First Class in the Marines in World War II. In the battle of Saipan in 1944, he was one of only nine survivors of his unit. He was seriously wounded during the battle and earned a trip home, where he spent months recovering. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

Lee Marvin died August 29, 1987 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 7-A, not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Lee Marvin guest starred in the WWII TV series Combat! in the episode "Bridge at Chalons." In the book "Combat! A Viewer's Companion" by Jo Davidsmeyer, the following is said about Lee Marvin [sections reprinted with permission]:Lee Marvin in Combat!

Rick Jason was surprised to see Marvin do a guest stint. After a three-year run as star of the series "M Squad," in which he was to share in the profits, Marvin should not have needed the money. But Marvin confided in Jason that the books for the series showed no profits, so Lee Marvin was again working series, but trying to select only good shows.

An ex-Marine, Lee Marvin brought touches of realism to his role. Marvin saw action in WWII in the Pacific and was wounded in the battle of Saipan. In "Bridge at Chalons," he is completely natural as a man of arms. He holds his weapon like someone familiar with the feel. He added the rubber inner tube around his helmet, just as he had done with his own helmet in the Pacific. [...]

"A lot of people wanted to work with Vic," says Dick Peabody about Vic Morrow. "The actors would do the show even if they weren't doing television, just to work with him. That's what Lee Marvin told me. He said, 'I don't do television anymore, but I wanted to work with Vic.' He was an actor's actor." [...]

When asked about guest stars on the show, Lee Marvin is the first one all the actors and crew mention. "I always thought Lee Marvin was so cool," says Tom Lowell. "The way he came in and had his rifle slung that way. Remember the way he had his elbows looped through the strap. That was so cool. I tried to do that for every show after that and Dick would look down at me and say, 'Don't even try it.' After Lee Marvin came on, everyone wanted a rubber band wrapped around their helmet."

Jack Hogan about Lee Marvin: "I remember Lee Marvin as one of the most bright military guys and a fantastic actor. After work, the Retake Room (a bar just off the MGM lot behind the Thalberg building) was busy when he was there."

"Lee Marvin was a kick in the tail," says Conlan Carter. "He was a piece of work, boy. The fun part of him was not so much in the acting, though he was good and he did what he did well. But he was a hard drinker. After the shoot was over for the day, man, could he put them down. Tell the stories! And he had incredible recovery. He could drink to one, two, three o'clock in the morning and show up on the set the next day and look like he'd never been out."

Georg Fenady says, "I was still an assistant then. I made the mistake of trying to stay with him one night. That man had a hollow leg. At two o'clock in the morning I'm staggering out to my car and he says 'Where are you going, I know a place to go.' I said, 'Lee, we have to get up in two hours.' I left him, and he went wherever he went. The next day, at seven in the morning, he put on all of his equipment — backpack, helmet, and rifle — and stood three feet from the camera all day, standing tall. Incredible. What an interesting man. A really interesting man." [...]

Lee Marvin narrated the WWII documentaries "Our Time in Hell, Marines in WWII," from the 1st Marine Division Association, Inc. [out of print] and "Marine Corps Combat Leadership Skills" [out of print].

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Lee Marvin's Military Films

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