Oscar-Winning Actor Lee Marvin Dies At 63
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ Lee Marvin, the tough-guy actor who won an Oscar as a drunken gunfighter and his evil twin in ″Cat Ballou″ and was a party in a historic ″palimony″ suit, died Saturday, a Tucson Medical Center spokesman said. He was 63.
Tom Reavis, director of community affairs for the hospital, said Marvin died of a heart attack about noon, his wife, Pamela, at his side. He had been hospitalized since Aug. 13 with what Reavis described as a run-down condition related to the flu.
He owns a ranch on the outskirts of Tucson.
Usually playing the tough guy, he had roles in such films as ″The Dirty Dozen,″ ″The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,″ ″Donovan’s Reef,″ and ″Prime Cut.″
His Oscar-winning role shifted his villainous image, showing his talents as a comic actor. Marvin won the best actor honors for the dual role of a inebriated gunfighter and his evil twin in 1965′s comedy Western parody ″Cat Ballou,″ which also starred Jane Fonda.
In an interview, Marvin described the film in terms of a date. ″I’ll tell you what it’s really like,″ he said. ″Ever go out with a silly girl who turned out to be really amusing?″
In 1979 he made headlines in a landmark ″palimony″ case when he was sued for half his fortune by Michelle Triola Marvin, a woman he lived with for six years but never married. Her right to sue was upheld but her claim was ultimately rejected, though the actor was ordered to pay her a nominal sum for rehabilitation.
In 1984, after he married his school-day sweetheart, Pamela Feeley, he moved to Tucson.
Actor Ernest Borgnine, who starred with Marvin in ″Bad Day at Black Rock″ in 1954 and ″Emperor of the North″ in 1973, wept when told of Marvin’s death.
″We always had a great respect for each other,″ he said. ″We loved each other. The old rascal never let on, but he was a softy. He knew I knew that. I will miss him.″
Last December, Marvin had intestinal surgery in Tucson after suffering abdominal pains while at his ranch. Officials said then there was an inflammation of colon, but that no malignancy was found.
Marvin, who jested that he learned to act in the Marine Corps, starred in ″The Dirty Dozen″ in 1967, as well as a 1985 television movie sequel ″The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission.″
The actor, distingushed in later years by his snow-white hair and granite- hewn features, fought with the Marines on Kwajalein, Eniwetok and Saipan during World War II. On Saipan, he suffered a wound that kept him in a hospital for 13 months.
″I applied a lot of what I learned in the Marines to my films,″ he said in a 1985 interview. ″I was a Pfc. in the Marine Corps, so when I started playing officers I had a good opinion as to how they should be played - from the bias of an enlisted man’s viewpoint.″
He was born Feb. 19, 1924, in New York City, the son of an advertising executive and a beauty and fashion editor. He was such a hell raiser that he was kicked out of virtually every prep school his parents sent him to.
″I claim the Marine Corps taught me how to act,″ he said. ″I acted every day in the service. If they asked me if I was anxious to get out there and kill the enemy, I answered that I was.″
Marvin made his movie debut after the war in ″You’re in the Navy Now.″ ″I was just an extra,″ he said. ″But the director, Henry Hathaway, took a liking to me and asked me to come to Hollywood. He got me an agent but the agent wouldn’t take me because I was an extra. So Hathaway gave me some dialogue and made me an actor.
″Hathaway picked me out of that movie, he picked Charles Bronson and he picked Jack Warden. So, maybe he had an eye.″
In 1958 his TV series ″M Squad″ premiered.
″I did that for three years,″ he said. ″It burned me out. We did those in two days. But it was the right time for me. I’d been doing features before that, but this was what tied my face and name together for the audience.″
Then came such movies as ″The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,″ ″Donovan’s Reef,″ ″The Professionals,″ ″Emperor of the North,″ ″The Big Red One,″ ″Prime Cut,″ ″Pocket Money,″ and ″Cat Ballou,″ for which he won an Academy Award as best actor for his double role.
Marvin’s name wound up in the lawbooks as well. His one-time live-in girlfriend, Michelle Triola, who legally changed her last name to Marvin, sued the actor after their long romance went on the rocks.
Represented by celebrity lawyer Marvin Mitchelson, Miss Marvin claimed that Marvin had promised her half of his income during the years they were together.
A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed this type of lawsuit between unmarried partners for the first time and was dubbed ″the palimony law.″ But after a lengthy trial in 1979, the judge merely awarded her a small sum to help her get back on her feet.
Marvin spent last years in the desert, where he said he did nothing.
″I really do nothing when I’m not working on a film,″ he said in that 1985 interview. ″I don’t have horses or dogs. Don’t buy nothing that eats. There are a bunch of coyotes around the house. I like them. They’re more interesting than a bunch of dogs.″