Sunday, August 29, 2010


"I woke up early the day I died…" might've been a hard-boiled line from Lee Marvin on August 29th. It's actually a line from notorious novelist and director Edward D. Wood Jr., but this isn't the anniversary of Wood's death, it's Marvin's. Lee died on this date, August 29, 1987. Illfolks also takes this opportunity to remember the birthday of Count Basie (born August 21, 1904).

A snub-nosed ex-Marine who earned a Purple Heart after being shot in the back, Lee Marvin was working as a plumber when he subbed for an actor who was drained during rehearsals. Lee found acting a lot easier than plumbing, and began to get some small roles in off-Broadway shows. Marvin moved to Hollywood in 1950, getting a few small but meaty roles in "Wild One." "Caine Mutiny" and "Bad Day at Black Rock." Enthused Bosley Crowther of the New York Times: "''He is rapidly becoming the No. 1 sadist of the screen.''

Cynics would say a hero is just a villain who channeled his malice in the right direction, and Lee proved it by using his tough guy attitude on the hard-boiled TV cop show "M-Squad" (1957-1960). The theme song by Count Basie was as much a part of the show's success as the iconic few notes of "Dragnet," the prowling Henry Mancini theme for "Peter Gunn," or the peppery spray of drums and guitars that began every episode of "Hawaii-5-0."

Lee Marvin went on to balance nasty and tough film roles ("The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "The Dirty Dozen") and won an Academy Award for the dual-role of mean villain and drunken hero in "Cat Ballou." He even managed to get himself a hit single in England when "Paint Your Wagon" arrived in 1969 and his rendition of "Wandrin' Star" was released. Lee found some unwanted off-screen fame when long-time girlfriend Michelle Triola sued him for "palimony." She wanted half of Marvin's millions, but was bumped down to $104,000. Two years later, an appeals court reversed the award, leaving Michelle with nothing but infamy. Lee Marvin looked back on the unpleasantry and growled, "Everyone was lying. Even I lied."

The gutsy actor suffered inflammation of the colon, no surprise considering all his aggravation and his advancing years. He continued to work, and made "Delta Force" in 1986, the same year he underwent intestinal surgery. The following year he died of a heart attack. He was only 63. The patriotic actor is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

And so it is, that our tribute to Lee Marvin is a selection of various renditions of "M-Squad." You get five of 'em. It's interesting how these different jazz artists, including Mundell Lowe, Buddy Morrow, Stanley Wilson and Ralph Marterie handle the assignment with different brands of swing and malice. One of the best is Buddy Morrow's take, from the fantastic Living Stereo album of TV themes, "Impact." PLUS, the bonus of the theme from "Police Squad," which borrowed from the venerable Count Basie theme to create the (im)proper mood of comedy for comical cop Leslie Nielsen.

A bunch of M-SQUAD renditions. And "Police Squad" thrown in.

1 comment:

Luda said...

A memorial site was created for Buddy Morrow! Honor his memory by contributing to his memorial site