Cinema is Dope: Book Pick of the Month February 2009

Marvin - The Lee Marvin Story by Donald Zec

February here at Cinema is Dope is Lee Marvin Month (link). One of the first questions that may pop into your mind is if there are any good books out there that cover the career and life of Mr. Marvin? There are a handful of books that cover his body of work, which vary depending on if you like the authors slant or share similar tastes. Those are interesting, but the most immersive one to date that I’ve come across is Donald Zec’s rip roaring and full of life biography on him, MARVIN – The Story of Lee Marvin. The astounding access Mr. Zec had in compiling an in-depth account of Marvin both on and off screen is simply flooring. Friends, co-stars/co-workers, people he grew up with, loves of his life and more all provide antidotes and memories that serve to really illuminate Lee Marvin in all facets. As far as books on Lee Marvin go, this one is the holy grail and most exhaustive, researched and passionately detailed. One other good touch is that Mr. Zec doesn’t stray away from the dark places or gloom, everything gets covered as to cover only one aspect or part of Mr. Marvin wouldn’t work… there was so much to him beyond just hell-raising episodes and legendary performances that continue to live on in the hearts of cinephiles throughout the world.

The book is 239 pages with 16 pages of images (on and off screen), a filmography and index.

For purchasing it as it’s no longer in print, I would recommend buying the hardcover edition from sellers on There currently are 11 up there available that are all around $10 bucks or so.

Insert Description of the Book:

“Not since Attila the Hun swept across Europe leaving five hundred years of total blackness has there been a man like Lee Marvin.”
~ Josh Logan, director of Paint Your Wagon

For nearly thirty years Lee Marvin has raised hell on and off screen from Hollywood to Honolulu. He is the sole remaining heir to those super-super-stars who, like Bogart, somehow seemed to big for the screen: who as people were as extraordinary as the parts they played.

Marvin the actor is the definitive bully. Terrorizing widows, taunting cripples, shooting, knifing, maiming – the Marvin technique is the slow burn, the neatly layered sadism. But, as Hollywood was slowly to discover, he is also a gloriously funny actor, a supreme professional, praised by every director who has had the guts to work with him. Those not intimidated by him have been amazed to discover that, beneath the belligerence, Lee Marvin is the complete gentlemen. Jeanne Moreau called him: ‘more male than anyone I have ever acted with.’ And Michele Triola, his former mistress, who obtained historical legal rights for common law wives, claimed ‘Lee is probably the most pure man I have ever known in my entire life. That’s why I have to sue him.’

In his absorbing illustrated biography of Marvin, man and actor, Donald Zec incisively traces Marvin’s twenty-year stampede to the “overnight success” of his Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou, and shows how, on the way, he redefined the meaning of menace in the movies. From M-Squad, the first TV cop series, where Marvin’s Lt. Ballinger carved out of nothing the prototype for latter-day Columbos and Kojaks to the accident-prone set of The Klansman, Zec gives us Marvin, acting, drinking and fighting his way to stardom, and finally achieving the simple life he had always secretly yearned for. His is the story of Hollywood’s return to honesty and of the metamorphosis of a hell-raiser into a human being.

Donald Zec’s column on entertainment for the London Daily Mirror was syndicated throughout the world. His previous books include SOME ENCHANTED EGOS and SOPHIA. Donald Zec and his wife live in London, England.

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