Lee Marvin was born in New York City. After being thrown out of school he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at the beginning of World War II. In the battle of Saipan in June 1944, he was wounded in the buttocks by Japanese fire which severed his sciatic nerve. He received a medical discharge and got menial work as a plumber’s apprentice in Woodstock, NY. While repairing a toilet at the local community theater, he was asked to replace an ailing actor in a rehearsal. He was immediately stricken with a love for the theater and went to New York City, where he studied and played small roles in stock and Off-Broadway.
He landed an extra role in Henry Hathaway’s You’re in the Navy Now (1951), and found his role expanded when Hathaway took a liking to him. Returning to the stage, he made his Broadway debut in “Billy Budd”, and after a succession of small TV roles, moved to Hollywood, where he began playing heavies and cops in roles of increasing size and frequency. Given a leading role in Eight Iron Men (1952), he followed it with enormously memorable heavies in The Big Heat (1953) and The Wild One (1953). Now established as a major screen villain, Marvin began shifting toward leading roles with a successful run as a police detective in the TV series “M Squad” (1957). A surprise Oscar for his dual role as a drunken gunfighter and his evil, noseless brother in the western comedy Cat Ballou (1965) placed him in the upper tiers of Hollywood leading men, and he filled out his career with predominantly action-oriented films.