...and Its Best Bad Guy Leaves a Few Words to Live By

updated 09/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Mean green eyes that smoldered like dry ice. A voice that rasped like a blender full of rusty nails. A panoply of huge gleaming teeth that gleefully bit the necks off beer bottles. Lee Marvin was the he-maniac of his generation, a gauntly photogenic sculpture of danger. He wryly insisted he had only two expressions ("Hat on and hat off"). But on TV's M-Squad he wowed the folks at home, and studios paid up to $1 million to procure his presence in gonzo epics such as The Dirty Dozen and Bad Day at Black Rock. Money brought him trouble in 1979 when ex-girlfriend Michelle Triola sued him for support, making "palimony" a household word and winning $104,000. On Marvin's appeal in 1981, the award was denied.

Things had a way of going well for Marvin. In Cat Ballou, his inspired caricature of a cow town alcohooligan won him a 1965 Oscar. "If I appeal to anybody," he said, "I hope it's to the guy who collects the garbage." In fact he appealed to the millions who were shocked to hear last week that a heart attack had felled the old warrior at 63.

Marvin was as fearsome in the flesh as he was on the screen. He drank like a camel and terrorized his super-rich neighbors in Malibu by blasting away with live ammunition at all hours. Tough was his trade, and he learned it the hard way. The son of a well-to-do Manhattan ad man, he joined the Marines at 19 and landed on 21 Japanese-held beaches before he got "shot in the ass" and sent home. A stint in summer stock led first to Broadway, then to Hollywood in 1951. After that, he remarked, "it's all been gravy." Not quite. Some years ago, troubled by respiratory problems, he moved to Tucson with second wife Pamela Feeley. There he spent his evenings stalking black widow spiders with a flyswatter. He had few regrets about working less. "They put your name on a star on Hollywood Boulevard," he said, "and you find a pile of dog manure on it. That's the whole story, baby."

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