Thursday, June 20, 2013

James Gandolfini R.I.P.

James Gandolfini, best known for playing Tony Soprano on The Sopranos, died 19 June 2013 at the age of 51. The cause was a heart attack.

James Gandolfini was born on 18 September 1961 in  Westwood, New Jersey, but grew up in  Park Ridge, New Jersey. He acted in school plays while attending Park Ridge High School. He attended Rutgers University, from which he graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies. After graduating from college, he worked a variety of jobs including driving a truck and managing a night club. It was in 1985 that he became interested in acting after going with a friend to an acting class.

 James Gandolfini made his film debut in a bit part in the horror movie Shock! Shock! Shock! in 1987. In 1992 he made his debut on Broadway in a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1995 he appeared on Broadway in a revival of On the Waterfront. In the Nineties Mr. Gandolfini appeared in such The Last Boy Scout (1991), A Stranger Among Us (1992), True Romance (1993), Mr. Wonderful (1993), Terminal Velocity (1994), Crimson Tide (1995), Get Shorty (1995), Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997), Fallen (1998), and 8MM (1999). He made his television debut in an episode of Gun and appeared in a new television adaptation of 12 Angry Men. It was in 1999 that he began his 6 season run as gangster Tony Soprano on The Sopranos.

In the Naughts  James Gandolfini appeared in such films as The Mexican (2001), The Last Castle (2001), Lonely Hearts (2006), All the King's Men (2006), The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009), and Mint Julep (2010).  He provided the voice of Carol in Where the Wild Things Are (2009).  He appeared on Broadway in God of Carnage. In the Teens he appeared in such films as Killing Them Softly (2012), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013). His final film Animal Rescue will be released in 2014. He is due to appear on an episode of the television show Criminal Justice later this year.

James Gandolfini was an extremely talented actor. After all, it was not simply David Chase's writing that made Tony Soprano a four dimensional character, but Mr. Gandolfini's talent as an actor as well. In a lesser actor's hands Tony Soprano might have simply been a violent sociopath, but Mr. Gandolfini made him a much more complicated character. Not only was he believable when killing a rival, but he was believable when attending his children's school events as well.

While Mr. Gandolfini played more than his share of mobsters before and after Tony Soprano, he certainly was not limited to those roles and actually had great range. Perhaps no role was further from Tony Soprano than Carol in Where the Wild Things Are. Carol can be violent, like Tony, but at the same time there is a childishness and tenderness in him that was totally lacking in Tony Soprano. Quite simply, Carol is a kid in a wild thing's body. He also played a very different role in In the Loop, that of  Lieutenant General Miller. Not only does Lieutenant General Miller appear to have little to no ego (unlike every other character in the film), but he seems to treat the whole possibility of war in the Middle East as a game. In the Loop demonstrated Mr. Gandolfini's gift for comedy. James Gandolfini played a wide range of other roles, from sensitive hit man Winston Baldry in The Mexican to hopeless romantic iron worker Nick Murder in Romance & Cigarettes. He was a talented actor whose life ended all too soon.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

From TV to Film: Classic Television Stars who Became Movie Stars Part Three

Today it is a rare thing for a television star to make the successful transition to film. Those who do are few and far between. While it is uncommon today for a TV star to become a movie star, there was a time when it was not so rare. In fact, from the late Fifties into the Sixties several television stars made the transition to film, including James Garner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Tuesday Weld, among others. In fact, some of the biggest stars of the Sixties and Seventies rose to stardom on television.

One of these stars would not only become a movie star, but a critically acclaimed film director as well. Clint Eastwood worked a variety of jobs before he decided to go into acting. Eventually he was signed to Universal-International. He made his film debut in an uncredited role in Revenge of the Creature (1955). Over the next few years he appeared in small roles in such films as Francis in the Navy (1955), Lady Godiva of Coventry (1955), and Tarantula (1955). Universal-International terminated their contract with Clint Eastwood not long after his television debut on the special Allen in Movieland in 1955. He would  not be without work, however, as he appeared in such shows as Highway Patrol, Death Valley Days, West Point, and Navy Log. He also received small roles in motion pictures, even receiving credit on some. These included The First Travelling Saleslady (1956), Escapade in Japan (1957), Ambush at Cimarron Pass (1958), and Lafayette Escadrille (1958).

It was in 1958 that Clint Eastwood was cast in the role of Rowdy Yates, the ramrod on a cattle drive from Texas to Missouri on the TV Western Rawhide. Among his competition for the role had been Bing Russell, who would later go onto a long run in the recurring role of Deputy Clem Foster on Bonanza. Rawhide debuted on 9 January 1959 on CBS. The show would prove to be a hit. In its second season (the 1959-1960 season) it ranked #20 out of all the shows on the air. For its third season it ranked #6 for its year.  and for its fourth season #13 for the year. Although Clint Eastwood's role as Rowdy Yates would not be particularly big early in the show's run, it grew as time passed. This was particularly the case after the show's creator and original producer, Charles Marquis Warren, left after its first season. His successor  Endre Bohem did not get along particularly well with Eric Fleming (who played trail boss Gil Favor) and as a result Rowdy took on a larger role.

As early as the third season of Rawhide, the press theorised that Clint Eastwood might want to leave the show. Indeed, in the early seasons of Rawhide Mr. Eastwood's only work outside of that show were guest appearances on Maverick and Mister Ed. All of this would change in 1963. That year a Western entitled The Magnificent Stranger was being made in Italy. The film was essentially an unofficial remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo and was being directed by the then unknown Sergio Leone. Several different actors were considered for the lead role, including Charles Bronson, Richard Harrison, Frank Wolfe, and Rawhide star Eric Fleming. Mr. Leone watched an episode of Rawhide and instead found himself interested in casting Clint Eastwood in the lead of what would soon be called A Fistful of Dollars. The role was offered to Mr. Eastwood, who was initially hesitant to do it. After reading the script, however, he decided to take the lead role in A Fistful of Dollars. It would prove to be a career changing decision.

A Fistful of Dollars was released in September 1964 proved to be very successful in Europe, grossing $3 million (about 3 billion lire) in Italy alone. Despite this, it would not be released in the United States or the United Kingdom until 1967. The reason for the delay was quite simply the fact that neither Sergio Leone nor his producers had secured the rights to remake Yojimbo. This resulted in a lawsuit from Akira Kurosawa and Toho Co., Ltd. that delayed the release of A Fistful of Dollars in North America (and perhaps the United Kingdom as well) for nearly three years.

In the meantime Sergio Leone would make two sequels starring Clint Eastwood, For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).  Rawhide also came to an end after seven and a half years. The ratings for the show had been in decline for the last several seasons. The final season saw Eric Fleming leave the show, so that Clint Eastwood then became its star and Rowdy Yates the new trail boss. Sadly, Rawhide lasted only one more season. Not that it mattered, as Clint Eastwood soon be a verified film star in the United States as well as the rest of the world.

A Fistful of Dollars was released in the United States on 18 January 1967. It was followed by its two sequels: For a Few Dollars More on 10 May 1967 and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly on 29 December 1967. As hard as it is to believe given they are now considered classics, all three films in "the Dollars trilogy (as they came to be known) generally received bad reviews from American critics at the time. Regardless, they did very well at the American box office, particularly The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  Clint Eastwood was established as a movie star in the United States.

From the late Sixties into the Seventies he appeared in such films as Hang 'Em High (1968), Coogan's Bluff (1968), Where Eagles Dare (1968), Paint Your Wagon (1969),Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), Kelly's Heroes (1970), Play Misty for Me (1971), Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), The Eiger Sanction (1975), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), The Enforcer (1976),  and Escape from Alcatraz (1979).  Mr. Eastwood also took up directing, his first feature film as director being Play Misty for Me (1971). Clint Eastwood's career as an actor has continued into the Teens, as has his career as a director. Over the years he starred in such films as Tightrope (1984), Heartbreak Ridge (1986), The Dead Pool (1988), In the Line of Fire (1993), and The Bridges of Madison County (1995). He directed such films (and starred in many of them as well) as Sudden Impact (1983), Pale Rider (1985), Heartbreak Ridge (1986), White Hunter Black Heart (1990), Unforgiven (1992), Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), and Gran Torino (2008).

While Clint Eastwood primarily appeared in bit parts before he achieved the television stardom that would lead to his film stardom, Charles Bronson actually had one leading role in a motion picture before he achieved television stardom, although it was only by a few months. That having been said, there can be little doubt that it was the TV show Man with a Camera that would help turn him into a household name.

After having served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, Charles Buchinsky (who had not yet taken the name "Charles Bronson") worked a variety of jobs before he finally joined a theatrical troupe in Philadelphia. He later moved to California where he enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse. He made his television debut in an episode of Fireside Theatre in 1949 and his film debut in a small role in You're in the Navy Now in 1951. Over the next few years he appeared in such films as The People Against O'Hara (1951), The Mob (1951), Red Skies of Montana (1952), The Marrying Kind (1952), and Pat and Mike (1952). Over time he began getting much more visible roles, including Igor in House of Wax (1953), Hondo in Apache (1954), and Captain Jack in Drum Beat (1954). He also appeared on television in such shows as The Red Skelton Show, Biff Baker, U.S.A., and The Roy Rogers Show. By the mid-Fifties Charles Bronson was a frequent guest star on television shows, including such shows as Lux Video Theatre, Treasury Men in Action, Gunsmoke, Medic, Warner Brothers Presents, Studio 57, The Millionaire, Richard Diamond Private Detective, Studio One, M Squad, Have Gun - Will Travel, and Sugarfoot. He also had substantial roles in such films as Target Zero (1955), Jubal (1956), and Run of the Arrow (1957).

It was the year 1958 that would mark a major turning point in his career. It was in that year that Charles Bronson had his first starring role in a film, as Deputy US Marshal Luke Welsh in the minor Western Showdown at Boot Hill.  That same year he played the lead role in the American International Pictures gangster movie Machine-Gun Kelly, directed by Roger Corman. It would not be starring roles in two B-movies that would make Charles Bronson a household name, however, but rather a very short lived television show. On Man with a Camera Charles Bronson played freelance photographer Mike Kovacs, who worked for everyone from insurance companies to the police. Man with a Camera did not prove particularly successful. The show ran for only half a season from October to January in the 1958-1959 season. It returned in October for the 1959-1960, but only ran until February 1960. Despite running two season, Man with a Camera produced a meagre 29 episodes.

While Man with a Camera was not a roaring success, it did give Charles Bronson a higher profile than he had before. Indeed, it would be in 1960 that Mr. Bronson appeared in one of his best known roles of all time, that of gunfighter Bernardo O'Reilly in The Magnificent Seven. While The Magnificent Seven was a phenomenal success and certainly helped Charles Bronson's career a good deal, he had not quite achieved film stardom yet. He still made guest appearances on television, on such shows as The Loretta Young Show, Laramie, Hennesey, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Dr. Kildare. He would even have regular roles in two more short lived shows, Empire and The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters. And while Charles Bronson was the protagonist in the 1961 film Master of the World (opposite Vincent Price, no less), he played lesser roles in such films as A Thunder of Drums (1961) and the Elvis Presley vehicle Kid Galahad (1962).

The turning point for Charles Bronson would come in 1963, when he appeared in two films that would largely aid in his transition from television star to movie star. The first was directed by Magnificent Seven director John Sturges, The Great Escape. In the film Charles Bronson played Danny, the Tunnel King who must overcome a growing case of claustrophobia. The second was 4 for Texas, in which he played the antagonist, the outlaw Matson. In Mr. Bronson's next few films he would play bigger roles, including the lead in Guns of Diablo (1965) and major roles in The Sandpiper (1965), Battle of the Bugle (1965), and This Property is Condemned (1966). He also continued to appear frequently on television, guest starring on Bonanza, Combat, The Big Valley, Rawhide, The F.B.I., and The Fugitive.

The year 1967 saw the film that would finally turn Charles Bronson into a full fledged movie star. In The Dirty Dozen Mr. Bronson received third billing (top billing went to another TV star turned film star, Lee Marvin) and played Joseph Wladislaw, a one time coal miner who had been convicted of shooting his squad's medic. He also happened to be the only member of the Dozen to survive. The Dirty Dozen proved phenomenally successful. Afterwards it is rare that Charles Bronson received less than third billing and, more often than not, he had lead roles in his film. After The Dirty Dozen Charles Bronson made only two more guest appearances on television shows, on The Virginian and Dundee and the Culhane.

Mr. Bronson spent the rest of the Sixties appearing in such films as Guns for San Sebastian (1968), Farewell, Friend (1968), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Lola (1970), Rider on the Rain (1970), and The Family (1970). In the Seventies he would see even more success, particularly after the controversial but highly successful Death Wish (1974). In addition to Death Wish, in the Seventies he appeared in such films as Red Sun (1971), Chato's Land (1972), The Mechanic (1972), Mr. Majestyk (1974), Breakheart Pass (1975), The White Buffalo (1977). Telefon (1977), and Borderline (1980).  The Eighties would see his career decline a bit from what it had been in the Seventies. From the Eighties into the Nineties he would appear in sequels to Death Wish, as well as such films as Death Hunt (1981), The Evil That Men Do (1984), Murphy's Law (1986), Assassination (1987), Messenger of Death (1988), Kinjite (1989), and The Indian Runner (1991).

Sadly, in Mr. Bronson's later years he suffered from Alzheimer's disease. He died of pneumonia at the age of 81 on 30 August 2003.

At least in comparison to a period from about the mid-Fifties to the early Sixties, relatively few movie stars have emerged from American television in the ensuing decades. Certainly it does still happen, as Tom Hanks, Michael J. Fox, Will Smith, George Clooney, and Johnn Depp certainly prove, but it does not seem to happen with the frequency it did in the Fifties and Sixties. What is more, television in the Fifties and Sixties did not simply produce movie stars, but arguably superstars. With regards to film in the late Twentieth Century, it is very hard to find bigger movie stars than Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Clint Eastwood.

Of course, the question is why these particular actors succeeded in making the transition from television to film when so many before and since them have failed. Certainly there are some factors common to most or all of them. It is notable that, except for Tuesday Weld (who as a woman would not have been expected to do so at the time), nearly all of them served in the military in some form or another.  Indeed, both Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson served in World War II. Although it may only be coincidence, it could also be that the military gave them the discipline necessary to not only succeed in acting, but to make the transition from television to film.

Another factor in the success these particular actors had in going from TV to film may have been the fact that they played what many have called anti-heroes, but what I prefer to call non-traditional heroes. This was true even of the characters many of them played on television. Indeed, James Garner came to fame as Bret Maverick, a professional gambler who preferred using his wits to his guns and was not below scamming his opponents (who always deserved it, of course). Steve McQueen played a bounty hunter, often a villainous figure in Westerns, albeit one with a soft heart. Even Tuesday Weld played a very non-traditional character on television. On Dobie Gillis Thalia was not the typical, sweet girl next door type of  most sitcoms of the time, but a girl whose primary concern in life was money. Beginning in the late Fifties and continuing into the early Seventies was a period of immense, cultural change. It was the time of the Sexual Revolution, the Civil Rights movement, feminism, and the beginnings of the Gay Rights movement. With such change in the air, actors who regularly played non-traditional heroes would be more inclined to see success than those of the more traditional variety.  The time had come for James Coburn as Derek Flint.

Of course, regardless of any other factors, the most pivotal one may have been the simple fact that American, prime time, broadcast television may well have been at its height from about the mid-Fifties to the early Seventies. The broadcast networks had little in the way of competition for viewers' time. After all, there was nothing in the way of cable channels, the World Wide Web, personal computers, or video games. It should not be surprising, then, that even a low rated, network programme might well draw more attention at that time than it would now. This naturally allowed many actors on television shows as the time to become household names. I rather suspect most people in 1960 knew who Tuesday Weld was. How many people can name any of the actors on even moderately successful network sitcoms today? In the end, television stars were simply much bigger then than they are now. If more of them became movie stars back then, it may have been because they were closer to movie stars to begin with.

Regardless, I doubt we will ever see another period when quite so many television stars successfully make the transition to film. It is an era long past. It would seem, to paraphrase Norma Desmond, that television has gotten small. While there can be no doubt that more television actors will make the transition to film, I seriously doubt that they will do so in large numbers.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From TV to Film: Classic Television Stars who Became Movie Stars Part Two

Today it is a relatively rare thing for a television star to spin that success off into motion picture stardom. At one time, however, it was not quite so rare. In fact, in the Sixties and Fifties there would be several actors who would go from the small screen to the silver screen. James Garner, Steve McQueen, and James Coburn were three of the television stars of the era who would become movie stars as well.

James Garner and Steve McQueen emerged as stars of highly successful television Westerns (Maverick and Wanted: Dead or Alive respectively), while James Coburn was a frequent guest star in shows from the same genre. That having been said, not every star to move from television to film were veterans of Westerns. In fact, there were two soon to be movie stars who appeared on the same sitcom. What is more remarkable, is that neither of them was the star of the show. In fact, one of them was a relatively minor character. Both Warren Beatty and Tuesday Weld appeared on the first season of Dobie Gillis before going onto movie stardom.

It could be said that acting was in Warren Beatty's blood. His mother was a drama teacher. His older sister, Shirley. would achieve movie stardom under the name Shirley MacLaine before  Mr. Beatty even received his first television credit. It was her success that largely encouraged Mr. Beatty to go into acting. In the summer between his junior and senior years in high school he worked as a stagehand  at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. After high school he attended Northwestern University for a year, but dropped out to move to New York City to pursue acting. There he studied under actress and acting teacher Stella Adler.

Warren Beatty made his television debut in an episode of Studio One in 1957. Over the next few years he appeared in episodes of Suspicion and Playhouse 90. It was in 1959 that Warren Beatty was cast in the recurring role of handsome, rich, and snobbish Milton Armitage on Dobie Gillis. Although he was only a semi-regular on Dobie Gillis, the show did draw attention to young Mr. Beatty. In fact, it was after his appearance on the show that MGM signed him to a contract. In the end Warren Beatty left Dobie Gillis in the middle of the first season, having appeared in six episodes including the pilot.

Having left Dobie Gillis, Warren Beatty would not have to wait long for film stardom. His film debut would be in the film that would make him a star, Splendour in the Grass in 1961. In the Sixties he would appear in such films as The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961), Promise Her Anything (1965), Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and The Only Game in Town (1970). It was in 1965 that he received his first "producer" credit, on the film What's New Pussycat. In the Seventies he appeared in such films as McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), The Parallax View (1974), Shampoo (1975), and Heaven Can Wait (1978). He also took up directing, his first film as director being Heaven Can Wait. Since the Eighties he has appeared in the films Reds (1981), Ishtar (1987), Dick Tracy (1990), Bugsy (1991), Bulworth (1998), and Town & Country (2001).  He has directed Reds, Dick Tracy, and Bulworth.

Unlike Warren Beatty, her co-star on Dobie Gillis, Tuesday Weld had already appeared in films prior to her stint as beautiful, spoiled, and money hungry Thalia Menninger on the show. It was following her father's death that Tuesday Weld's mother started hiring her out as a child model to make ends meet. Her career as a model would lead young Miss Weld into acting. at the age of twelve she  made her film debut in  Rock Rock Rock! (1956). In the same year she appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man. A mixture of film and television appearances would follow. On television she appeared on such shows as Goodyear Television Playhouse, The Red Skelton Show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and 77 Sunset Strip. She appeared in such films as Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1958) and The Five Pennies (1959).

It was in 1959 that Tuesday Weld was cast as Thalia Menninger, the self absorbed, egotistical object of Dobie Gillis' desire. It was one of the more prominent roles on the show, and as a result Dobie Gillis generated a good deal of attention for Miss Weld. In fact, she received a good deal of press coverage from the show and it was not unusual for her to be mobbed by the press when she went out. She even won a Golden Globe award for "Most Promising Newcomer - Female".  It has often claimed that Tuesday Weld was dismissed from Dobie Gillis because she was "too sexy" for a TV sitcom (keep in mind she was only 16 at the time), but it seems likely that with the attention she was receiving Miss Weld left the show for bigger things.

Tuesday Weld would indeed go onto bigger things. She appeared prominently in two B-movies, Because They're Young (1960) and the famous Mamie Van Doren vehicle Sex Kittens Go to College (1960) before appearing in the Bing Crosby film High Time (1960). Thereafter she started receiving somewhat better roles in such films as The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960), Return to Peyton Place (1961), Wild in the Country (1961), Bachelor Flat (1962), and Soldier in the Rain (1963). Although it could be argued that by this point in her career Tuesday Weld was already a film star, she continued to appear on television, including guest shots on such shows as The Tab Hunter Show, Bus Stop, Naked City, Route 66,  Ben Casey, The Eleventh Hour, and The Fugitive.

It was perhaps in the mid to late Sixties that Tuesday Weld's movie stardom was at its height. In fact she actually turned down roles in films that would prove be hits, including Bonnie & Clyde and Rosemary's Baby. Regardless, she appeared in such films as I'll Take Sweden (1965), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), Lord Love a Duck (1966),  Pretty Poison (1968), and I Walk the Line (1970). In the Seventies her career slowed, but she appeared in A Safe Place (1971), Play It As It Lays (1972), Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977), Who'll Stop the Rain (1978), and Serial (1980). For Looking for Mr. Goodbar she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Including and following the Eighties Miss Weld has appeared in very little. She appeared in the films Thief (1981), Author! Author! (1982), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Heartbreak Hotel (1988), Falling Down (1993), Feeling Minnesota (1996), Chelsea Walls (2001), and Intimate Affairs (2002).  She also appeared infrequently on television, in several TV films, a presentation of The Hallmark Hall of Fame, and episode of Chillers. She more or less retired in the Naughts.

While James Garner and Steve McQueen achieved television stardom in Westerns, and Tuesday Weld achieved television stardom on a sitcom, Lee Marvin would achieve television stardom on a police drama, M Squad. He would be further set apart from James Garner and Steve McQueen in the sorts of roles he played. While James Garner and Steve McQueen often played heroes (although often with a good deal of moral ambiguity thrown into the mix), Lee Marvin often played heavies. Indeed, in Cat Ballou (1965) he would play both a morally ambiguous hero (washed up gunfighter Kid Shelleen) and a brutal outlaw (Tim Strawn).

Lee Marvin came into acting through rather unlikely circumstances. Following his service in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, Mr. Marvin worked as a plumber's apprentice in Woodstock, New York. It was while he was performing repairs at a local theatre that he was asked to take the place of an actor who had gotten sick during a rehearsal. Lee Marvin decided he liked acting and moved to New York City to pursue an acting career there.

Lee Marvin made his television debut in an episode of Escape in 1950. For the next several years he would appear in episodes of such shows as  The Big Story, Fireside Theatre, Biff Baker U.S.A., Dragnet, The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse, Medic, Studio One, and Climax. Unlike some other actors who achieved stardom on television, Lee Marvin actually had a rather impressive film resume before becoming a TV star, albeit it was mainly in supporting roles rather than lead roles. He made his film debut in an uncredited role in You're in the Navy Now (1951). He played similar bit roles in Teresa (1951), Cave of Outlaws (1951), Hong Kong (1952), Diplomatic Courier (1952), We're Not Married! (1952), The Duel at Silver Creek (1952). Down Among the Sheltering Palms (1953), and Seminole (1953). He started getting more substantial roles with The Glory Brigade (1953), afterwards appearing in The Big Heat (1953), Gun Fury (1953), The Wild One (1953), The Caine Mutiny (1954) Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), and Raintree County (1957). Lee Marvin then had a very substantial film career before he played Lt. Frank Ballinger on M Squad.

That having been said, it was M Squad that would make Lee Marvin a star. The show essentially did what six years of appearing in supporting roles in movies had not--it made Lee Marvin a household name. M Squad ran for a total of three years, from 1957 to 1960. While on M Squad Lee Marvin continued to make appearances on other TV shows, including Climax, Schlitz Playhouse, and Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. He also appeared in the film The Missouri Traveller (1958).

After M Squad Lee Marvin continued to appear on television for some time, on such shows as Wagon Train, Checkmate G.E. Theatre, Route 66, Combat, Bonanza, The Virginian, The Untouchables, and The Twilight Zone. While Mr. Marvin continued to appear frequently on television, he had much more substantial roles in films, receiving fourth, third, and even second billing in films. He appeared in such films as The Comancheros (1961), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and Donovan's Reef (1963). If he couldn't be considered a movie star in the years immediately following M Squad, it can certainly be said he achieved it with Cat Ballou in 1965. For his dual role as Kid Shelleen and Tim Strawn he received the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Arguably, the period following Cat Ballou saw Lee Marvin's career at its peak. He appeared in such films as Ship of Fools (1965), The Professionals (1966), The Dirty Dozen (1967), Point Blank (1967), Sergeant Ryker (1968), Hell in the Pacific (1968), and Monte Walsh (1970)

While the height of Lee Marvin's career was arguably the late Sixties, his career was still going quite strong in the Seventies. During the decade he appeared in such films as Pocket Money (1972), The Iceman Cometh (1973), The Spikes Gang (1974), Shout at the Devil (1976), The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday (1976), and The Big Red One (1980).  His career slowed a bit in the Eighties, although he appeared in such films as Death Hunt (1981), Gorky Park (1983), Dog Day (1984), and The Delta Force (1986). He also appeared in a made-for-TV sequel to The Dirty Dozen entitled The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission.

While Lee Marvin had a film career prior to his starring role in M Squad, it was arguably the television show that was responsible for him becoming a film star. Prior to M Squad the highest billing Lee Marvin received was third (in both Attack and Seven Men From Now) and that was a rare occurrence. More often than not Mr. Marvin was fourth or fifth bill, or even lower, in the films he made before M Squad. In the first film Lee Marvin made after M Squad had started its run, The Missouri Traveller, he received second billing. After M Squad Lee Marvin was almost always among the top billed in his films, sometimes even playing the lead role. Quite simply, he was a supporting actor in film he was transformed into a lead actor in film by becoming a television star!

Lee Marvin would not be the last television star who made the transition to film in the Sixties. There would be others who would follow him from the small screen to silver screen I will cover them in the third and final part of this series.