Carmen La Via on Lee Marvin in 'Ship of Fools'

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Photo Source: Columbia Pictures/Photofest
"Ship of Fools" is a great movie with a brilliant cast, including Simone Signoret, Michael Dunn, Elizabeth Ashley, George Segal, José Ferrer, and Oskar Werner, and directed by Stanley Kramer. But it is Lee Marvin's performance as a drunken, failed baseball player that is most vivid, specifically in a scene with Vivien Leigh. In her final film, she plays an elegant British woman who tries to get Marvin's character into bed as they drink—and as he remains oblivious to her advances. Both actors are extraordinary, and it's almost impossible to talk about him in that scene without talking about her. It's the interplay between them. Still, I most remember the way Marvin captured the sensibility of a tormented, self-pitying, over-the-hill baseball player, who was not very good even in his prime. There was tremendous pathos in his performance. Equally impressive was the way he got the baseball lingo down pat. It flowed so naturally. He was immensely intriguing in bringing this drunken redneck to life, physically and vocally. He was right on point, but I suppose what was most notable was the character's lack of awareness of her intentions. He is totally self-absorbed, just as she is licking her chops for him in what I called anticipatory sex.

Carmen La Via has been a talent agent in New York for almost 30 years. He discovered such future stars as Patrick Swayze, Mary Steenburgen, and Pam Dawber and has represented Ted Knight, William Shatner, Gavin MacLeod, Peter O'Toole, Geraldine Chaplin, George Segal, and director Robert Altman. He is currently a literary agent at the Fifi Oscard Agency.