John Marley

John Marley


Born October 17, 1907 in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA

Veteran character actor John Marley was one of those familiar but nameless faces that television and filmgoers did not take a shine to until the late 1960s, when he had already hit middle age. Quite distinctive with his dour, craggy face, dark bushy brows and upswept silvery hair, John started life in Harlem, Manhattan, New York as Mortimer Marlieb on October 17, 1907. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, he was a City of New York College dropout heading for trouble when he avoided his omnipresent gangland trappings by joining a theater group. His young, lackluster career was interrupted after joining the Army Signal Corps during World War II. Upon his return to civilian life, he pursued his acting interest and earned minor roles in the Broadway plays "Skipper Next to God" (1948), "An Enemy of the People" (1950), "Gramercy Ghost" (1951) and "Dinosaur Wharf" (1951). Looking for on-camera work at the same time, Marley obtained atmospheric bits (crooks, reporters, cabbies, etc.) in such post-war films as Kiss of Death (1947), The Naked City (1948), Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town (1950) and Guilty Bystander (1950). In the mid-1950s, Marley started slowly moving up into featured roles that were often ethnic (Greek, Italian) in origin. He appeared in a number of TV anthologies such as "Colgate Theatre," "Philco Television Playhouse," "Armstrong Circle Theatre," "Omnibus," "Goodyear Playhouse," "The Alcoa Hour" and "Robert Montgomery Presents." As for film work, he seemed best suited for urban drama, earning roles in The Mob (1951), My Six Convicts (1952), The Joe Louis Story (1953), The Square Jungle (1955) and I Want to Live! (1958). Finding stronger roles on Broadway with "The Strong Are Lonely" (1953), "Sing Till Tomorrow," Marley went on to appear in "Compulsion" (1957) and "The Investigation" (1966). In the late 1950s he became a steady, sobering presence playing both sides of the legal fence with guest parts on "The Red Skelton Show," "The Jackie Gleason Show," "The Phil Silvers," "Cheyenne," "Peter Gunn," "Rawhide," "Maverick," "Hawaiian Eye," "The Untouchables," "Sea Hunt," "Perry Mason," "Dr. Kildare," "The Twilight Zone," "Gunsmoke," "The Wild, Wild West" and "Peyton Place." He was an infrequent player, however, on films -- Pay or Die! (1960), A Child Is Waiting (1963), The Wheeler Dealers (1963), America America (1963) and as Jane Fonda's father in the comedy western Cat Ballou (1965). A stage director on the side, Marley finally earned acclaim for his starring role as a middle-aged husband who leaves his long-time wife Lynn Carlin for another woman Gena Rowlands in John Cassavetes' stark, improvisational indie Faces (1968). HIs intense, sterling work in the social drama earned him the Venice Film Festival Award for "Best Actor." Thereafter he became more in demand, earning Oscar and Golden Globe support nominations as Ali MacGraw's mournful, blue-collar dad in the box-office smash Love Story (1970) and cult fame as the mouthy movie titan who becomes unexpected bedmates with a horse's head after refusing Mafia Don Marlon Brando's offer in the Oscar-winning epic The Godfather (1972). Thanks to those two pictures alone, Marley, now in his mid-60s, would become a sturdy Hollywood fixture, although none of his subsequent roles would measure up to the importance or fame of the last three pictures mentioned. Marley was seen frequently on '70s and '80s TV, including "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," "Hawaii Five-O," "SCTV Network," "The Incredible Hulk" and "Hardcastle McCormick," and also played Moses in the TV biblical series Greatest Heroes of the Bible (1978). On film, he found work as a sheriff who becomes victim to the murderous title vehicle in The Car (1977); a doctor in The Paris Hat (1908)'s life's drama The Greatest (1977); a father figure producer to aging stuntman Burt Reynolds in Hooper (1978); a business partner to Jack Lemmon's talent agent in Tribute (1980), for which he won a Canadian "Genie" Award; a blackmailing journalist in the crime thriller The Amateur (1981); and an wilderness dweller in the adventure drama Mother Lode (1982). Marley's last film, the marathon sporting drama On the Edge (1985), was released posthumously. John died on May 22, 1984, following open-heart surgery at age 76. He was survived by second wife, script supervisor Every Move You Make: Part 2 (1992) and his four children, three of them by first wife, TV actress Allergic to Macedonian Dodo Birds (1967).



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    Lynn Carlin

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    Bill Bixby

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    Lou Ferrigno


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