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Overview for E. G. Marshall
E. G. Marshall

E. G. Marshall



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Also Known As: Edda Gunnar Marshall,Everett G. Marshall Died: August 24, 1998
Born: June 18, 1910 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Owatonna, Minnesota, USA Profession: Cast ... actor TV host narrator spokesman


One of New York's premier actors and an original member of the storied Actor's Studio, E.G. Marshall earned his reputation on Broadway in "The Skin of Our Teeth" (1942-43), "Jacobowsky and the Colonel" (1944-45), and "The Iceman Cometh" (1946-47). Movie roles followed, but it would be a decade before he really made his name, thanks to films like "The Caine Mutiny" (1954) and, particularly, "12 Angry Men" (1957). The classic legal drama cast the actor as Juror No. 4, who provided the prime opposition to Henry Fonda's dissenting opinion in a murder case. One of Marshall's strengths as a performer was the intelligent authority he brought to parts and that quality was on display on "The Defenders" (CBS, 1961-65), where he and Robert Reed portrayed father and son attorneys who often took on controversial cases that challenged the television norms of the era. When the program finished its run, Marshall continued to act in motion pictures and was beloved amongst radio fans for his hosting duties on "CBS Radio Mystery Theater" (CBS, 1974-1982). While "The Defenders" had a comparatively short four-season run, it remained in the public consciousness to the point where Marshall was brought back for a pair of TV movie revivals almost four decades later. Widely respected for his work in four mediums, Marshall was both a commanding and enduring figure during the majority of his six-decade career and ranked among the more beloved character actors of all time.

Although he insisted in interviews that E.G. Marshall was his actual birth name, Marshall was actually born either Everett Eugene Grunz or Edda Gunnar Grunz on June 18, 1914 in Owatonna, MN. As with that bit of subterfuge, the details of his early life were also somewhat sketchy. Marshall reportedly had his first acting experience as a child in school and church plays and claimed to have attended the University of Minnesota and Carlton College. However, the historical record stated that Marshall's higher education experience was restricted to St. Paul's Mechanic Arts High School and he apparently did not stay long enough to earn a diploma. During the 1930s, he performed Shakespeare for a time with the American Art Theatre before heading to New York City in hopes of finding local acting work. After several lean years and various jobs - including employment at the 1939 World's Fair - Marshall made his first appearance on Broadway as an elderly seaman in the play "Jason" (1942) and also acted in "The Skin of Our Teeth" (1942-43) and "Jacobowsky and the Colonel" (1944-45). Summer stock also helped Marshall pay the bills and his perseverance and obvious ability eventually led to movie offers.

Marshall made his screen debut via an uncredited appearance in "The House on 92nd Street" (1945), which was filmed on the streets of New York City, but his main focus remained stage work, including a part in the Broadway hit "The Iceman Cometh" (1946-47). In 1948, Marshall was one of the earliest members of the Actors Studio, the New York-based group that emphasized "Method" acting and counted Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger amongst its distinguished alumni. Marshall next appeared in a quartet of Broadway plays with abbreviated runs, but like other veteran stager performers, he found many opportunities on the fledgling medium of television. In addition to appearing on several live dramatic anthologies, including "Actor's Studio" (ABC/CBS, 1948-1950), the group's television offshoot, and "The Philco Television Playhouse" (NBC, 1948-55), he embodied such noteworthy figures as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington on the historical dramatic series "You Are There" (CBS, 1953-57). Additional stage work came Marshall's way with "The Crucible" (1953) and "The Gambler" (1953), but his motion picture career also began to flourish during this period and he graced such major pictures as "The Caine Mutiny" (1954), starring Humphrey Bogart, "Broken Lance" (1954), and "The Mountain" (1956).

In 1957, Marshall had his most famous big screen turn as Juror No. 4 in the classic courtroom drama "12 Angry Men." The superb ensemble cast included such other veteran New York thespians as Jack Warden, Lee J. Cobb and Martin Balsam, with Marshall providing the staunchest opposition to sole holdout Henry Fonda, who is convinced that the man on trial is innocent. The picture's acclaim kept Marshall busy with movie assignments, including Anthony Quinn's sole directorial outing "The Buccaneer" (1958) and the Leopold-Loeb murder thriller "Compulsion" (1959), which found him playing an attorney, a profession that would soon figure prominently on his résumé. Back on the small screen, Marshall landed yet another of his signature parts on "The Defenders" (CBS, 1961-65). Though the pilot did not perform well, CBS decided to greenlight the series, which soon found critical and audience support. Marshall starred with future "Brady Bunch" veteran Robert Reed as a team of father and son lawyers, whose cases sometimes involved hot-button social issues of the time, including abortion, censorship and euthanasia. Viewer controversy also arose from the use of female and African American judges in some episodes. During its successful four-season run, Marshall received a pair of Emmy Awards, though he stated later in the life that such prizes were really only important in that they boosted the program's ratings.

After the show wrapped, Marshall restarted his film career with a starkly different assignment as a vicious racist in "The Chase" (1966) and was back on Broadway in the Neil Simon smash "Plaza Suite" (1968-1970) as a replacement for George C. Scott. However, it was not long before Marshall returned to series television duties in another time-honored profession as a regular cast member of "The Bold Ones: The New Doctors" (NBC, 1969-1973). In between his obligations on that program, he essayed military men in the large scale World War II actioners "The Bridge at Remagen" (1969) and "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (1970). During this time, he also began a multi-year stint as the host of the suspense program "CBS Radio Mystery Theater" (CBS, 1974-1982) and stepped in for original star Hume Cronyn in the Broadway hit "The Gin Game" (1977-78). In addition to various made-for-television features, Marshall tackled a diverse selection of film parts, making appearances in everything from the mostly unreleased "Billy Jack Goes to Washington" (1977) to Woody Allen's "Interiors" (1978) to playing the President of the United States briefly in "Superman II" (1980). The actor made his Broadway swan song in the title role of Henrik Ibsen's "John Gabriel Borkman" (1980-81) and entertained horror fans as a cleanliness-obsessed businessman whose sterile abode is invaded by an army of cockroaches in "They're Creeping Up on You," the closing segment of the E.C. Comics-inspired anthology "Creepshow" (1982).

He returned to the New York stage in "She Stoops to Conquer" (1984) and helped to elevate the uneven Richard Gere thriller "Power" (1986). Meanwhile, cable viewers were able to see him in Robert Altman's keen political satire "Tanner '88" (HBO, 1988) as the disagreeable father of Michael Murphy's candidate. By now very accustomed to portraying military leaders, Marshall proved to be well cast as General Dwight D. Eisenhower in the blockbuster miniseries "War and Remembrance" (ABC, 1988). Parts also came for Marshall in more offbeat fare, including a turn as Chevy Chase's father-in-law in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (1989), and he reunited with "Creepshow" director George A. Romero for the American/Italian co-production "Two Evil Eyes" (1990) In the final years of his life, Marshall briefly joined the cast of "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000) and had supporting assignments in Oliver Stone's "Nixon" (1995) and the Clint Eastwood thriller "Absolute Power" (1997), which turned out to be Marshall's last motion picture. His final onscreen acting credit was in "The Defenders: Choice of Evils" (Showtime, 1998), one of two "Defenders" revival features produced many years after the show's original run. Marshall succumbed to lung cancer on Aug. 24, 1998.

By John Charles

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