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Actor E.G. Marshall starred on Broadway in the original runs of The Crucible and Waiting for Godot before becoming a film and TV star.
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Then, in 1938, he made his Broadway debut in a Federal Theatre Project production of Prologue to Glory. It was the beginning of a long and successful Broadway career. Marshall went on to appear in Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth (1942), Jacobowsky and the Colonel (1944) and The Ice Man Cometh (1946).
Marshall originated the part of Reverend John Hale in Arthur Miller's The Crucible before taking on the leading role of John Proctor. His most famous Broadway performance came in the 1956 Broadway premiere of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. In a 1958 interview, Marshall extolled Beckett's controversial play as "a real theater piece—not something that has to be molded and hacked to fit in a theater. The theater today is too flaccid, too passive, too dull. It is good to have it stirred up by a play like this."
While he was enjoying a successful career as a leading man on Broadway, Marshall was also developing his film career. He made his feature film debut in the 1945 picture The House on 92nd Street before appearing in such 1950s classics as The Caine Mutiny (1954), Twelve Angry Men (1957) and Compulsion (1959). His most notable later film roles included Woody Allen's Interiors (1978), Superman II (1980), Nixon (1995) and Absolute Power (1997).
Despite this prolific career as a stage and film actor, the venue where Marshall enjoyed his most success was television. Marshall's most acclaimed and famous role came on the 1960s CBS courtroom drama The Defenders. Marshall played Lawrence Preston, an implacable defense attorney who represented such diverse and controversial clients as civil rights demonstrators, neo-Nazis and conscientious objectors. In one especially controversial episode of the socially piercing show, Marshall's character represented an abortionist. The Defenders ran from 1961 to '65, and for his performance on the show, Marshall won the 1962 and 1963 Emmy Awards for outstanding performance by a lead actor in a series. After The Defenders went off the air, Marshall again achieved television success on the NBC medical drama The New Doctors, which ran from 1969 to '73.
E.G. Marshall married first wife, Helen Wolf, in 1939. They divorced in 1953, and he later married Judith Coy. Marshall had seven children from his two marriages. He died at his home in Bedford, New York, on August 24, 1998, at the age of 84.
Over the course of his long and distinguished acting career, Marshall developed a reputation for his honest and stirring depictions of characters, as well as for his willingness to embrace socially critical, controversial material. And though many of the plays, films and TV shows that he appeared in featured dark themes, Marshall believed that underpinning all his work was an optimistic, life-affirming message: "No matter what," he said, "atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, anything—life goes on: You can kill yourself, but you can't kill life."
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