You’ve seen him a thousand times. But unlike Lon Chaney, this is not a man with a thousand faces. Longtime actor Marc Lawrence has only one face, but it’s the kind of face that could just as easily be expected to come across on a post office wall, as up on a movie screen. If the Mafia ever had a “poster child” it would be him. Looking at his diverse and lengthy acting career, it seems we’ve come to remember him as nothing but a two-bit hood—the kind of character that hangs out in places waiting to cause mischief or terror as in This Gun for Hire, Dillinger, Key Largo and The Asphalt Jungle. Yet, Lawrence could be just as low-down and dirty dealing in Westerns such as The Ox-Bow Incident, The Virginian, and Custer of the West. This versatile actor was just as comfortable in the saddle, as he was in a sedan.
He was born Max Goldsmith on February 17, 1910, in New York City. So haw does a Jewish kid from the Bronx end up playing a hillbilly mute in a John Wayne Western, The Shepherd of the Hills? It all came about because of his friendship with a producer named Jack Morris. They had just worked together in The Monster and the Girl. One day, Morris told Lawrence of the difficulty he was having in casting an actor for the part of a mute in an upcoming film. This conversation prompted the young actor to mention a John Steinbeck story in which a dumb mute was drawing beautiful images on a blackboard, and then went crazy when a teacher rubbed them clean off, destroying what he was creating. Lawrence’s description of this scene inspired Morris to say……………………………………..