'Palimony' plaintiff Michelle Marvin dies

Oct. 31, 2009 at 1:31 PM
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MALIBU, Calif., Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Michelle Triola Marvin, who won a landmark "palimony" suit against actor Lee Marvin, has died at the age of 75 in California.

A friend, Bob Palmer, told the Los Angeles Times Marvin, diagnosed with lung cancer 18 months ago, died Friday in the Malibu house she shared with the actor Dick Van Dyke.

Marvin sued her former lover in 1972, seven years after they met on the set of "Ship of Fools." She was a bit player in the movie.

She and Lee Marvin, who won an Oscar for "Cat Ballou" while they were living together, never married, but she legally changed her last name shortly before the relationship ended. In court, she testified he had told her to give up her acting and singing career, promising to take care of her.

The lawsuit added the word "palimony" to the language and was followed by similar legal actions. But it was a pyrrhic victory for Michelle Marvin, who on appeal lost the $104,000 the judge awarded for "rehabilitative purposes."

Marvin and Van Dyke lived together for three decades. She told the Times in 1983 the two had a "written contract."

Lee Marvin died in 1987 at age 63 after a protracted illness.

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