While a crush of reporters and photographers looked on, Michelle Triola Marvin hugged and kissed her attorney, Marvin Mitchelson, yesterday morning after hearing of her $104,000 award settlement in her suit against Lee Marvin.
But attorneys for the actor, who was not present in the courtroom, called Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Arthur K. Marshall's decision a "total victory" for their side.
"It totally sustains Marvin's position." said attorney A. Dacid Kagon. "The judge practically called her a liar," said another member of Marvin's six-man defense team.
In her suit, Michelle Marvin claimed that during the six years she and the actor lived together (1964 to 1970) they had entered into an oral agreement to share property and that she had given up her singing career at his request. But the ruling said that no contract existed.
The six-figure award for "rehabilitation purposes" was arrived at, attorney Kagon explained, because "the judge decided that the most she ever made during her career was $1,000 a week. He figured that it will take her two years at $1,000 a week comes to $104,000."
Michelle Marvin and attorney Mitchelson acknowledged that they had hoped for more, but were "pleased and happy."
"The expenses may well exceed the amount awarded-but, so what?" said Mitchelson. "I think we've made a point."
Calling the trial a "long hard fight," Michelle Marvin thanked all who had "supported her" and said that she was "proud to have paved the way" for other women who have brought similar suits against their lovers.
"There are still 1,000 Marvin cases out there," quipped Mitchelson, "so fellows, beware."
The judge's decision was the final act of a courtroom drama that exposed Hollywood private lives to public scrutiny and provided enough details for a soap opera.
There were bitter accusations between the former lovers involving alleged infidelities, abortions and alcoholism.
On the witness stand, they both tried to resurrect memories of a love affair that began 15 years ago on the set of the movie "Shop of Fools" and died six years later on the beach at Malibu.
"I loved Lee," Michelle Marvin said tearfully.
"I never loved her," Lee growled through clenched teeth.
The judge made it clear that his decision does not mean all unmarried persons living together automatically are entitled to the property and earnings of a non-marital partner.
Additionally, he pointed out that Michelle Marvin's testimony in her own behalf had been inconsistent many times, and he supported Lee Marvin's contention that promises made during the early days of the love affair were casual comments that could not have been takem seriously.
After 11 weeks, 63 witnesses, 8,000 pages of testimony and a cost to Los Angeles County taxpayers of $30,000, the Marvin v. Marvin property settlement trial had ended last Tuesday with the attorneys closing arguments.
But the financial action was far from over. And in a society where publicity is marketable, the trial was bound to produce economic winners.
Though Lee Marvin stood to lose half his estimated $3.5 million in assets if the judge decided in favor of Marvin's former lover, trial publicity had already proved a boon to his career, according to Meyer Mishkin, the actor's agent for 29 years.
"Suddenly the phones are ringing everywhere and scripts are being submitted-more scripts than ever before dealing with the straight or macho leading man," Mishkin said.
Marvin's picture price, once$1 million, had dropped somewhat in recent years, Mishkin said. "Oh, I'll do that [raise the actor's fee] in my own time," the agent said with a laugh.
"We have ways of negotiating, in the cash area, in the gross area, in the profit area."
Actor Richard Doughty, 34, announced last Friday that he is suing Michelle Marvin and attorney Marvin Mitchelson for linel and slander,seeking $3.3 million in damages.
Doughty had testified during the trial that he had an affair with Michelle Marvin in 1969 while she was still living with Lee Marvin. Mitchelson afterward told reporters gathered outside the courtroom Feb. 20 that Doughty was "a perjuror and an admitted liar" who had been "thrown out of the Peace Corps for assaulting a woman."
As a result of those statements, Doughty claims in his suit he has been "exposed to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy, loss of standing in the community, loss of business, personal and professional reputation, and caused to be shunned and advoided."
Michelson has promised a counter-suit
Shortly after her unemployment pay ran out and before the trial ended, Michelle Marvin signed a contract with prestigious William Morris Agency (former first lady Betty Ford also is also a client) to write a book.
"We know that we have something that people are very interested in buying," said Sol Leon, Michelle Marvin's agent at William Morris, where she worked for six years after her break-up with the actor. "How it will be done, when it will be done, what the approach will be and who the publisher will be hasn't been determined yet."
Mitchelson, who says he spent $60,000 on trial, has signed a $25,000 advance deal with Simon & Schuster for a hardback handbook on Marvin cases. And Warner Books soon will publish a paperback version of his precious book about celebrity clients, "Made in Heaven, Settled in Court."
The attorney reported that he has a "stack" of assorted offers. But "I'm going to be doing more books," he said, and lecture requests from at least 25 law schools may have to wait.
Mitchelson said his law business has tripled since the Marvin trial began. For a divorce, his minimum fee is $10,000 against $125 an hour he represents Marvin-type plaintiffs on a one-third contingency basis.
He already has settled two Marvin-type cases for "not very well known" women. An "advertising executive guy" agreed to pay one of his clients $2,500 a month for three years, plus the house and furniture. The couple had lived together for five years, he said.
In the second case, where the living-together situation was "somewhat sporadic," his client settled "on a cash basis" for $350,000, to be paid over three years, he said.
With eight other Marvin-type cases to be settled one way or another, Mitchelson was predicting a rosy future on the eve of the Marvin v. Marvin final arguments. He would soon file "a very, very big [divorce] suit," he said. "The biggest one of all time, actually." Mitchelson said he is representing the wife in that case, and it involves "probably the wealthiest man in the world."
Marcella Mitcheleson, the attorney's wife, drew sketches of many of the trial's principals which will appear in at least one of her husband's books, she said.
"I haven't asked for or been offered any money so far, but I think they pay around a cent for each drawing in each book sold. My husband knows how to take care of that part," the friendly blond laughed. "I told him, 'make sure they use my sketches in the book.' Maybe I can rework them and put the drawings together in another way and do another book."
An amateur artist for 10 years, Mrs. Mitchelson will have her first gallery show in Scottsdale, Ariz., this spring and another in Los Angeles before the end of the year.
For the author of "The Living Together Kit," self-described "dropout" attorney Ralp Warner, "the Marvin case has made a big difference" in the sales of his 240-page book, which includes tear-out contracts. Warner, who wrote the book with his roommate, Toni Ihara, as part of a Nolo Press series of do-it-yourself law books, says more than 7,000 copies at $8.95 had been sold midway through the Marvin trial.
Contract forms in the book cover every conceivable situation of living together, Warner said, including chapters on putting your live-in partner through school, "how to do your own paternity statements, having children legally outside of marriage and a chapter for gays.
"The Marvin case has kind of over-dramatized the notion that you need to be real paranoid about relationships," Warner said, adding that a 1974 book on living together by the Berkeley-based Nolo Press sold only 10,000 copies in five years despite "good reviews" because "the world wasn't quite ready for it."
According to A. David Kagon of Goldman and Kagon, the law firm defending Lee Marvin, since the trial began the number of clients requesting nonuptial contracts has increased.
And Los Angeles attorneys say that hundreds of Marvin-type cases have arisen in the area since the trial began. Contacted at random, at least a dozen lawyers said they didn't know any family-law practitioners who were not handling one or more non-marital split-ups.
Calling the Marvin trial "unseemly" California Democratic Assemblyman Walter M. Ingalls of Riverside has introduced legislation to invalidate all contracts between couples who live together unless they are in writing. Ingalls said, however, that attorneys would not be required for written contracts. His press realease hailed the bill as "beneficial" to all unmarried persons.
"I'm not big on wanting to draw up nonnuptial agreements," Mitchelson said, "because usually people who are trying to do it are trying to take advantage of the other person and limit their property rights. I've never seen a prenuptial agreement yet that didn't end up in a divorce." CAPTION: Picture 1, Michelle Triola Marvin, accompanied above in Los Angeles by her attorney, Marvin Mitchelson, talks happily about the property settlement decision against actor Lee Marvin; Picture 2, Lee Marvin shown en route to a post-decision news conference in Tucson, likewise happily; AP photos; Picture 3, Jugde Arthur K. Marshall