Steve Marlo, once a Hollywood actor, now leads quiet life in Marysville

MARYSVILLE — He looks too nice to be a psychopathic killer.

Then again, don’t they all?

Murder and mayhem are a side of Steve Marlo that few of his Marysville neighbors know.

The retired Hollywood actor known for his bad-guy roles is playing out the second act of his life on a quiet side street.

These days, the silver fox can be found fine-tuning his physique at the Marysville YMCA or scavenging thrift shops for his home-decorating obsession.

At 86, he still has that movie-star magnetism. It’s easy to picture those chiseled cheeks and bedeviling eyes seducing audiences.

“I played some nice parts, too,” he said, winking. “I did musicals. I songed and danced.”

Marlo appeared in about 75 movies and TV shows from 1956 to 1990. He had leading roles and bit parts in dramas, westerns, cop shows, sitcoms and sci-fi. He was a crazed killer in the 1959 thriller “The Young Captives” and a dapper gangster on a 1968 “Star Trek” episode. He rode a bicycle on “The Lucy Show.”

His home is festooned with Tinseltown memorabilia and journals of his past.

“At my age, the memory goes,” he said in that suave voice of his.

It’s all there in the piles of scrawled and typed pages he pounded out over his long career, starting as a rookie stage actor in New York City in the 1950s.

“When I got to New York, you know who I walked around with? Steve McQueen. Paul Newman. We didn’t have 10 cents between us,” Marlo said.

You can read all about it in his autobiography. Someday.

“I’m still going through my notes,” Marlo said. “I got a touch of fame. I think I’m going to name my book ‘A Touch of Fame.’ But don’t write that down, because someone will take my title.”

He doesn’t need his notes to tell a good story, whether it’s about working with Marlon Brando or marching with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Henry Thoreau wrote most people live in quiet desperation,” he said. “They get married and have a job and they really want to do something else, but they get caught up in their lives. They live in quiet desperation. But I didn’t. I followed my dream.”

Act One: His big break

Marlo was born Morris Miller in San Francisco. After serving in the Army, he went to acting school in Los Angeles on the G.I. Bill. He dropped out to hone his skills in New York.

He snagged a minor part in Newman’s debut Broadway play, “Picnic.”

“It was a tough job getting there. You go to New York and get on the stage and learn how to be an actor and pay your dues,” he said. “I washed dishes. I was a cab driver. Whenever anybody got in my cab, I’d say, ‘I’m not a cab driver, I’m an actor.’ ”

That’s what he told Ida Lupino and Howard Duff when the pair got in his cab on a publicity tour for their sitcom, “Mr. Adams and Eve.”

“Just before she got out of the cab, Ida Lupino said, ‘If you’re ever in Hollywood, look us up,’ ” Marlo said. “You think, ‘Oh, that’s not going to happen.’ ”

Broadway shows were a crapshoot. After the success of “Picnic,” he got a part in a play with actor Yale Wexler that closed after three nights.

“I went back to driving a cab,” Marlo said. “A week later, Wexler called and said, ‘I want you to come out and star in a movie.’ The next morning, I packed up my bags and I’m on an airplane to Hollywood. That’s like a make-believe story.”

He did the Hollywood thing and adopted a stage name, Steve Marlo.

His first movie role was as a nervy teen in the 1958 crime drama “Stakeout on Dope Street.”

“It was about three young kids who find a quarter-million dollars’ worth of dope. Heroin. Then the gangsters come after us,” he said.

The next year he played a lead in “The Young Captives.”

Sure enough, he called Ida Lupino, who made good on her offer to the actor/cab driver. “She said, ‘Oh, come over to the studio.’ They wrote a whole episode of me being a prize fighter. They win me in a card game.”

Marlo later was the monster Karkov in the horror flick “Terror in the Wax Museum.”

“I had to get up at four in the morning and it took five hours to put makeup on,” he said.

He worked with Brando in “One-Eyed Jacks” and as a dialogue coach on “The Towering Inferno.”

Most of his roles were on TV, not film. Credits on the movie database site IMDb include “Dragnet,” “Highway Patrol,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Ironside,” “Falcon Crest” and “Eight is Enough.”

“I wasn’t a big star, but I worked,” he said. “I made a living at it. It was up and down.”

Act Two: Retirement

Marlo traded Hollywood for Marysville about 20 years ago.

“I love it here,” he said. “I have my daughters. And my ex-wife, Cindy. She lives in Arlington. We’re divorced, but I’m still madly in love with her. We’re good friends.”

He was 43 when he met Cindy on vacation in Hawaii as he was heading to a hotel bar.

Here’s how he tells it: “I was walking through the lobby and I see this gorgeous thing. She was selling these little necklaces, standing there bored to death. I’m used to a lot of pretty girls in Hollywood, but I never saw anything so beautiful. I walk over to her and say, ‘Who are you?’ And she gave me some different name. Later on she said she thought I was from the Mafia because I had curly black hair in those days because I did a lot of gangster parts. I finally talked her into having a date with me.”

Cindy was 22 and a newly minted Washington college graduate. “I said tell your father I’m only 38, not 43,” he said, “and that I’m not an actor.”

Their marriage lasted seven years. After the divorce, Cindy Marlo returned to Washington with their two young daughters, Megan and Kelly, and remarried.

Kelly Marlo, now 41, fondly remembers visiting her dad in Hollywood.

“It was magical,” she said. “He was working for Warner Brothers. He’d drive us through the gate and we could walk onto any set in the lot. His office was right next to Chevy Chase’s. Danny DeVito walked by in his penguin costume and cordially said hello.”

Kelly said her father wasn’t as calm as he appeared. “He would get stage fright. He’d be extremely nervous. He’d say us amateurs don’t understand what he and Barbra Streisand go through,” she said.

Marlo wasn’t shy about his stance on civil rights, though. He marched with King in 1965.

“I’m proud of his acting,” Kelly said, “but what makes me the most proud of him is going from Selma to Montgomery.”

Kelly, an Arlington in-home caregiver, and sister Megan Marlo-Nash, 38, a teacher who lives in Richmond Beach, went with him to the 2011 “Star Trek” convention in Las Vegas, where he autographed photos for fans.

“He got a lot of recognition for the ‘Star Trek’ episode,” Kelly said. “Other actors and a theater full of people totally recognized him.”

In Marysville, well, not so much.

Scott Ballenger, a YMCA trainer, was surprised to learn about Marlo’s past.

“I’ve known him for several years and just found out about it maybe three months ago,” Ballenger said. “He’s kind of quiet, does his workout and goes home. He doesn’t talk much about his Hollywood experience.”

Turning to Marlo, he added: “Incredible. I probably watched you in the movies and on television and didn’t even know it.”

Marlo keeps a hand in the motion-picture industry when the Oscars roll around. “Every year they send me 70 movies,” he said, “and 10 are worth watching.”

He admits he can be a bit of a film snob.

His home reflects his gusto for movies and more. There are 5,000 hardback books, Japanese wood-block prints, Buddhas, ornate oil paintings, a four-foot angel wing sculpture and swinging bamboo chair. One corner is devoted to Abraham Lincoln and another to JFK. His bedroom has a matador theme. He almost became a bullfighter, but that’s another story.

“My daughters come over and help clean the house and they cook for me,” Marlo said.

Family trumps fame.

“I don’t have too many friends left in Hollywood. Everybody’s gone, for God’s sake. I work out at the gym. I do 5,600 half-sit-ups a week and work out with heavy weights. And I never smoked or drank,” Marlo said.

“I hope I have 10 more years before I’m out of here. I want to finish my memoirs.”

Marlo’s key roles

In his 34 years in Hollywood, Steve Marlo appeared in close to 75 movies and TV shows before retiring in 1990. Here’s a look at some of his more high-profile roles. To see Marlo’s full list of credits, go to

1958: Stakeout on Dope Street, Nick Raymond

1959: The Young Captives, Jamie Forbes

1959-62: The Rifleman, Stagg

1965: The Slender Thread, Arthur Foss

1966: W.I.A. Wounded in Action, Pvt. Joe Goodman

1968: Star Trek, Zabo

1967-68: Mission: Impossible, Diego/Faud

1973: Terror in the Wax Museum, Karkov

1983: Outrage!, William Simmons

1990: Dragnet, Clint James

Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443;

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