Marlowe was born Hugh Herbert Hipple in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and began his stage career in the 1930s at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. Marlowe was usually a secondary lead or supporting actor in the films he appeared in.
Marlowe debuted in the theater in Pasadena, California, in the 1930s at the Pasadena Playhouse. He was first seen on the stage in New York City in Arrest That Woman (1936). His Broadway appearances included Kiss the Boys Goodbye, The Land Is Bright, Lady in the Dark, Laura, and Duet for Two Hands.
In 1939-40, Marlowe was in two network radio programs. He was Jim Curtis in the soap opera Brenda Curtis, and he played the title character in the first radio version of The Adventures of Ellery Queen.
Marlowe's first film was Married Before Breakfast (1937). His films included Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). For a time he worked regularly for 20th Century Fox, appearing in Twelve O'Clock High (1949), All About Eve (1950), Night and the City (1950), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Rawhide (1951), and Howard Hawks' Monkey Business (1952). His later films include Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), Elmer Gantry (1960), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), and Seven Days in May (1964).
Marlowe plays a real person, the Reverend William Hyde, in the 1956 episode "Dig or Die, Brother Hyde" of the religion anthology series, Crossroads. Hyde was an itinerant prairie preacher who in the story line employs psychology to restore a woman's faith and to save her child's life. His co-stars in the episode are Alan Hale, Jr., Denver Pyle, and Ray Teal. In the unusually titled 1957 episode, "Jhonakehunkga Called Jim", set in 1883, Marlowe plays the Reverend Jacob Stucki, who is dispatched to the mission at the Winnebago reservation. The Indians, however, scorn the clergyman, who befriends a boy in an effort to prove his sincerity. Pat Hogan plays Jhonakehunkga, and Frank de Kova is cast as Black Hawk.
Marlowe guest starred in the 1961 episode "Mayberry on Record" of CBS's The Andy Griffith Show.
In 1962, he played the part of Sam Garner in the episode "The Pitchwagon" on CBS's Rawhide.
Marlowe made six guest appearances on CBS's Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr. Among those roles, he was cast as District Attorney and Perry's client Brander Harris in "The Case of the Fraudulent Foto," (1959) and as murder victim Cmdr. James Page in "The Case of the Slandered Submarine" (1960). He also played murder victim Ernest Stone in "The Case of the Nebulous Nephew" (1963), and murderer Guy Munford in "The Case of the Hasty Honeymooner" (1965).
Marlowe also appeared as Donald Burton, a newspaper reporter, on a 1965 episode of Hazel titled "Hazel's Day in Court" and as pretentious TV documentarian Bainbridge Wells in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
Marlowe was a regular on the NBC television daytime drama, Another World, the last of four actors to portray the Matthews family patriarch, Jim Matthews, from 1969 until he died.
Marlowe was married three times, each time to an actress. Between 1941 and 1946 he was married to Edith Atwater. Between 1946 and 1968 he was married to K. T. Stevens; they had two sons, Jeffrey and Christian. From 1968 to his death he was married to Rosemary Tory; they had one son, Hugh Michael II.
Marlowe died in 1982 from a heart attack at the age of 71.Lux Radio Theatre (1952) - Episode: "Come to the Stable"