Boy, talk about a rebel.
Robert Mitchum just didn’t give a shit about authority or rules. Didn’t care that in Hollywood, people were supposed to act a certain way. Didn’t care that he might rub directors or producers the wrong way and it might impact his career. I doubt he even let the word career linger in his head. Basically, you go around once, and baby, if you want to climb aboard the Good Ship Mitchum, things are gonna work out just fine.
Of course, by the time this reputation was clearly established, I was but a young film buff learning to appreciate the wonders of The Sundowners, Cape Fear, El Dorado and Story of G.I. Joe (amazingly, his only Academy Award nomination). It wasn’t until years later that I finally saw Out Of The Past, which is easily in the top five list of the greatest film noir ever made.
I was not a big Winds of War or War And Remembrance fan despite the accolades; I prefer Mitchum young and rebellious and demonic. But even in his seventies, his narration in Tombstone was outstanding (the last line is an absolute classic) and his small role in Robert DeNiro’s remake of Cape Fear put a big smile on my face. Pretty amazing that he lasted within a month of his 80th birthday after the life he had, but his majestic film performances are preserved forever in all their glory. As are those record albums and mug shots.
So as I celebrate Robert Mitchum’s birthday by having a cocktail, listening to a calypso song and just not giving a shit for a little while; here are Ten Memorable Mitchums for you to recall and/or discover…
(No slight to fellow birthday buddy Lucille Ball, a comedic legend and genius, but it’s all about Bob today. Maybe next year?)
01) The Night of The Hunter. Oh. My. God. As (cough) preacher Harry Powell, with fingers tattooed L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E, Mitchum created one of the most frighteningly sinister characters in film history.
02) River Of No Return. Mitchum in a western with Marilyn Monroe, a raging river and a real-life pot bust during filming. Not a classic, but a side of Mitchum not often seen.
03) The List of Adrian Messenger. Okay, Mitchum only plays a small part in this movie, much like Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis . The stars are really George C. Scott and Kirk Douglas, but this who-done-it is really more of a who-is-it. Trust me – watch this film.
04) Crossfire. Three Roberts – Mitchum, Robert Ryan and Robert Young – in a wartime thriller directed by Edward Dmytryk. Available in a film noir collection although technically not really in the genre.
05) The Longest Day. Still one of the best WWII movies ever made, this film told the story of D-Day from the perspective of four different countries and featured forty-two Hollywood stars in the cast.
06) The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Mitchum as a Boston small-timer with his back against the wall trying to survive between the Feds and the mob. Incredible cast (Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Alex Rocco) and finally out on DVD. A must-see movie.
07) Thunder Road. Moonshine, hot rods and rum-running as Lucas Doolin. Mitchum wrote the script and even had a hit song with the title theme (take that, Bruce Springsteen!) as he played an Appalachian James Dean.
08) The Racket. Another film with Robert Ryan (perhaps even more underrated than Mitchum these days) where Mitchum plays the righteous guy trying to stem the corruption of the mob.
09) The Enemy Below. A taut duel between submarine commander Curd Jurgens and Mitchum’s destroyer. To say this is claustrophobic is an understatement, but the game of cat-and-mouse is spellbinding and tense, and the display of respect for one’s enemy was an unusual tone for a war film.
10) Out Of The Past. An absolute stone-cold classic loaded with killer quotes. “Build my gallows high, baby”…”Baby, I don’t care”…”It was the bottom of the barrel, and I was scraping it“. And when the femme fatale says she doesn’t want to die, he replies “Neither do I, baby, but if I do I want to die last“. Also featuring one of Kirk Douglas‘ best roles; loosely remade as Against All Odds in the 80s (a decent film, but it pales in comparison to the original).
Robert Mitchum’s filmography at IMDB.