Tag Archives: Robert Mitchum

R.I.P. Dana Wynter

The name Dana Wynter probably won’t roll off your tongue of asked to name ten actresses from the ’60s and ’70s; she never attained the superstar status that many of her contemporaries did. But in three of my favorite films, Wynter played a convincing supportive role and radiated a quiet beauty. Ms. Wynter died Thursday at 79.

I just recently come across a DVD copy of The List of Adrian Messenger, one of the more unusual mystery films ever made. In addition to a murder plot, several of the biggest stars of the day (Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra) appeared in small or walk-on roles in disguise and are “unmasked” at the end of the film. George C. Scott and Kirk Douglas are among the leads, and it’s no wonder that both are enamored by the beautiful Wynter.

If you do see The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers make certain it’s the one filmed in 1956 starring Wynter and Kevin McCarthy. One of the most frightening horror movies ever made, its a suspenseful and unnerving film that eschews gore and violence for pure dread, and the ending of the film gave me nightmares as a child.

One of James Cagney’s more underappreciated films was Shake Hands With The Devil, sadly not yet on DVD. The IRA drama also starred Don Murray and Glynnis Johns and was directed by the also-underappreciated Michael Anderson.

Wynter’s resume is heavy on television shows and only peppered with memorable films, but if you grew up in the ’70s you likely were very familiar with her work. Check out the three films above, all highly recommended.

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R.I.P. Peter Yates

Peter Yates helmed three of the most iconic films of my life.

The first, Bullitt, simultaneously instilled Steve McQueen as the epitome of cool and provided what remains one of the best car chases ever filmed. Of course, the film boasted an incredible plot, a first-rate cast (Robert Vaughn, Simon Oakland, Don Gordon, Normal Fell) and even featured a young Robert Duvall as a cabbie. Yates used McQueen’s quiet and internal performance as a guide, and the silences in the film are as critical as the action; it continues to reveal nuances in later viewings. I can still watch the film beginning to end and thoroughly enjoy it even though I’ve seen it more than a dozen times.

The second, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, was a brilliant crime film set in Boston starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle and featuring an excellent ensemble cast including Alex Rocco, Richard Jordan and Steven Keats. (Keats’ character was a gun runner named Jackie Brown; Quentin Tarantino would later pay tribute to this film by using that name.) Mitchum was excellent as the aging and desperate small timer trying to survive, it’s easily one of the best performances of his career. I still believe this underrated film is still one of the best crime thrillers ever made.

Years later, a small coming-of-age film set in Indiana would catch me off-guard. Breaking Away captured struggles that many have transitioning from adolescence to adulthood – the social caste system, the depth of infatuation and romance, the testing of friendships, the loss of innocence and acceptance of responsibility and consequence. Centered on four townies living in Bloomington whose lives are overwhelmed by the presence of Indiana University, the film uses the “Little 500” bike race as the catalyst to mirror the transition in everyone’s lives. Yates was blessed with a supporting a cast of pros (Barbara Barrie and Paul Dooley as Dennis Christopher’s parents) and soon-to-be-more-famous actors (Daniel Stern, Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley). An absolute feel-good movie.

Yates made other films I enjoyed – Suspect, Eyewitness, The Dresser among them – but these three are all time classics.

Yates, a four-time Oscar nominee, was 82.

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Mixtape: She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

 Mixtape time again!

This one, She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not – was from my monthly mixtape swaps back in 1997. Here’s what I wrote back then as an introduction:

Love comes in spurts, says Richard Hell. Love comes in cycles, sez me. The wonder of a crush, the rush of recognition that affection is mutual, the delicate jab and parry of getting to know someone, that first kiss, the first mistake, the uneasy first fight, the first break up (and the wonderful first make-up), the second mistake and third, the wandering eye, being taken for granted, being misunderstood, falling apart, getting sad, getting bitter, getting haunted, that smile-on-the-surface but acid-in-your-stomach feeling of seeing them with someone else, the greens and blues, the depression, the worthlessness and then just when you think you’ll jump…that new person who sends a thousand volts through your spine and into your heart. Another chance, and you drag your still smoldering carcass through the whole mess again.

So here’s the yang and yin; the L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E tattoos that Robert Mitchum wore on his knuckles are now on your heart.

(This one’s for you, Eli.)

SHE LOVES ME side

DANIELLES MOUTH – Crush

Sweet, saucy, sexy – is there anything better than a crush? Can be innocent, but I know what Danielle wants!

JONNY POLONSKY – Love Lovely Love

I know Jonny isn’t sixteen, but it’s that bubbly optimism that gets me. Great pop record, except it was only 30 minutes long…

BIG STAR – Thirteen

One of my favorite songs, ever! Alex Chilton perfectly captures that frustration of being a (sorry, Dion) “teenager in love”

MARSHALL CRENSHAW – I’ll Do Anything

From maybe the best debut record ever….love makes you do funny things!

DWIGHT TWILLEY – Please Say Please

This Beatle-esque rocker a bonus track on the reissue of the great “Sincerely” record. Self-explanatory!

THE REPLACEMENTS – Kiss Me On The Bus

Maybe the same couple from “Thirteen”? Forget what’s proper and KISS ME, baby!

PHIL SEYMOUR – Baby It’s You

The late, great Phil with what has to be one of the most perfect pop records ever made! Sing it LOUD!

ADAM SCHMITT – Garden of Love

So you’re afraid, baby, been hurt before? Trust me! From what might be the best record of the 1990’s

LOU CHRISTIE – Lightning Strikes

I remember this from when I was a young pup, having my heart yo-yo’d for one of the first of many times. A classic!

BEN VAUGHN – Words Can’t Say What I Want To Say

Yeah, I’ve felt like this. That ga-ga, mouth-open, please-god-don’t-let-me-say-something-stupid moment

RICHARD X HEYMAN – When She Arrives

I can’t wait until “Cornerstone” comes out so you can all see what a great record this is. A love cycle in itself!

THE FACES – Tell Everyone

A Ronnie Lane tune, but Rod sings it…true love settles in for the long haul?

CROWDED HOUSE – Fall At Your Feet

An adult version of the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There”, with music so pretty I’d love it even without the words! Uh-oh, side’s over….

SHE LOVES ME NOT side

JOHAN – Easy

Swedish pop rules! A 1997 record that almost slipped by sees the chink in the armour…

THE FLASHCUBES – You’re Not The Police

Things are starting to fall apart..we can’t go on together, with suspicious minds. GREAT 1997 reissue!

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS – Bored Of You

Uh-oh….nice guys finish last. Why do women want to be treated like queens and then fall for rude assholes? Moe knows…

THE RUBINOOS – Over You

Where I start lying to myself, saying that it doesn’t hurt…all the while my heart is bleeding…

THE MONTGOMERY CLIFFS – Tonight

More bravado, and two can play that game, baby…this time when you put the cheese in the trap, I’m not buying.

JEN TRYNIN – I Resign

I think Jen is the best female songwriter around. I love the way her mind works!

THE RASCALS – You Better Run

Pat Benetar, eat your heart out. Oh yeah – I ain’t gonna eat out my heart anymore……

THE BEAT – I Will Say No

Go on, get out of my life, and let me make a new start. Maybe the longest fade out in pop history

KENNY HOWES – Somebody

Not sure if she’s still trying to come back or whether I’m fooling myself, but I feel better. Get lost!

THE KINKS – Set Me Free

It’s frightening to think just how many great songs Ray Davies wrote in about three years time. Bye Bye Baby!

DWIGHT TWILLEY – Release Me

I never put an artist on a tape twice, but have to here. SINCERELY is a Desert Island Disk! Heartbreak!

TOMMY KEENE – Nothing Happened Yesterday

More self-denial from one of the great pop unknowns. I am man, hear me roar!

TONIO K – Stay

Oh shit….two damaged people see that spark and circle each other – should I try to fall in love again? Flip the tape over, honey, ’cause here we go again!

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T.G.I.F. – Happy Birthday, Robert Mitchum

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.

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Blue Monday, or Bad Things in Threes

Another bad run of unfortunate passings. I was really hoping the Ober story was a mistake, as it seemed to be this morning. But then MTV confirmed it.

"It's his basement, it's his rules, it's his game show..."

R.I.P. Ken Ober – I first encountered Ken Ober back in the early days of MTV, when it was actually strange for them to do something that didn’t involve music videos. The game show craze was making a comeback thanks to cable television’s insatiable thirst for content, and this oddball variation on a theme called Remote Control was an early hit for the network. Basically it was a trivia show designed to look like it was hosted in a suburban basement, with three contestants seated in recliners using remote control devices. It wasn’t so much the competition or even the subject matter (answering questions about television and pop culture)  but it was the way they were dismissed off the showwhen they lost that was classic! It also was my first exposure to the great Colin Quinn.

"I DO NOT...FORGIVE!"

R.I.P. Edward Woodward, the Equalizer –  Thinking back, how odd was it to have a literate vigalante-for-hire show be a success? Then again, a careful look at the programs of the day proves how little we observe about life at the moment we’re wallowing in it. But here was an accredited Shakespearian actor playing a smarter Baretta and championing the underdog. I’m not minimizing Woodward’s massive resume, but Robert McCall struck a chord. Probably the same reason I enjoyed David Morse and Andre Braugher – two of the finest actors walking the planet – on Hack. (Although as far as I know, their characters didn’t purposely kill people. Nor did they have Robert Mitchum (!) step in to cover for them when they were out ill…)

R.I.P. Kevin Knox – I’ll pass this along as a third person reference, since I didn’t know him personally. But I have spoken with a lot of comedians over the years, and there is a fraternal bond for those who deserve it. By all accounts this was a righteous and unselfish guy as well as a good comedian. You learn a lot about people when they are down for the count with their backs against the wall, and apparently Kevin’s battle with cancer just reaffirmed what his friends in Boston and beyond knew all along. And to think of the dozens of times I walked past Dick’s Beantown Comedy Vault at Remington’s, right in the heart of the Emerson College campus, and I never got to see him

Life is short. Savor every moment. Enjoy every sandwich.

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