Robert Mitchum: The life in pictures of the morose-eyed actor

    We celebrated what would be the birthday of Robert Mitchum, an icon of style. remembering in images the actor with the taciturn look. He dazzled the public for more than 50 years with more than 100 movies and TV movies behind him, but never got to win the oscar despite being nominated in 1946 for ‘We Are Human Beings Too’.

    Born on August 6, 1917 in Bridgeport, Connecticut (USA), lived during the first years of his life with his mother (his father died in a railway accident), who became fond of reading, especially poetry. Still, he was a troubled boy and was expelled from the institute for beating the principal.

    At 16, he left to seek his luck in California, where he was arrested 30 days for wandering the streets. Once there, He worked as a miner, as a goalkeeper and even as a boxer. It is said that the sad expression on his face came from an unfortunate blow in his career in the ring.

    But her life changed when she met the producer Bob Sherman, while working in a shoe store. He was good-looking, and had learned to ride on his grandparents’ farm, so they soon found a place for him in the western ‘Hoppy Serves a Writ’ (George Archainbaud, 1943), together with 18 more Westerns he would appear in that year and the next.

    However, and despite beginning his filmography in westerns and starring in some of his most influential works, the films of Robert Mitchum were mostly known for their work in film noir.. His first foray into the genre was a supporting role in the 1944 B-movie ‘when strangers get married‘. Other outstanding films from his first steps in the genre were ‘Hidden Currents’by Vicente Minnelli and with Robert Taylor and Katharine Hepburntrace of a memory‘ by John Brahm (1946), with Laraine Day, ‘Pursued’ (Raoul Walsh, 1947) and ‘crossroads of hate‘ (Edward Dmytryk, 1947), which earned five Academy Award nominations.

    After ‘Crossroads of Hatreds’, Mitchum starred in ‘Back to the past’, along with Kirk Douglas and the femme fatale Jane Greer. It is considered one of the best interpretations of him and the rivalry with Douglas left them feuding for life.

    Perhaps his most remembered role is that of Harry Powell in the cult film ‘Night of the Hunter’, the only film directed by Charles Laughton. Based on a novel by Davis Grubb, the thriller cast Mitchum as a monstrous, crazed serial killer posing as a preacher. His performance consecrated him as one of the best “villains” of all time, also for roles such as Max Cady in ‘Cape Terror’ (1962).

    After this very brief summary, we expand a little more on the life and work of Robert Mitchum through 20 images and moments of his career.

From the streets to the set

After wandering the streets of California, alternating odd jobs and even being arrested for vagrancy, his life changed when he met the producer Bob Sherman.

The filmmaker hired him for the western ‘Hoppy Serves a Writ‘ (George Archainbaud, 1943), being the first of the 18 he would shoot between his first two years in the industry.

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jump to stardom

Although he had already appeared with Spencer Tracey in ‘30 seconds over Tokyo‘ (Mervyn LeRoy, 1944), the role that propelled him to stardom was that of Lieutenant Walker in the war drama ‘We are human beings too‘, by William A. Wellman (1946). That paper would be worth it his first and only Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actor).

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Mysterious guy in film noir era

Mitchum joined the fashion that in the 40s filled the screens of film noir and for a few years he came to compete with his charm with Humphrey Bogart. In the photo, relaxed on the set of ‘return to the past‘ (1947), in which he played a mysterious guy with a hidden past. His companions in the cast were Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas.

Family man

In 1940 he had married Dorothy, his longtime girlfriend, and a few years later they already had two sons, James and Christopher (who would be joined by a girl, Trini, in 1954). Dorothy was the woman of his life, and they never parted.

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Bad boy, actor in trouble

He used to go out drinking with his friends and had spent the odd endless night with Frank Sinatra, Orson Welles and John Wayne. But Hollywood took a dim view of his growing tendency to drink, so he began to carve out a “bad boy” reputation that accompanied him all his life.

Things went to hell when in 1948 his manager scammed him and left his family bankrupt. Also, on August 31 of that same year, Mitchum was arrested at a party for possession of marijuana. The actor always assured that they had set a trap for him. What is certain is that this arrest erased him from the list of candidates at the Oscars.

A man under the influence

Preminger Double

There were two times that Preminger had the actor to star in his films. Just a year after ‘Angel Face‘, the Preminger-Mitchum tandem would recruit Marilyn Monroe to make one of the most notorious westerns in the history of cinema: ‘river of no return‘ (1954).

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In the eternal arms… of the cinema

Harry Powell is the character that undoubtedly gave the status of a timeless icon to Mitchum. With a very well aged Lillian Gish, directed by the actor Charles Laughton in ‘Night of the Hunter’ (1955) still makes our hair stand on end.

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Only Huston knows.

Another great milestone: working with John Huston (iconic director and father of Anjelica Huston) in one of his adventurous duet films. In ‘God only knows‘ (1957), he played a marooned marine with a nun, Deborah Kerr, on a desert island. Pure chemistry.

to the Caribbean rhythm

Mitchum had a very good voice (We heard him sing in ‘River of No Return’ or ‘The Night of the Hunter’), but he had never exploited it in any musical.

Even so, while rollin’God only knows‘ in the Caribbean islands of Tobago, he had the chance to hear artists like Mighty Sparrow or Lord Invader play and fell head over heels in love with calypso music. After a few months she debuted with the CD ‘Calypso – is like so…‘, in which he mixed his nostalgic voice with Caribbean rhythms.

His debut as a singer was not very successful, so it was not until ten years later that he saw the light’That Man, Robert Mitchum, Sings…‘, where he incorporated hints of country into his previous style. This second album did have more popularity, arriving with the song ‘That Thunder Road‘ to number 69 on the Billboard charts.

scandal in the family

In 1960 it was directed by Vincent Minnelli in ‘With him came the scandal‘ (wonderfully translated from the English ‘Home From The Hill’), where he played a womanizing family man with too many secrets behind his back. They accompanied him in the cast Eleanor Parker, George Peppard and George Hamilton.

Mitchum in comedy

“Variety is the sauce of life!” This is how he defines himself ‘blank page‘, a comedy that Stanley Donen directed in 1960 with four capitalized names of Hollywood stardom: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons. Although Mitchum never settled into comedy, we did see him in ‘The last time I saw Archie‘ (directed by and co-starring Jack Webb in 1961), having a blast in Uncle Sam’s army.

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Versatile Mitchum

His next film was ‘the cape of terror‘ (1962), a classic suspense directed by J. Lee Thompson and co-starring Gregory Peck, a criminal with a thirst for revenge against the character of Mitchum and his family, who will have to travel to his houseboat in Cape Fear to avoid falling into the Peck’s hands. Shocking ending guaranteed.

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Big kids

In 1967, an established Mitchum co-starred with John Wayne’s Eldorado‘, a rereading of Howard Hawks of his own ‘Río Bravo’. Although in the film they were two strong, masculine and independent cowboys, we can’t help but laugh when we see them in a photograph rigorously guarded by their mothers, Mary Alberta Brown and Harry Aniette Gunderson, during filming.

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In a small Irish town

Ryan’s daughter‘ (1970) was the penultimate film of David Lee and marked the departure of the actor from the western, a genre in which he had already established himself, to enter a tremendous melodrama based on the secret romance between Sarah Mills and Christopher Jones in a small Irish town during the First World War. Mitchum got to play the cheated husband.

Although the one who was cheating on his wife was Mitchum himself, who had an affair with Shirley McLaine, co-star in ‘Any day in any corner’ (1962) and ‘She and her husbands’ (1964). The thing came to light, but Dorothy stayed by her side until the end of her days.

About gangsters the thing goes

Sydney Pollack would take the actor to Japan in ‘Yakuza‘ (1974), film written by paul schraderto rescue his friend’s daughter Brian Keith of an evil Japanese leader. Although Mitchum is more into guns than katanas, he makes sure to make it clear that no one is playing with him, not even the Japanese mob itself.

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Mitchum, doubly Marlowe

Yes Humphrey Bogart gave one of the most iconic interpretations of the detective of Raymond ChandlerMitchum was not far behind and in two films, ‘Bye doll‘ (Dick Richards, 1975) and ‘Private detective‘ (Michael Winner, 1978) put on his trench coat and gave his particular version of the character that Bogart had forged years ago. ‘Private Eye’, in fact, was a remake of ‘The Big Sleep’, a Howard Hawks film with Bogart and Bacall as the main couple. Deciding between the two actors is tremendously difficult.

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Honored in ‘North and South’

Although the protagonists of this 1985 Civil War miniseries were James Read and Patrick Swayze, the program was home to tribute to many stars of yesteryear. Between them, Johnny Cash, Jean Simmons, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Kelly and Mitchum himself.


Martin Scorsese had Mitchum for his particular remake of ‘the cape of fear‘ (1991), with robert deniro as the ex-convict avenger and reserving for Mitchum the role of Lieutenant Elgart (played by Martin Balsam in the original version, who made a cameo as a judge in the new version).

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one last paper

Although in 1995 he made a couple of cameos in the series ‘The Marshall’ and appeared briefly in ‘a very special friendship‘ (Leidulv Risan), that same year Mitchum had his last big role, directed by Jim Jarmusch in his movie ‘dead-man‘. The actor had been struggling with alcoholism since the 1980s, and had been put in rehab at least once. He hadn’t quit smoking either, not even having suffered from emphysema, which didn’t help either. He died of lung cancer in 1997but we will always have his sad expression on the big screen.

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