"He's the only man in town I'd be afraid to fight for real. I might knock him down, but he'd keep getting up until one of us was dead." Frank Sinatra on Robert Mitchum.
So today is Robert Mitchum's birthday. Besides being known for awesome film noirs ( a couple represented below), there was a couple other things I found out about him when I was looking up his movies today. I guess everyone knows how he was arrested in 1948 for marijuana possession in a sting operation. I think its weird that he could get arrested in 1948 and still have his career flourish afterwards. It seems like a death knell for someone's career back then. He must have had a hell of a publicist I mean, he went to jail and even a prison work farm. I suppose, since photographers from "Life" came out to take pictures of him doing work in a prison jumpsuit that he just parlayed it into a way of adding to his toughguy persona. (Funny, he described his experience in jail to a reporter as "like Palm Springs, but without the riff-raff")
The other surprising thing was that he actually released two albums, and one of them was a calypso one. Oh man, it would be great to get my hands on this album, that cover is amazing. I knew he did sing songs sometimes in his movies, and even sang the title songs sometimes, like the theme from Thunder Road, but him putting out two whole albums-renaissance man.
What about his movies? Well, come to find out I am kind of deficient as far as what I have and haven't seen in the Robert Mitchum oeuvre: like The Lusty Men, Thunder Road, The Sundowners, Not As A Stranger, Pursued-you get the picture. There's some gaps, lets say. So here are my five favorite Robert Mitchum films which can also serve as a good gateway/starting point to his films.
1) Out Of The Past (1947)
Quintessential film noir that helped make Robert Mitchum a star.
2) Night Of The Hunter (1955)
This probably helped seal the deal as far as Robet Mitchum playing bad guys. He's chilling as the psychopathic preacher that kills women and preys on children. I would also be remiss in not mentioning how this is the only movie actor Charles Laughton ever directed, and it is amazing. Some of the scenes, like the one on the river, are like something out of a surreal nightmare.
3) Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)
Here he plays Corporal Allison, stranded on an island in the South Pacific with a nun played by Deborah Kerr. Its a nice "opposites attract" drama where the leads are forced to work together and end up developing a mutual admiration (attraction?) to one another. My description probably makes it sound a lot more rote than it actually is, its really good.
4) Cape Fear (1962)
Here he originates the role of Max Cady, the criminal later played by Robert De Niro, in a movie that probably didn't need to be remade. He goes toe to toe with Gregory Peck, who plays the lawyer who put him away. Not only does he drip malice, the movie drips atmosphere, and Peck and MItchum put on an acting masterclass.
5) The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
I've noticed that as Mitchum's career reached into the seventies and he's gotten older, his acting work keeps getting described as "lived in". Which is actually apropos, because it seems that way-the look and feel (it was directed by Peter Yates, who directed Bullitt) not only of the old school criminals, including Mitchum as Coyle, who are going for that one last score before they retire-but also captures amazingly a lot of old school feeling and location in the Boston area. Just seeing him and Peter Boyle go to a Bruins game and cheering for Bobby Orr is awesome. But thats a little bit of near-hometown pride, but what can I say? It works.
Bonus (on the lighter side, I suppose):
Holiday Affair (1949)
The Grass Is Greener (1960)