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Robert Mitchum Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (66) | Personal Quotes (53) | Salary (20)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 6 August 1917Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA
Date of Death 1 July 1997Santa Barbara, California, USA  (lung cancer and emphysema)
Birth NameRobert Charles Durman Mitchum
Nicknames Mitch
Old Rumple Eyes
Bob
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Underrated American leading man of enormous ability who sublimates his talents beneath an air of disinterest. Born to a railroad worker who died in a train accident when he was two, Robert Mitchum and his siblings (including brother John Mitchum, later also an actor) were raised by his mother and stepfather (a British army major) in Connecticut, New York, and Delaware. An early contempt for authority led to discipline problems, and Mitchum spent good portions of his teen years adventuring on the open road. On one of these trips, at the age of 14, he was charged with vagrancy and sentenced to a Georgia chain gang, from which he escaped. Working a wide variety of jobs (including ghostwriter for astrologist Carroll Righter), Mitchum discovered acting in a Long Beach, California, amateur theater company. He worked at Lockheed Aircraft, where job stress caused him to suffer temporary blindness. About this time he began to obtain small roles in films, appearing in dozens within a very brief time. In 1945, he was cast as Lt. Walker in Story of G.I. Joe (1945) and received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor. His star ascended rapidly, and he became an icon of 1940s film noir, though equally adept at westerns and romantic dramas. His apparently lazy style and seen-it-all demeanor proved highly attractive to men and women, and by the 1950s, he was a true superstar despite a brief prison term for marijuana usage in 1949, which seemed to enhance rather than diminish his "bad boy" appeal. Though seemingly dismissive of "art," he worked in tremendously artistically thoughtful projects such as Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955) and even co-wrote and composed an oratorio produced at the Hollywood Bowl by Orson Welles. A master of accents and seemingly unconcerned about his star image, he played in both forgettable and unforgettable films with unswerving nonchalance, leading many to overlook the prodigious talent he can bring to a project that he finds compelling. He moved into television in the 1980s as his film opportunities diminished, winning new fans with The Winds of War (1983) and War and Remembrance (1988). His sons James Mitchum and Christopher Mitchum are actors, as is his grandson Bentley Mitchum. His last film was James Dean: Race with Destiny (1997) with Casper Van Dien as James Dean.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver < jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (1)

Dorothy Mitchum (15 March 1940 - 1 July 1997) (his death) (3 children)

Trade Mark (4)

On and off-screen, he was known for his facade of cool, sleepy-eyed indifference
Deep, commanding, yet lively voice
Dimpled chin
Often played loners and drifters

Trivia (66)

Brother of John Mitchum and Julie Mitchum.
Grandfather of actors Bentley Mitchum and Price Mitchum, actress Carrie Mitchum and male model Kian Mitchum.
Sidelines: Played the saxophone and wrote poetry.
In 1947 he and Gary Gray recorded the songs from Rachel and the Stranger (1948) for Delta Records' soundtrack album. In 1968 he recorded another album, entitled "That Man Robert Mitchum . . . Sings". It included the track "Little Old Wine Drinker Me", which later became a hit for Dean Martin. In 1998 these songs were released on CD as "Robert Mitchum Sings.".
Briefly served in the US Army during World War II, with service number 39 744 068, from April 12 to October 11, 1945, after he was drafted. According to Lee Server's 2001 biography, "Robert Mitchum: Baby I Don't Care," Mitchum said he served as a medic at an induction department, checking recruits' genitals for venereal disease (a "pecker checker"). Always the iconoclast, although he did not want to join the military, he served honorably and was discharged as a Private First Class and received the World War II Victory Medal.
Was one of four actors (with Jack Nicholson, Bette Davis, and Faye Dunaway) to have two villainous roles ranked in the American Film Institute's 100 years of The Greatest Heroes and Villains, as Max Cady in Cape Fear (1962) at #28 and as Reverend Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter (1955) at #29.
He got into trouble for some anti-Semitic remarks he made in an interview promoting The Winds of War (1983) at his home in 1983. Although these were apparently in jest, as he had close Jewish friends, he refused to apologize, undoubtedly because that would spoil his "bad boy" image.
Carefully maintained a facade of indifference, always lazily insisting that he made movies just so he could get laid, score some pot, and make money, and cared nothing about art. This is surely true of some films, which he likely picked to make money, but certain directors and films seemed to secretly pique his interest, including his work with Charles Laughton, John Huston, and Howard Hawks.
He was voted the 61st Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Mentioned by name as part of The Velvet Underground song "New Age" (from the 1970 album "Loaded").
In the 1950s he was selected by Howard Hughes to appear in a series of films he was producing. Hughes considered Mitchum a "friend," but (as a paranoid recluse) hardly met the actor. Mitchum was halfway put off and halfway amused by the "crazy old man" and clearly saw that he was a surrogate for Hughes as the strapping actor "romanced" young starlets on screen.
Michael Madsen called Mitchum his "role model" and inspiration to take up acting as a profession.
Was a close friend of Richard Egan, and served as a pallbearer at his funeral in 1987.
Was named #23 greatest actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends by the American Film Institute.
Great-grandfather of Allexanne Mitchum, Cappy Van Dien and Grace Van Dien.
Turned down the lead role of Gen. George S. Patton in Patton (1970), allegedly because he believed he would ruin the film due to his indifference. During a Turner Classic Movies interview with Robert Osborne, Mitchum said that he knew the movie could be a great one due to the script, but that the studio would want to concentrate on battles and tanks moving around on screen rather than on the character of Patton. Mitchum believed that with himself in the role, the movie would turn out mediocre; what was needed was a passionate actor who would fight his corner to keep the focus on Patton, an actor like George C. Scott, whom Mitchum recommended to the producers.
Treated for alcoholism at the Betty Ford Center in 1984.
Died one day before his The Big Sleep (1978) co-star James Stewart.
Biography in: "American National Biography." Supplement 1, pp. 414-416. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Although he had numerous affairs throughout his marriage, he remained with wife Dorothy Mitchum for nearly 60 years.
Addressed the Republican National Convention in 1992.
Robert's father, James Thomas Mitchum, was born in Lane, Williamsburg, South Carolina. James had English ancestry. Robert's mother, Ann Harriet (Gunderson), was Norwegian, from Kristiania, Oslo, Norway. Robert is sometimes described as having Native American ancestry on his father's side. It is not clear if this ancestry has been verified/documented.
He was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea by wife Dorothy Mitchum and neighbor Jane Russell. At Mitchum's insistence, no memorial service was held.
His driving license from 1950 gave his height as 6' even, one inch less that was always reported.
His vocal support for the Vietnam War failed to affect his appeal with American youth, and in 1968, a poll of teenagers declared him the coolest celebrity. Mitchum responded that they must have missed his recent films.
During a break in filming War and Remembrance (1988) in August 1987, Mitchum replaced his friend John Huston as an aging millionaire in Mr. North (1988) after Huston, who suffered from emphysema, was hospitalized with pneumonia. In October 1987, Mitchum filled in for Edward Woodward, who was recovering from a heart attack, in a special two-part episode of The Equalizer (1985).
Referenced by name in the song "The Fun Machine Took a Sh-t and Died" by Queens of the Stone Age.
His arrest for marijuana possession in the late 1940s was one of the first times a major actor had been jailed for this crime. According to Lee Server's 2001 biography, "Robert Mitchum: Baby I Don't Care," he was still smoking pot into his old age.
Was the defendant in FTC (Federal Taxation Commissioner) v. Mitchum (1965), a famous taxation case in Australia, in relation to income earned in Australia while working there on The Sundowners (1960).
He was a huge fan of Elvis Presley's early music, and wanted Presley to star with him in Thunder Road (1958). Unfortunately, Tom Parker's demands for Presley's salary could not be met in this independent production, which Mitchum was financing himself.
In 1981, he fired his secretary, Reva Frederick, when he closed his office. Mitchum was subsequently sued as she claimed he owed her a pension back-dated to 1961. There was no paperwork to support this claim, and she dropped her suit when evidence was discovered that she had stolen millions of dollars from Mitchum over the years. As part of the "deal," he agreed not to prosecute. During the course of these events, Ms. Fredrick suffered a stroke from which she never fully recovered.
He was persuaded by his manager Antonio Consentino, a die-hard Republican, to campaign for George Bush in the 1992 presidential election. He also narrated a biographical film of the President for the Republican National Convention, and attended a fund-raiser at Bob Hope's house in Hollywood.
His performance as Rev. Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter (1955) is ranked #71 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Mitchum once said that Rev. Harry Powell, the murderous villain he played in The Night of the Hunter (1955), was his favorite role.
He seriously considered retiring from acting in 1968 due to concerns over the quality of his recent movies. After a year's absence, during which he spent much of the time driving around America visiting old friends and staying in motels, he was lured back to star in Ryan's Daughter (1970).
Visited his son Christopher Mitchum on the set of Rio Lobo (1970). Director Howard Hawks asked the elder Mitchum to reprise his El Dorado (1966) role as a drunken sheriff, but Mitchum claimed he was now retired. John Wayne responded, "Mitch has been retiring ever since the first day I met him."
He was fired from Blood Alley (1955), allegedly for getting drunk and arguing with a crew member whom he then proceeded to throw into a nearby river, a charge Mitchum has always denied.
Turned down the leading role in Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece The Wild Bunch (1969), which went to his old friend William Holden, and made 5 Card Stud (1968). His excuse was they were both westerns.
5 Card Stud (1968), the showdown between Hollywood's two deities of indifference, produced no sparks on or off the screen. Dean Martin remained in his trailer watching television after filming was completed, and delivered his lines as though he had memorized them phonetically. The only excitement came when a massive camera collapsed and nearly hammered Mitchum into the ground. Instead, the star moved casually aside while thousands of dollars worth of equipment smashed around him.
He had a longstanding dislike of fellow tough guy actors Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower would never allow any of Mitchum's movies to be played in the White House, due to the actor's marijuana possession conviction.
Replaced Burt Lancaster in Maria's Lovers (1984) after the elder actor was forced to undergo emergency quadruple heart bypass surgery.
After two weeks of shooting on the movie Tombstone (1993), the studio fired writer (director) Kevin Jarre and hired George P. Cosmatos. He, with Kurt Russell's input, cut a number of scenes (for actors) and changed them to new action scenes, weakening a beautifully written script. Part of what was cut was the old man Ike's character. As Mitchum had already signed the contract, they had him do the voice-over instead.
Though respectful of Robert De Niro's talent, Mitchum was amused by the young Method actor's habit of remaining in character all day as film studio chief Monroe Stahr during the filming of The Last Tycoon (1976). Mitchum gave De Niro the nickname "Kid Monroe", and made many jokes about him with the older actors on the set like Ray Milland and Dana Andrews.
Many critics were unconvinced by the 65-year-old Mitchum winning World War II in The Winds of War (1983). When the producers made a sequel, War and Remembrance (1988), they worried that a 70-year-old Mitchum would be even less convincing and considered replacing him with James Coburn. Eventually they decided that what they would gain in fewer wrinkles, they would lose in Mitchum's formidable screen presence and charisma.
Presented with a People's Choice Award backstage by Charlton Heston for War and Remembrance (1988) during the 1989 ceremony in Beverly Hills, California.
Turned down Gene Hackman's role as drug-busting cop Popeye Doyle in The French Connection (1971) because he found the story offensive.
While filming El Dorado (1966) Mitchum was amused by co-star John Wayne's attempts to play his screen persona to the hilt in real life. He recalled that Wayne wore four-inch lifts to increase his height and had the roof of his car raised so he could drive wearing his Stetson.
Mitchum was in poor health while filming The Winds of War (1983), and once again there was talk of retirement. He filmed Maria's Lovers (1984) despite suffering from a solid case of pneumonia.
He claimed his famous eyes were the result of a combination of injuries from his boxing days and chronic insomnia, which he suffered from throughout his life.
In 1959 the Mitchums moved out of Hollywood and into a farm they had bought on the Maryland shore of Chesapeake Bay, near the town of Trappe. In 1965 the family returned to Hollywood, largely at wife Dorothy Mitchum's insistence, and moved into a modest, ivy-covered mansion in Bel Air. Mitchum also purchased a 76-acre ranch near Los Angeles, mostly as a home for his growing collection of quarter horses.
The 60-year-old Mitchum impressed Oliver Reed, Britain's legendary hellraiser, by drinking a whole bottle of gin in 55 minutes on the set of The Big Sleep (1978).
Is mentioned in Queens of the Stone Age's song "The Fun Machine Took a Shit and Died," off their 2007 album "Era Vulgaris".
Early in his career many newspapers and fan magazines promoted him as a "new" Clark Gable, perhaps because both actors had strongly masculine images and powerful, distinctive voices. With Out of the Past (1947) however, Mitchum proved that he was a great star in his own right.
Mentioned in the song "One More Arrow" by Elton John.
Was the inspiration for the Kurt Busiek's Astro City character "Steeljack".
Is the subject of the song "Robert Mitchum" by Swedish singer [['Olle Ljungström']], available on his album "Världens Räddaste Man" (translates "The World's Most Terrified Man").
Mitchum was cast by Howard Hughes in Holiday Affair (1949) because Hughes felt that Mitchum needed to "soften" his image after his marijuana conviction and prison sentence.
Turned down the role that eventually went to Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones (1958). Mitchum, a real-life veteran of a Southern chain gang, didn't believe the premise that a black man and a white man would be chained together and said that such a thing would never happen in the South. Over the years this reason was corrupted to the point where many people now believe Mitchum turned down the role because he didn't want to be chained to a black man, an absolute falsehood. Curtis repeated the inaccurate story in his autobiography, but later recanted after Mitchum's real reason was explained to him.
Dwight Whitney wrote in "TV Guide" on June 7, 1969 about Mitchum that there is the "suggestion, implicit in every utterance , that within the body of this 'movie-star'" lies imprisoned the soul of a poet.".
According to Mitchum biographer John Belton, during the shooting of Undercurrent (1946) Katharine Hepburn told Mitchum, "You know you can't act, and if you hadn't been good-looking, you would have never gotten a picture. I'm tired of playing with people who have nothing to offer.".
As a teenager, Mitchum was sentenced to a Georgia chain gang on a charge of vagrancy.
Was announced as co star with Spencer Tracy and Paul Newman in the Jerry Wald production of The Enemy Within, based on the book by Attorney General Robert Kennedy, which at 1962/63 was in preparation for Twentieth Century Fox.
Release of the book, "Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care" by 'Lee Server'.
As of November 2013, Mitchum remains the subject of a documentary, still in progress after some 20 years, by Bruce Weber, which was screened at the Venice Film Festival in August 2013.

Personal Quotes (53)

The only difference between me and my fellow actors is that I've spent more time in jail.
I gave up being serious about making pictures around the time I made a film with Greer Garson and she took a hundred and twenty-five takes to say no.
I started out to be a sex fiend but couldn't pass the physical.
Movies bore me; especially my own.
I've still got the same attitude I had when I started. I haven't changed anything but my underwear.
[on his acting talents] Listen. I got three expressions: looking left, looking right and looking straight ahead.
People think I have an interesting walk. Hell, I'm just trying to hold my gut in.
[on press stories] They're all true - booze, brawls, broads, all true. Make up some more if you want to.
When I drop dead and they rush to the drawer, there's going to be nothing in it but a note saying 'later'.
I never take any notice of reviews - unless a critic has thought up some new way of describing me. That old one about my lizard eyes and anteater nose and the way I sleep my way through pictures is so hackneyed now.
Years ago, I saved up a million dollars from acting, a lot of money in those days, and I spent it all on a horse farm in Tucson. Now when I go down there, I look at that place and I realize my whole acting career adds up to a million dollars worth of horse shit.
I have two acting styles: with and without a horse.
Every two or three years, I knock off for a while. That way I'm always the new girl in the whorehouse.
I never changed anything, except my socks and my underwear. And I never did anything to glorify myself or improve my lot. I took what came and did the best I could with it.
[asked what jail was like, after being released on a marijuana possession charge] It's like Palm Springs without the riff-raff.
You've got to realize that a Steve McQueen performance lends itself to monotony.
Not that I'm a complete whore, understand. There are movies I won't do for any amount. I turned down Patton (1970) and I turned down Dirty Harry (1971). Movies that piss on the world. If I've got five bucks in my pocket, I don't need to make money that f***ing way, daddy.
John Wayne had four-inch lifts in his shoes. He had the overheads on his boat accommodated to fit him. He had a special roof put in his station wagon. The son of a bitch, they probably buried him in his goddamn lifts.
There just isn't any pleasing some people. The trick is to stop trying.
[his opinion about the Vietnam war, in 1968] If they won't listen to reason over there, just kill 'em. Nuke 'em all.
Sure I was glad to see John Wayne win the Oscar ... I'm always glad to see the fat lady win the Cadillac on TV, too.
I've survived because I work cheap and don't take up too much time.
You know what the average Robert Mitchum fan is? He's full of warts and dandruff and he's probably got a hernia too, but he sees me up there on the screen and he thinks if that bum can make it, I can be president.
I kept the same suit for six years - and the same dialog. We just changed the title of the picture and the leading lady.
I came back from the war and ugly heroes were in.
Young actors love me. They think if that big slob can make it, there's a chance for us.
[asked why, in his mid-60s, he took on the arduous task of an 18-hour mini-series, The Winds of War (1983)] It promised a year of free lunches.
How do I keep fit? I lay down a lot.
[Regarding four-time co-star Deborah Kerr] The best, my favorite . . . Life would be kind if I could live it with Deborah around.
[his opinion of Method actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson] They are all small.
[1983] Stars today are just masturbation images.
[on The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969)] How the hell did I get into this picture anyway? I kept reading in the papers that I was going to do it, but when they sent me the script I just tossed it on the heap with the rest of them. But somehow, one Monday morning, here I was. How the hell do these things happen to a man?
Just after we shot Secret Ceremony (1968), lesbianism came in ... I'm no damned good as a lesbian.
People make too much of acting. You are not helping anyone like being a doctor or even a musician. In the final analysis, you have exalted no one but yourself.
These kids only want to talk about acting method and motivation; in my day all we talked about was screwing and overtime.
I know production values are better, but are the scripts, are the pictures? The thing is, it's a hell of a lot more work, and I don't see overall where the films are any better, really?
I often regret my good reviews, because there is no point in doing something I know to be inferior and then I find I have come off the best in the film. Wouldn't you find that worrying?
[1948] I never will believe there is such a thing as a great actor.
I got a great life out of the movies. I've been all over the world and met the most fantastic people. I don't really deserve all I've gotten. It's a privileged life, and I know it.
Sometimes, I think I ought to go back and do at least one thing really well. But again, indolence will probably cause me to hesitate about finding a place to start. Part of that indolence perhaps is due to shyness because I'm a natural hermit. I've been in constant motion of escape all my life. I never really found the right corner to hide in.
Up there on the screen you're thirty feet wide, your eyeball is six feet high, but it doesn't mean that you really amount to anything or have anything important to say.
[1967] Where are the real artists? Today it's four-barreled carburetors and that's it.
[1968] The Rin Tin Tin method is good enough for me. That dog never worried about motivation or concepts and all that junk.
I only read the reviews of my films if they're amusing. Six books have been written about me but I've only met two of the authors. They get my name and birthplace wrong in the first paragraph. From there it's all downhill.
[on working with Faye Dunaway] When I got here I walked in thinking I was a star and then I found I was supposed to do everything the way she says. Listen, I'm not going to take any temperamental whims from anyone, I just take a long walk and cool off. If I didn't do that, I know I'd wind up dumping her on her derrière.
[on Sarah Miles] She's a monster. If you think she's not strong, you'd better pay attention.
[asked what he looks for in a script before accepting a job] Days off.
[on Steve McQueen] He sure don't bring much brains to the party, that kid.
[on Jane Russell] Miss Russell was a very strong character. Very good-humored when she wasn't being cranky.
They think I don't know my lines. That's not true. I'm just too drunk to say 'em.
They could never decide to their satisfaction what type I was. One would say, "He's a heart-broken Byronic." Another would say, " No, he ain't; he's an all-American boy." People began talking about Mitchum-type roles, but I still don't know what they mean. They'd paint eyes on my eyelids, man, and I'd walk through it.
RKO made the same film with me for ten years. They were so alike I wore the same suit in six of them and the same Burberry trench coat. They made a male Jane Russell out of me. I was the staff hero. They got so they wanted me to take some of my clothes off in the pictures. I objected to this, so I put on some weight and looked like a Bulgarian wrestler when I took my shirt off. Only two pictures in that time made any sense whatever. I complained and they told me frankly that they had a certain amount of baloney to sell and I was the boy to do it.
I worked three pictures for 28 days straight. We'd shoot all night at RKO [The Locket (1946)], then I'd report to Undercurrent (1946) from seven in the morning until noon, when I'd be flown to Monterey to work all afternoon with Greer Garson [Desire Me (1947)].

Salary (20)

Hoppy Serves a Writ (1943) $100 /week
Aerial Gunner (1943) $75 /day
Border Patrol (1943) $100 /week
Minesweeper (1943) $75 /day
Story of G.I. Joe (1945) $350 /week
Undercurrent (1946) $25,000
Desire Me (1947) $25,000
Out of the Past (1947) $10,400
Rachel and the Stranger (1948) $3,000 /week
River of No Return (1954) $5,000 /week
Home from the Hill (1960) $200,000 + % of gross
The Sundowners (1960) $200,000
The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961) $100,000
Mister Moses (1965) $400,000
Secret Ceremony (1968) $150,000
Young Billy Young (1969) $200,000 + 20% of gross
Ryan's Daughter (1970) $870,000
Agency (1980) $500,000
The Winds of War (1983) $1,250,000
War and Remembrance (1988) $1,000,000

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