Private Screenings

Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell (1 Jan. 1996)

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Title: Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell (01 Jan 1996)

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1 January 1996 (USA)  »

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Private Screenings: ROBERT MITCHUM AND JANE RUSSELL (TV) (Tony Barbon, 1996) **1/2
27 November 2011 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

This pretty self-explanatorily-titled episode from a TCM series, moderated by that channel's in-house host Robert Osborne, re-united (for what was to be the last time, since Mitchum died only a year or so later) the stars of two popular Howard Hughes-produced noirs – released by RKO, the Hollywood studio he owned for some time – in the early 1950s. It has been made available on Warner's SE DVD of Josef von Sternberg's MACAO (1952), the dynamite combo's last teaming, notorious for being the renowned but difficult Austrian auteur's unceremonious final brush with the American entertainment industry he had helped elevate – in his best work – to an artistic level that was much imitated but seldom, if ever, equalled!

Anyway, the program does not concentrate solely on this one film (though Russell's description of an incident where Mitchum stood up to the director's dictatorial attitude and subsequently got him replaced by Nicholas Ray is perhaps its highlight!) but rather presents a sketchy run-though of both stars' careers – beginning with Mitchum's inauspicious early appearances in several "Hopalong Cassidy" Westerns and Russell's much-ballyhooed debut in yet another Hughes film, THE OUTLAW (1943), where it is also stated that original director Howard Hawks took an early hike (when the finished film still displays a lot of his touches and concerns!). Incidentally, Russell also mentions how her singing talent was discovered quite by chance! Sometimes, each gives their personal opinion of other luminaries they worked with, either together or separately: most notable among these are two famously tragic figures i.e. Hughes himself (plagued by the OCD complex, which caused him to turn into a recluse and forever be dubbed an eccentric) and Marilyn Monroe (her crippling insecurity sent her to an early grave).

Since Mitchum has made the more notable set of films, it is small wonder Osborne gives him the lion's share of his attention. Even so, the actor has been described elsewhere to have been in rather poor health throughout the episode but, then, he was pushing 80 and, in any case, did put in a bit more in his replies than the laconic types he is known for on-screen! However, at the same time, one is almost refreshed to see him exuding the rebellious cool that made him so unique even in real life – given that he is pretty dismissive of his decidedly illustrious legacy; while he is known to have cited the minor (and still-unwatched) army comedy from 1961 THE LAST TIME I SAW ARCHIE as his favorite role, he makes no such claims here! Unsurprisingly, his own acknowledged best work – in Jacques Tourneur's OUT OF THE PAST (1947), virtually a noir template, and Charles Laughton's one-shot at direction with the stylized, ahead-of-its-time THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) – are discussed in some detailed and also excerpted. Also dealt with is David Lean's expansive shooting schedule on RYAN'S DAUGHTER (1970; though the date is wrongly listed here as 1967!) for what was essentially an intimate romance, albeit set in troubled times, and of which the star somewhat diplomatically says that he especially enjoyed the remote Irish locale where the filming took place.

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