A Tribute to Robert Mitchum
Robert Mitchum’s part-Native-American father died in a train accident when “Mitch” was two. He and his brother John (also an actor) and their siblings were raised by his Norwegian-born mother and his stepfather, a British soldier, in various places on the East Coast. He was tough kid, and spent much of his teen years out on the road. At 14 he was charged with vagrancy and ended up on a chain gang in Georgia. Like one of his movie characters, he eventually escaped.
As a young man, Mitchum held many different jobs, including a professional boxer (27 fights) and a stint as a ghostwriter for the popular astrologer, Carroll Righter. His first try at acting came with a Long Beach, California amateur theater group. While working at Lockheed Aircraft, he became temporarily blind because of job stress. It was at this time that he accepted the first of what would become dozens of small roles in films.
In 1945, he received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for the role of Lt. Walker in The Story of G.I. Joe. He quickly became a fixture in the film noir genre, also appearing in Westerns and dramas.
His lethargic style and world-weary attitude were attractive to both men and women. By the 1950s he had become a superstar — in spite of the fact that he served time in prison in 1949 for possession of marijuana. (“Just like Palm Springs,” he said, “but without the riff-raff.”) This only appeared to strengthen his appeal.
While he didn’t seem to care much for film as “art,” he still contributed to projects such as The Night of the Hunter, by Charles Laughton. He also co-wrote and composed an oratorio which was presented at the Hollywood Bowl by Orson Welles. He was good at doing accents and didn’t appear to care much about his “image,” which led him to appear in films which ran the gamut from classic to barely watchable. In the Eighties, when film roles began to dry up, he moved into TV, appearing in The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.
Mitchum died July 1, 1997, just after this site was launched in its original form, but I’ll always remember him as the young, tough guy who never seemed to be acting.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Photos, Art, and Posters