Robert Mitchum Overview:

Legendary actor, Robert Mitchum, was born Robert Charles Durman Mitchum on Aug 6, 1917 in Bridgeport, CT. Mitchum died at the age of 79 on Jul 1, 1997 in Santa Barbara, CA and was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea.

Early Life

Robert Mitchum was born on August 6th, 1917 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His early life was telling of characters he would grow to play on the screen. His father died in railroad accident before Mitchum's second birthday and it's perhaps that lack of authoritative father figure that caused him to be difficult and unruly in his youth. As a child, Mitchum preferred roughhousing to schoolwork, forcing his mother to send him to live with his grandparents in Delaware. He was immediately expelled from school for fighting. In 1930 Mitchum went to New York to live with his sister, following his habitual pattern of was immediate school expulsion. Soon after, he traveled the county using his preferred method of freight train hopping. He took several odd jobs, including professional boxer. At the age of 14, he was put on a chain-gang for vagrancy. According to Mitchum himself, he then escaped the chain gang and hoped a train back to Delaware but soon after found himself back on the railroads. In 1936, he made his way to California, living with his sister in Long Beach.

Early Acting Career

While in Long Beach, Mitchum joined the local theatre guide at his sister's behest. He first found work there as a stagehand and soon after began playing small roles in productions. Mitchum began to show his skills a writer; penning short plays for the theatre and poetry for his sister to perform at nightclubs. In 1940, he married longtime girlfriend, Dorothy. After the birth of their first son, Mitchum took a nine-to-five job at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. However, the monotony, the stress, and his strong-willed nature forced him quit to return to acting. At the start of the decade, Mitchum did mostly extra work but in 1942, he found steady work as the villain is a series of b-move westerns. He appeared inn over 25 films between 1942 and 1944. He finally got shot to play the hero in opposite Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson in the Melvyn LeRoy war drama Thirty Seconds Over Toyko. RKO then signed Mitchum to seven-year contract, where he continued to star in B-Westerns.

Big Break, Film Noir, and Arrest

In 1945, Mitchum was loaned to United Artist for the William Wellman film The Story of G.I Joe. The film features Mitchum as lieutenant Bill Walker, a war hardened commanding officer who remains stoic evening the face of the enemy. The film was a hit, nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actor for Mitchum. It would be hid only Oscar nomination. Before he could attend the ceremony, Mitchum was drafted into the army. He served for six months in California. Upon his return Hollywood, Mitchum first starred in the forgettable romance Till the End of Time.  In the mid-forties, Mitchum starred in a series of film-noirs that would come to shape his career. The first was opposite Katharine Hepburn and Robert Taylor in Vincent Minnelli's Undercurrent.  In 1946 he starred opposite Laraine Day as her artist ex-lover in The Locket.

In 1947, Mitchum starred in three influential film noirs. He starred opposite Teresa Wright in the western/film-noir hybrid Raoul Walsh's Pursued in which he plays a cowboy suffering from amnesia trying to find his family's murder. In Crossfire he played one solider in a group of many accused of killing a Jewish in an act of anti-Semitic violence. He took a break from film-noir to star in the WWII romance Desire Me. His next film, Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past, remains one of his most popular. In the film, Mitchum plays a small town gas station owner whose seedy past decides to come and pay him visit. The next year he stared opposite Loretta Young and William Holden in the western Rachel and the Stranger. In 1948 he starred in the Robert Wise western Blood on the Moon. The film was hit with particular praise going to Mitchum's performance. Soon after, however, Mitchum would end up in the county jail on marijuana possession charges after which he was transfer to a prison farm. He served 43 days for the drug discretion. Although such a scandal could have ruined another actors career, it only helped to make Mitchum more popular, playing up his bad-boy image. His next two films, The Red Pony and The Big Steal, were box-office smashes.

Continued Success

Mitchum™ continued to play cynical anti-hero's throughout the 1950's In 1951 he starred opposite Ava Gardner and Melvyn Douglas in My Forbidden Past. The next year he starred in four films, including Otto Preminger's Angel Face. He would work with Preminger two years later, starring opposite Marilyn Monroe in The River of No Return. The next year he returned to his villainous roots in Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter. In the film, Mitchum plays an escape convict disguised as rabid preacher, on the search for his ex-cellmates hidden stash of money. Although the film was massive failure upon it's release, it has since become a critical darling and Mitchum's personal favorite. In 1955 he starred in Stanley Kramer's  Not as a Stranger opposite Olivia de Havilland, Frank Sinatra, and Gloria Grahame. Mitchum starred opposite Deborah Kerr in John Huston's Heaven Knows, Me. Allison. In the film, Mitchum plays a shipwrecked Marine, stranded on an island with Nun, Sister Angela. Mitchum was nominated for Best Foreign Actor at the 1957 BAFTAS. That year he also starred with Rita Hayworth and Jack Lemmon in Fire Down Below.

In 1960 he reteamed with Deborah Kerr to star in Fred Zimmermann's The Sundowners. The film was hit, gaining five Academy Award nominations. Although Mitchum received no Oscar nomination, he did receive the Nation Board of Review awards for Best Actor. He teamed with Kerr on last time, this time with Cary Grant and Jean Simmons, in the Stanley Donen comedy The Grass is Greener. In 1962 he played seedy sexual assailant Max Cady opposite Gregory Peck in Cape Fear. That year he also starred opposite John Wayne and Henry Fonda in the D-day war film The Longest Day. He worked with John Wayne again in Howard Hawks 1966 Western El Dorado.

Later Career

By the 1970's Mitchum's appeal as leading man had waned considerable, however, he still was in demand for directors. Many young up-and-coming directors who grew up watching the actor in their favorite films were more than happy to cast him their own gritty crime dramas. In 1973 he starred opposite Peter Boyle in the Peter Yates crime thriller The Friends of Eddie Coyle. The next year he starred in the Syndey Pollacks neo-noir Japanese gangster film The Yakuza. In 1975 he starred as Phillip Marlowe in the adaption of Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely. He reprised the role two years later in 1978's The Big Sleep. As the 1980's began, Mitchum found himself working mainly in the realm of television.  In 1983 he starred in the mini-series The Winds of War as naval office Pug Henry. Two years later he appeared in another large-scale mini-series North and South. 1988 Mitchum appeared on the big screen in the Bill Murray comedy Scrooged. The next year he returned to the role of Captain Pug Henry in yet another sprawling mini-series War and Remembrance. In 1991 Mitchum was the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the Notion Board of Review. That same year he made an appearance in the Martin Scorsese remake of Cape Fear. In 1992 next year he received the coveted Cecil B. DeMille Award. In 1993 he returned to the western, narrating the George P. Cosmatos film Tombstone. In 1995 Mitchum appeared with Johnny Depp, Iggy Pop, Crispin Glover, and John Hurt in the Jim Jarmusch fantasy western Dead Man. His final onscreen role was in the 1997 James Dean television biopic, James Dean: Race With Destiny, playing director George Stevens. Robert Mitchum died on July 1st, 1997 in Santa Barbara, California.  He was 79 years old. 

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Although Mitchum was nominated for one Oscar, he never won a competitive Academy Award.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1945Best Supporting ActorG. I. Joe (1945)Lieutenant WalkerNominated

He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures.

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Robert Mitchum Quotes:

Albert: Do you realize that, all over the Australian bush, fathers are bashing their daughters like there's no tomorrow?

Kathie Moffat: I don't want to die.
Jeff Bailey: Neither do I, Baby, but if I have to, I'm going to die last.

Stella Atkins: Then what are you going to do?
Clint Tollinger: Nothing. I warned him; I thought I made it pretty clear.
Stella Atkins: Yes, but if you warned a child and he does something foolish anyway, you try to stop him from getting hurt.
Clint Tollinger: Oh, I see. You think Jeff is a child, huh?
Stella Atkins: Partly...
Clint Tollinger: Well, I think he's a man. He might be a little young and bullheaded about some things, but if there were more men like him around, I might not be here.

read more quotes from Robert Mitchum...

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Robert Mitchum Facts
Biography in: "American National Biography." Supplement 1, pp. 414-416. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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.

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.

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