Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mitchum @ the Beach

Robert Mitchum @ Cannes in 1954. He was 36 going on 37.

I always think of him as an old man... even when I think of him in his early movies. Strange. Mitchum was busy busy busy in the 1950s. He had headlined two motion pictures released earlier that year (River of No Return with Marilyn Monroe and She Couldn't Say No with Jean Simmons) and he had one more coming in the winter (Track of the Cat with Teresa Wright). The following year would bring the world his (arguably) greatest triumph, the utterly brilliant thriller The Night of the Hunter though he's maybe better remembered for being the original Max Cady in Cape Fear (1962). If you haven't seen either, do so.

While I was looking up Mitchum info to go with this image -- I never thought of Mitchum as a dancer so it prompted incongruous delight -- I learned that his grandson is a popular model named Kian (pictured left) whose favorite Mitchum film is also Night of... I love this quote from the prettyboy:
He died when I was 13, so I remember him as the big scary guy in the corner with this incredible voice that I didn't want to get near. But now that I'm older I can appreciate where it all came from.
I'm not related but I relate. As a kid I didn't like Mitchum. I had only really seen him in the television miniseries The Winds of War and I didn't 'get' him. I didn't understand his style of acting and he freaked me out: too detached, stiffly masculine, gruff, sinister (?) ...not any of the things I responded to in male leads. In the 80s when I fell in love with movies I was all about William Hurt, Harrison Ford and --when it came to old movies on TV --Gene Kelly and James Dean. Here's a couple more 50s images for you...

In the first image Simone Sylva surprises Mitchum in Cannes with her ample bust (what is it with Cannes & boobs? Please to explain... anyone) and in the second, also taken in 1954 though I'm not sure where, Mitchum sits with Night of the Hunter author Davis Grubb.

time capsule: In May 1954 France was ending its long complicated involvement with Vietnam (glossily movie-documented in the 30s set Indochine with Catherine Deneuve and The Quiet American with Michael Caine which takes place in 1952) after losing the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Over in America the U.S. Supreme Court handed down their decision in Brown vs. Board of Education famously ruling for integration, important 'wind beneath my wings' groundwork for the huge civil rights movement of the '60s. In US movie theaters Indiscretion of an American Wife (starring Montgomery Clift), Johnny Guitar, Hitchcock's Dial "M" for Murder, the smash hit Three Coins in the Fountain (eventually a Best Picture nominee --my review) were all opening. The less famous, still underappreciated ensemble business drama Executive Suite also opened in May. I love that one.


Catherine said...

Have you seen Pursued? That's the only film of his I've seen so far. It's great.

Anonymous said...

Robert Mitchum is my favorite actor... Thanks Nathaniel for this post.

Anonymous said...

Robert Mitchum was fantastic in "Heaven knows, Mr. Allison" with Deborah Kerr... What do you think Nathaniel?

The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

Damn, that G.I. Joe gene does produce masculine AND feminine type of pretty.

Anonymous said...

TOP 5 Mitchum

1 - Out of the Past
2 - Night of The Hunter
3 - Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
4 - Secret Ceremony
5 - Cape Fear

Anonymous said...


that post was mine, cal roth

J.D. said...

I can't stop staring at that poster for Indiscretion of an American Wife. It's so colorful... *drools*

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Scarily charismatic and with a fantastic range. He could very well be my favourite actor. Night of the Hunter is his best, of course, but I'm also very fond of Out of the Past, The Big Steal (his reteaming with Jane Greer, underappreciated - Hitchcockian and lots of fun), Holiday Affair and the second (and marginally better) of the two phenomenal adaptations of Raymond Chandler's Farewell My Lovely.