Robert (Bob) Mitchum, forgettable and unforgettable films with unswerving nonchalance, leading many to 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 Robert was two, Mitchum and his siblings (including brother John Mitchum, later also an actor) were raised by his mother and step-father (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 theatre 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 The Story of G.I. Joe, and received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor. His star ascended rapidly, and he became an icon of Forties 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. This 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 Night of the Hunter, 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 overlook the prodigious talent he can bring to a project which he finds compelling. He moved into television in the Eighties as his film opportunities diminished, winning new fans with "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance". His sons James Mitchum and Christopher Mitchum are actors, as is his grandson Bentley Mitchum.
His Personal Quotes And Some From Others
"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 125 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."
Edward Dmytryk: "On the surface he is irresponsible and vague and yes -
wacky. Underneath he knows the score as few men in Hollywood do."
Charles Laughton: "All the tough talk is a blind. He is a literate, gracious, kind man with wonderful manners and he speaks beautifully - when he wants to. He would make the best Macbeth of any actor living."
John Huston: "He is a rarity among actors, hard-working, noncomplaining,
amazingly perceptive, one of the most shockingly underrated stars in business."
Fred Zinneman: "He is one of the finest instinctive actors in the business,
almost in the same class as Spencer Tracy."
David Lean: "Mitchum can, simply by being there, make almost any other
actor look like a hole in the screen."
"Listen. I got three expressions: looking left, looking right and looking straight ahead."
(on his acting talents)
"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'."
"He writes his poetry and his songs and tells his stories - some true, some not. It doesn't matter, because they're all funny. But he is a complete anachronism. He claims he doesn't care about acting, but he's an extraordinary actor. He's one of that group in Hollywood who are such extraordinary personalities that people forget they're marvelous actors." - Vincent Price