The Hollywood Heartthrob Robert Mitchum

There are many roles he played, scripts he has written, films he directed, and songs he recorded, yet his own story is not that known and some of his works are left unsung. Having a life weaved with tragedy, failures, romance, and success, Robert Mitchum’s memoir is nothing short of a perfect Hollywood plotline.

Image Source: Getty Images/Mitchum as a middle aged man

Image Source: Getty Images/Mitchum as a middle aged man


1. WHERE HIS STORY STARTED

Robert Charles Durman Mitchum was born in Bridgeport Connecticut on August 6, 1917, to a Norwegian mother named Ann Hariett and to an Irish descent father called James Thomas Mitchum. His older sister is Julie Mitchum who is also an actress, they have a younger brother named John who also became an actor.

Image Source: Getty Images/ Mitchum in his cowboy costume

Image Source: Getty Images/ Mitchum in his cowboy costume


2. TRAGEDY CAME EARLY

Their father was a shipyard and railroad worker. He died in a railyard accident in Charleston South Carolina in 1919, leaving their family mourning when Robert was just about to turn two years old. Her mother then remarried a British army major.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Photo of Robert Mitchum

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Photo of Robert Mitchum


3. THE FIGHTS AND FLIGHTS

Mitchum was known as a “problem child”.  His mother and stepfather couldn’t raise him easily by themselves so he was shipped off to his grandparents with the hope that it will stop him from getting into fights. It did not end just on simple mischief and fistfights though. When he was 12, he took it to the next level when he got into a fistfight with his School Principal. Punching the head of the school, of course, led to expulsion.

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection| Mitchum as a young boy

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection| Mitchum as a young boy


4. TROUBLE MAGNET

It seems like the guy attracted trouble wherever he goes! When he was 13, he moved in with his sister in New York’s Hells Kitchen. He was then expelled once again from Haaren High School. He took on many jobs but he was arrested for vagrancy at the age of 14 and was put on a local chain gang.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Robert Mitchum and his sons

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Robert Mitchum and his sons


5. HE FOUND LOVE AT HOME

While he was recovering from his injuries, he went home to his family in Delaware. Here he met Dorothy Spence who later on became his wife. Here’s the thing though: Brothers can share anything, but this one is awkward since Dorothy is his brother John’s ex-girlfriend.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Robert and Dorothy Mitchum

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Robert and Dorothy Mitchum


6. GHOSTWRITER FOR AN ASTROLOGER

Hopping from one job to another, Mitchum went to live with his sister again in 1936 at Long Beach, California. There, he worked as a ghostwriter for astrologer Carroll Righter who was known to be the “astrologer to the stars” and was reputed to be an advisor to Ronald Reagan.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/His Kind of Woman (1951)/RKO Pictures

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/His Kind of Woman (1951)/RKO Pictures


7. NO MORE ARTISTIC PURSUITS AFTER MARRIAGE

Robert Mitchum finally married Dorothy Spence at Delaware in 1940.  They moved back to California afterward. He soon stopped his pursuit of the arts when his wife gave birth to James, their firstborn. He decided to work as a machine operator for the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation instead. They have two more children named Chris and Petrine afterward.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Dorothy and Robert Mitchum (1955)

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Dorothy and Robert Mitchum (1955)


8. THE DAMAGE AND THE STRESS

His noise due to his work eventually damaged his hearing. Mitchum also suffered breakdowns which even resulted in temporary blindness due to job-related stress. It seems like that kind of work is not meant for him. He recovered soon enough and he decided to try working as a film actor.

Image Source: Youtube/Noiristas and Fans| Foreign Intrigue/Sheldon Reynold Productions

Image Source: Youtube/Noiristas and Fans| Foreign Intrigue/Sheldon Reynold Productions


9. FROM SMALL ROLES TO BIG ROLES

He received small roles at first, appearing in some works in just brief times. Little did he know that an Oscar nomination was waiting for him when he was cast as Lt. Walker, who remains resolute despite the troubles he faces, in the GI Joe film. He was nominated as best supporting actor for this role.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Promotional photograph of actor Robert Mitchum

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Promotional photograph of actor Robert Mitchum


10. WORLD WAR II VICTORY MEDAL

 From April 12 to October 11, 1945, after he was drafted, he served in the United States Army during World War II. He served as a medic and afterward was discharged as a Private First Class and received the World War II Victory Medal.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Robert Mitchum by Willinger, 1946

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Robert Mitchum by Willinger, 1946


11. BACK TO FILM BUSINESS

Mitchum played many supporting roles before he landed the main role for ”Out of the Past” which was directed by Jacques Tourneur and featuring the cinematography of Nicholas Musuraca. He has strings of successful films for RKO after that. This seems to be the start of the boom of his career.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Macao/ RKO Pictures

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Macao/ RKO Pictures


12. THE GREATEST VILLAIN

Mitchum was one of the four actors (with Jack Nicholson, Bette Davis, and Faye Dunaway) to have two of his villain roles listed in the American Film Institute's 100 years of The Greatest Heroes and Villains! One was as Max Cady in Cape Fear which ranked #28 and Reverend Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter which is in the 29th rank.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons|The Night of the Hunter/Paul Gregory Productions

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons|The Night of the Hunter/Paul Gregory Productions


13. ONE-WOMAN MAN?

Of course, it was listed that in all his life he was never divorced and had only one wife, but does this make him a one-woman man? What do you think? Even so, he and his wife had a wonderful life together as well as with his sons. His wife stayed married to him for 60 years.

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|River of No Return/20th Century Fox

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|River of No Return/20th Century Fox


14. FAÇADE OF INDIFFERENCE

It was said the Mitchum always insisted that he made movies just to get laid, score some pot, and make money. He claimed that he doesn't care about art at all. He picked films just to make money but he was also interested in some of the films that’s why he worked with Charles Laughton, John Huston, and Howard Hawks. What a convenient way of picking jobs he had.

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Cape Fear/Universal Pictures

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Cape Fear/Universal Pictures


15. SECRET CODES

He also has this secret code where he marks the letters “n.a.r.” on his scripts which means that he is reminding himself of “No action required” during his performances. I wonder if celebrities still do that in this day and age? Write secrets codes on the scripts, please!

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Out of the Past/RKO Pictures

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Out of the Past/RKO Pictures


16. BANNED FROM THE WHITE HOUSE

Mitchum gained himself some enemies from the top. Then-president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had some bad blood with him so all of Mitchum’s films were banned from screening at the white house. Having the president as an enemy can’t be placed whether it is an insult or compliment after all.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Out of the Past/RKO Pictures

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Out of the Past/RKO Pictures


17. OH, THE TEMPER HE’S GOT

Robert Mitchum has been in trouble because of his temper even since he was young. He also brought that until he was already famous. He once showed up to the set of Blood Alley after a late night out and he allegedly destroyed a studio office because there was no car waiting for him on the set.

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|The Longest Day/Darryl F. Zanuck Productions, Inc.

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|The Longest Day/Darryl F. Zanuck Productions, Inc.


18. GOT THAT HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA AFTER 30 YEARS

Years after he became famous, his High School Principal (Yes! That one who he fought with), contacted him and offered him his diploma after many decades. He was asked if he would like to attend the ceremony. Being Mitchum, of course, he answered no. The degree was still mailed to him anyway.

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|The Way West/Harold Hecht Productions

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|The Way West/Harold Hecht Productions


19. HELPFUL HIDDEN SKILL

Mitchum had no difficulty in memorizing his lines! According to some people, He had a photographic memory! Having that kind of hidden skill as an actor is a big help in memorizing lines and making him more focused on delivering them.

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Robert in a classroom full of kids

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Robert in a classroom full of kids


20. LIKE FATHER LIKE SON

Christopher Mitchum, his son, also became an actor. He once visited him on the set of Rio Lobo and he was asked by the director to reprise his El Dorado role. The elder Mitchum claimed though that he is now retired.

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Ryan's Daughter/MGM

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Ryan's Daughter/MGM


21. RETIRING EARLY

Robert Mitchum considered retiring from acting in 1968 due to concerns over the quality of his recent movies. He took a break and spent time visiting old friends and staying in motels. He was eventually lured back to star in Ryan’s Daughter in 1970.

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Ryan's Daughter/MGM

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Ryan's Daughter/MGM


22. ACTUAL MUSICAL TALENT UNLIKE OTHER CELEB VOCALISTS

Mitchum's actual voice was used and not some professional singers when his character san on the films. Critic Greg Adams stated that He actually has musical talent! He waited until 1967 to record his follow-up record, That Man, Robert Mitchum, Sings.

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection| Yakuza/Warner Brothers

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection| Yakuza/Warner Brothers


23. NOT ON THE CREDITS

There are some instances that his name was not put in the credit of the works he’s made. He got fired from the set of Blood Alley and was replaced by John Wayne, his name was never mentioned in the credits.

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Out Of The Past/RKO Pictures

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Out Of The Past/RKO Pictures


24. THE OLD MAN’S CONFESSION

After his long career, the star didn’t shy away from his actions. He said in one interview that all his scandals were true. All the booze, the brawls, and the broads are all true. What a way for an actor to confess his sins!

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Hoppy Serves a Writ/Harry Sherman Productions

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Hoppy Serves a Writ/Harry Sherman Productions


25. HOW HIS STORY ENDED

The actor died on July 1, 1997, due to complications of lung cancer and emphysema. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at the sea by his wife. No memory services were held. We will miss the talented and handsome actor!

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Out Of The Past/RKO Pictures

Image Source: Youtube/The Hollywood Collection|Out Of The Past/RKO Pictures

Sometimes, people don’t know what goes behind the scenes in every actor’s life. Some only see the glamour, some only see the scandals. Mitchum’s life tells that there’s so much more than that and sometimes it takes a brave man to confess all that he’s done and tell about what he’s been through.

Sources: Variety, American Magazine, Britannica, New York Times, Encyclopedia

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