Ten of my favourite Mitchum quotes

David Lean, talking about Mitchum, once said, “Mitchum can, simply by being there, make almost any other actor look like a hole in the screen.”

Robert Mitchum

Charles Laughton, Mitchum’s director in The Night of the Hunter, said of the actor: “Bob is one of the best actors in the world. In addition he can imitate any accent there is… He has great talent. He’d make the best Macbeth of any actor living. All his tough talk is a blind, you know. He’s a literate, gracious, kind man, with wonderful manners, and he speaks beautifully – when he wants too. He’s a very tender man and a very real gentleman. You know he’s really terribly shy. I can tell you one thing: he won’t thank you for destroying the image he has built up as a defence… He’s one of my very favourite people in the whole world. I can’t praise him too much.”

Mitchum himself, the real gentleman and the `gracious, kind man’ notwithstanding, didn’t always have very nice things to say about his colleagues in the world of cinema—or, in fact, about himself. Here are ten of my favourite Mitchum quotes: most of them hilariously self-deprecatory, a few deliciously snide ones about his co-stars.

1. “I think when producers have a part that’s hard to cast, they say, ‘Send for Mitchum, he’ll do anything.’ I’ll play Polish gays, women, midgets, anything.”

2. “You know what the average Robert Mitchum fan is? He’s full of warts and dandruff and he’s probably got a hernia too, but he sees me up there on the screen and he thinks if that bum can make it, I can be president.”

3. “I have two acting styles: with and without a horse.”

4. When asked what he looked for in a script before accepting a job: “Days off.”

5. “Every two or three years, I knock off for a while. That way I`m always the new girl in the whorehouse.”

6. “I kept the same suit for six years and the same dialogue. They just changed the title of the picture and the leading lady.”

7. “Listen. I got three expressions: looking left, looking right and looking straight ahead.” (On his acting talents)

8. “Sure I was glad to see John Wayne win the Oscar… I’m always glad to see the fat lady win the Cadillac on TV, too.”

9. “I gave up being serious about making pictures around the time I made a film with Greer Garson and she took a hundred and twenty-five takes to say no.”

10. “He sure don’t bring much brains to the party, that kid.” (About Steve McQueen)


14 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite Mitchum quotes

  1. Awww… he sounds like a fun guy to have around. And he doesn’t much care for John Wayne – glad to find someone like that! ;-)

    That “three expressions” quote is soooo applicable to a lot of actors today! I do think he was being unnecessarily self-critical there, though.


  2. I’m not much of a John Wayne fan either: and in the one film in which I’ve seen Wayne and Mitchum co-star (El Dorado), Mitchum – though he had a smaller part – definitely stole a march over Wayne. But I could’ve bee prejudiced!

    And I can think of quite a few modern so-called `actors’ for whom that `three expressions’ quote is very apt. But not Mitchum, I think – you only have to seem him in well-made films like The Sundowners, Heaven Knows, Mr Allison, The Night of the Hunter or Not As A Stranger to realise how good he could be as an actor. Pity he never got an Oscar.


  3. I saw Mitchum in “The Big Sleep” and his version of Phillip Marlowe is the one to watch, even better than Bogart in the original black and white version (his speech at the end regarding money and basic decency at the end is incredible, one of the sadly forgotten gems).


    • I must admit (yes, I know I’m an iconoclast in this case) to being not a Bogart fan. And a huge Mitchum fan – so I’m, anyway, inclined to prefer Mitchum’s performance over Bogart’s. I haven’t seen either version of the film, but will certainly look out for Mitchum’s, now. Thanks!


  4. I could never except Mitchum as Marlowe and far prefer Bogart and Dick Powell. However, he was superb in almost every film he did. And especially the early film noirs in the 40’s and early 50’s.


    • I’m not much of a Bogart fan, but I do agree that he was a great actor – I still haven’t got around to watching his version of The Big Sleep (I haven’t even watched Mitchum’s version yet), so I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you!


  5. In 1979 think it was that year…I awoke early to leave my boyfriends apt in Venice California…I was in a black mood…and who do I come across, putting something away in his car trunk…why it was robert Mitchum! He looked at me….and had a little smiile on his lips..but me being in such a state (boyfriend problems) i ignored him…I regret that day….inside I was wow its mr Mitchum…ah well one cant unring that bell.


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