Exactly a week back, this blog was celebrating the birthday of a favourite of mine: the gorgeous Mumtaz turned 70. Today, Dusted Off celebrates the birth anniversary—the centenary, in fact—of another favourite of mine: Robert Mitchum.
Born on August 6, 1917, Mitchum first began appearing in cinema during the early 40s (having already worked in an eclectic range of jobs, from ditch-digging, professional boxing, theatre actor and writer, to a machine operator at Lockheed). Although he is today best known for noir films (think Cape Fear and The Night of the Hunter), Mitchum acted in varied roles and genres. From one of the best submarine war films ever (The Enemy Below) to an unusual—and endearing—love story in Heaven Knows, Mr Allison; from the angsty medical drama Not as a Stranger to the hard-hitting expression against anti-Semitism, Crossfire… Mitchum was in films of all types.
To commemorate Mitchum’s birth centenary, I found myself in a dilemma. I’ve already reviewed several of his best-known films (not to mention several that are barely known). I’ve even devoted an entire week on Dusted Off to Mitchum. It seemed appropriate to review a Mitchum film: one of the classic noirs? Blog reader Hurdy Gurdy Man suggested Out of the Past or The Big Steal. I decided, instead, to review an unusual film, a sort of cusp between the Westerns that marked Mitchum’s early career and the noirs that marked his later years as an actor. Pursued is a noir Western.
The other day, someone commented on my long-ago list of ten favourite Robert Mitchum roles. It reminded me that I hadn’t watched a Mitchum film in a long, long time (unpardonable, considering he’s one of my favourite actors). And, since Mitchum’s role as the chilling Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter is one of the landmark roles of his career—well, it did seem appropriate to review the film.
This review is, of course, a tribute to Mitchum; it is also a tribute to my uncle, David Vernon Kumar. In the good old days, my uncle was a guitarist with the Hindi film company Filmistan. He was very talented, and though he passed away when I was a child, I remember him as having a great sense of humour and of regaling us with tales of his days in Bombay and the film world.
The connection: one of Vernie Uncle’s favourite tunes was the theme song of River of No Return. It’s a lovely song, and this is a lovely film.
When I told my husband about this post, he said, “Shouldn’t that be ten of your favourite Mitchum characters?” I thought over it, and had to disagree. No; these characters aren’t my favourites. Some of them are wonderful men, but others aren’t—for instance, the characters Mitchum plays in films like Cape Fear and The Night of the Hunter are chillingly evil.
So this, then, is not a list of the most likeable characters Mitchum’s played. They’re a list of the roles he’s excelled in.
I have no compunctions about admitting that when it comes to cinema, frivolity is right up my street. Comedy (even slapstick), romance, war, noir, Western, musical, sword and sandals: all is grist to my mill. Happy endings, the vanquished villain, the long fadeout on the kiss between the beautiful heroine and her handsome hero, and I’m happy too.
Which is why I was surprised at my own reaction to Not as a Stranger. It isn’t frivolous, not by a long shot; the heroine and the hero are ill matched; and the hero (maybe protagonist would be a better word) isn’t even a particularly nice character. Despite all of that, I still liked it—a lot.
When I did my first eye candy post, I put Mitchum in at the top. He may not be classically beautiful, but in my lexicon Mitchum is very drool-worthy! Something to do with the combination of the voice, the face, and those massive shoulders, I guess… Anyway, no Robert Mitchum Week could ever be considered complete without a post that just dwelt on the sheer magnetism of this man. So here goes.
Mitchum’s forte was noir and Western—and war. Though his best-known role in war films is probably that of Brigadier General Norman Cota in The Longest Day, this one’s good too. The Enemy Below doesn’t give Mitchum too much scope to exhibit his acting skills, but it is, overall, a very good war film, suspenseful and with an aura of authenticity that makes it easy to believe all of this action’s actually happening.
I’d been toying with the idea of a `star week’ for a while now, and who better to launch one with than Robert Mitchum? Mitchum was born on August 6th, 1917 (which is why I’m dedicating this week to him on my blog), and is one of my favourite Hollywood stars. Though burdened with—as he himself mentioned—lizard eyes and an anteater nose, not to mention a gut he was perpetually trying to hold in, Mitchum acted in some memorable films: drama, Western, war, comedy, and, most famously, noir.
Over this week, I’ll be reviewing a handful of Mitchum films, showing off some of my favourite Mitchum screen caps (yes, I do find this guy very handsome), and more. You’ll get a glimpse of why I like ‘Old Rumple Eyes’ so much, and I’m hoping some of you out there will be converted!
But, to begin with: Macao. A typical Mitchum noir, somewhat reminiscent of the Bollywood noir one got to see in the late 50’s. Exotic, sinister, not always coherent, but entertaining nevertheless.
I was testing my self-control to see how long I could last without seeing a Robert Mitchum film. Well, I finally succumbed. But yes, this I’ll say: this is a very different Mitchum film from the ones I’ve been reviewing all this while. In Cape Fear (the original film, not the 1991 remake), Mitchum is pitted against Gregory Peck in a chilling tale of an ex-convict out to have his revenge on the man responsible for his conviction.