Robert Mitchum, one of the iconic stars of the golden age of Hollywood, had the real skill of not seeming to care about his acting. Lazy of drawl and the epitome of tough guy appeal Mitchum made his name in film noirs of the late forties and finished his career playing in big budget TV mini-series and in between made some real top notch movies. Here, in our opinion, are five of his best.
Out of the Past (1947)
Mitchum’s past catches up with him in this web of deceit and double and triple crossings. Greer first manipulates underworld gambling czar Douglas then fixes her crosshairs on Mitchum, sent by Douglas to find her. The pair is then set upon by Mitchum’s former investigative partner. All of them end up, in noir fashion, dead. A seminal film noir. Pulp novelist James M. Cain did uncredited script work.
Director: Jacques Tournier
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Steve Brodie, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Jane Greer
Rachel and the Stranger (1948)
Not quite a musical, not quite a romance, not quite a historical adventure, but wholly entertaining. A widower in the frontier Northwest, Holden decides his son (Gray) needs looking after, so he buys (then marries) housekeeper Young, but dwells in the past. A wandering scout (Mitchum) pays a visit, and seeing Young’s neglect, courts her (even pulling out a guitar and singing a few tunes). Holden becomes jealous, and both men nearly lose her, until they draw together during an Indian attack.
Director: Norman Foster
Cast: Sara Haden, William Holden, Robert Mitchum, Tom Tully, Loretta Young
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
In this eerie meditation on good and evil, a murderous “preacher” with the elemental forces of “love” and “hate” tattooed on each hand relentlessly hunts two small children across the Depression-era Bible Belt to get at their dead father’s stolen fortune. He marries then kills their mother (Winters), and the children flee on a nighttime river odyssey to the protection of Gish. In the only directorial effort by Laughton (from a screenplay by Agee), Mitchum turns in the performance of his career, with Gish as costar and camerawork by Cortez, of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). A dreamlike parable laced with stunningly orchestrated symbolism. Despite current critical acclaim, it was a box-office flop and was nominated for no Academy Awards.
Director: Charles Laughton
Cast: Don Beddoe, James Gleason, Peter Graves, Robert Mitchum, Evelyn Varden, Shelley Winters
The Sundowners (1960)
By the late ’50s, American studios were experimentally shooting an occasional feature in Australia. This colorful story, set in the ’20s and directed by Fred Zinnemann, features Mitchum and Kerr as a hardworking drover and his wife who wander the continent working toward their dream of buying a farm. Their family’s travels bring them into contact with outsized characters (including former ship’s captain Ustinov) and Mitchum engages in his share of fighting and drinking. Their dreams nearly come to pass when Mitchum wins a horse that turns out to be a swift runner. The exotic vistas of Australia provide a harshly beautiful backdrop for drama and adventures. Based on Jon Cleary’s novel. Golden Globe for Special Achievements. Academy Award Nominations: 5, including Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actress: Deborah Kerr.
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Cast: Michael Anderson, Glynis Johns, Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, Peter Ustinov
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
The iconic cynicism of Robert Mitchum and the starkly portrayed mean streets of Boston highlight this gritty drama about a weapons dealer who keeps running guns while simultaneously acting as an informant for the cops and the US Treasury Department. Meanwhile, the mob sends the dealer’s best friend to rub him out.
Director: Peter Yates
Cast: Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Steven Keats, Robert Mitchum, Alex Rocco, Mitchell Ryan