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
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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