Robert Mitchum was an American actor who was in over 110 films and TV series over the course of his career. He is ranked as #23 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 50 greatest American screen legends of all time. His first credited named role was as Quinn in the 1943 film Border Patrol. That same year he appeared in the films Follow the Band, Beyond the Last Frontier, Cry ‘Havoc’ and Gung Ho! as well as several Hopalong Cassidy films including Colt Comrades, Bar 20, False Colors, and Riders of the Deadline. In 1944, he starred in the western film Nevada as Jim Lacy aka Nevada and a year later in the film West of the Pecos as Pecos Smith. During the 1940s, he also cast in the films Undercurrent (1946), Crossfire (1947), Out of the Past (1947) and The Big Steal (1949).
He co-starred in films with several Golden Age actresses such as Ava Gardner in My Forbidden Past (1951), Jane Russell in His Kind of Woman (1951), Lizabeth Scott in The Racket (1951), again with Russell in Macao (1952), Susan Hayward in The Lusty Men (1952), Marilyn Monroe in River of No Return (1954), and Rita Hayworth in Fire Down Below (1957). He also played numerous military roles such as playing Colonel Steve Janowski in One Minute to Zero (1952), Corporal Allison, USMC in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), Captain Murrell in The Enemy Below (1957), Brigadier General Norman Cota in The Longest Day (1962), Lieutenant Colonel Barney Adams in Man in the Middle (1963), Admiral William F. Halsey in Midway (1976) and Colonel Rogers in Breakthrough (1979).
Among his best-known films of the 1970s were the crime stories The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Yakuza and Farewell, My Lovely (in which he played Philip Marlowe), along with David Lean’s epic drama, Ryan’s Daughter. His later roles in the 1980s up until 1995 included Nightkill (1980), That Championship Season (1982), Mr. North (1988), Scrooged (1988), Cape Fear (1991), and Waiting for Sunset (1995). He was also the narrator for the 1993 western film Tombstone.
His television work included playing Capt. Victor “Pug” Henry in the mini-series The Winds of War (1983) and again in War and Remembrance (1988). He was also in the 1985 miniseries North and South with Patrick Swayze and the 1989 miniseries Brotherhood of the Rose with Connie Sellecca. He had a reoccurring role in the TV series A Family for Joe (1990) and African Skies (1992).
Robert Mitchum’s lesser known aspect in Music
One of the lesser-known aspects of Mitchum’s career was his forays into music, both as singer and composer. Critic Greg Adams writes, “Unlike most celebrity vocalists, Robert Mitchum actually had musical talent.” Mitchum’s voice was often used instead of that of a professional singer when his character sang in his films. Notable productions featuring Mitchum’s own singing voice included Rachel and the Stranger, River of No Return, and The Night of the Hunter. After hearing traditional calypso music and meeting artists such as Mighty Sparrow and Lord Invader while filming Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison in the Caribbean islands of Tobago, he recorded Calypso – is like so … in March 1957. On the album, released through Capitol Records, he emulated the calypso sound and style, even adopting the style’s unique pronunciations and slang. A year later, he recorded a song he had written for Thunder Road, titled “The Ballad of Thunder Road”. The country-style song became a modest hit for Mitchum, reaching number 69 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. The song was included as a bonus track on a successful reissue of Calypso … and helped market the film to a wider audience.
Although Mitchum continued to use his singing voice in his film work, he waited until 1967 to record his follow-up record, That Man, Robert Mitchum, Sings. The album, released by Nashville-based Monument Records, took him further into country music, and featured songs similar to “The Ballad of Thunder Road”. “Little Old Wine Drinker Me”, the first single, was a top-10 hit at country radio, reaching number nine there, and crossed over onto mainstream radio, where it peaked at number 96. Its follow-up, “You Deserve Each Other”, also charted on the Billboard Country Singles chart. He sang the title song to the Western Young Billy Young, made in 1969. Mitchum co-wrote and composed the music for an oratorio which was produced by Orson Welles at the Hollywood Bowl.
Classic Film Noir