Robert Mitchum

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Robert Mitchum (1955)
Robert Mitchum (1976)
Robert Mitchum at the Cannes Film Festival (1991)

Robert Mitchum (born August 6, 1917 in Bridgeport , Connecticut , USA as Robert Charles Durman Mitchum , † July 1, 1997 in Santa Barbara , California ) was an American actor who appeared in over 120 films between 1942 and 1995 and was also seen in some television productions. With his decidedly casual, minimalist-laconic style of representation, he became one of the most famous Hollywood actors of his time. He was used in particular as a cynical lead actor in westerns ( river of no return ) and film noirs ( golden poison ). As one of the first great Hollywood stars, he also took on rogue roles, for example in The Night of the Hunter and A Bait for the Beast .

life and work

Early life

Robert Mitchum lost his father, a railroad worker, in an industrial accident when he was two years old. His mother and stepfather raised him along with his siblings in Connecticut , New York, and Delaware . Mitchum's brother John (1919-2001) also worked as a Hollywood actor from 1947, but did not reach the level of fame of his brother.

Robert Mitchum spent part of his youth wandering the country. At the age of 14 he was convicted of vagrancy and used as a chain convict, but was able to escape. He took on various odd jobs and worked as a ghostwriter for the astrologer Carroll Righter . He was also employed by Lockheed Aircraft , where he made friends with the still completely unknown Marilyn Monroe (then Norma Jeane Dougherty). In Long Beach , Robert Mitchum joined an amateur theater group. From 1942 he worked as an actor in Hollywood.

Film career

Employed in Hollywood since 1942, Mitchum succeeded after a few minor roles in 1945 as Lt. Walker made his breakthrough as a film actor in battle storms on Monte Cassino . He received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of a young soldier . Mitchum was never nominated for an Oscar again. The athletic, 1.85 meter tall actor with the imposing chest size became an unmistakable appearance and was well received by the audience. After his breakthrough in Hollywood, he established himself as a sought-after leading actor in all genres and took on roles in numerous westerns, thrillers, comedies and war films. Mitchum was one of the most popular actors in Hollywood until the early 1970s and was seen in 135 film and television roles between 1942 and 1997.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s Robert Mitchum was one of the most important protagonists of film noir and played in classics such as Goldenes Poison (1947) and Angel Face (1952). In 1949 he served a brief prison sentence for using marijuana , but this did not affect his film career. On the contrary, his stay in prison helped to consolidate his myth as a notorious "bad boy". Mitchum was regularly seen in war films and often portrayed officers and commanders, for example in Duel in the Atlantic (1957) The Longest Day (1962) and Battle for Midway (1976). He was also one of the most popular western stars of his time, for example in River of No Return (1954) and El Dorado (1966).

Two of his most famous roles showed Mitchum as psychopathic villain: In The Night of the Hunter , he acted in 1955 as a murderous preacher Harry Powell migrant who murders in the name of God; in A Bait for the Beast (1962) he was seen as the sadistic criminal Max Cady, who terrorizes a family. After completing the filming of the thriller The Night Of The Hunter ( The Night of the Hunter ) in 1955 told the director Charles Laughton that Mitchum was the best actor in the world and none of the role of Macbeth could play better than this. In 1970 Mitchum played the rather untypical leading role of a meek village school teacher in David Lean's epic Ryan's daughter , which, however, turned out to be a big box-office flop. From the late 1970s onwards, there were hardly any profitable cinema roles for the actor. In the 1980s, "Mitch", his nickname, gradually shifted his focus of work to television, where he could be seen in series such as Torches in the Storm, among other things . He took on supporting roles in the films The Spirits I Called (1988) and Cape Fear (1991), a remake of A Bait for the Beast . Mitchum played his last major film role in 1995 in Jim Jarmusch's Western Dead Man as John Dickinson .

In many films, Robert Mitchum cultivated the image of the taciturn, apparently indifferent man with the superior, suspicious look, who handled his affairs confidently and was also very popular with women. He "underplayed" his roles so consistently that he was sometimes accused of lacking acting talent. As one of the first leading Hollywood stars, he also deliberately took on rogue roles and thus became a role model for later actors. In the course of the decades, Mitchum became an almost ritually revered actor, who cultivated a "coolness" in body language, facial expressions and speaking style, which was to shape the style for generations of film actors. In later years, for example, actors such as Steve McQueen , Clint Eastwood , Alain Delon or Sylvester Stallone stood out for their similar style of presentation. The film critic Roger Ebert called Mitchum his favorite actor.

Private life and person

In Hollywood, Robert Mitchum was feared due to his cynical attitude and his publicly expressed, sharp-tongued swipes at the film industry and its superficiality, especially in his later years. For example, Mitchum expressed the opinion that acting is a simple profession ("I have three facial expressions: look left, look right and look straight ahead") and that so-called method acting is complete nonsense. With Shirley MacLaine , film partner in Game for Two (1962) and Always with Another (1964), Mitchum had an extra-marital love affair in the early 1960s.

On July 1, 1997, five weeks before his 80th birthday and one day before James Stewart , his co-star in "The Dead Sleep Better," the lifelong smoker died of complications from lung cancer . He left his wife and childhood sweetheart Dorothy Mitchum (1919-2014), with whom he had been married for a total of 57 years since 1940. His sons James Mitchum and Christopher Mitchum are also actors, and their daughter Petrina (Trina) Mitchum is a writer. Mitchum's grandchildren Bentley Mitchum and Carrie Mitchum are also actors, as is his younger brother John Mitchum , who died in 2001. Another grandson, Kian Mitchum, works as a model.

Filmography (selection)


Discography (selection)


  • Little Old Wine Drinker Me / Walker's Woods (Monument MN 45-1006)
  • That Man Right There / You Deserve Each Other (Monument MN 45-1025)
  • What Is This Generation Coming To / Mama Looka Boo Boo (Silver Capitol F3672)
  • The Ballad Of Thunder Road / My Honey's Lovin 'Arms (Capitol 3741)


  • Calypso - is like so ... (LP, 1957, re-edition: 1984, re-edition on CD: 1996)
  • That Man (LP, 1967)
  • That Man (CD, 1996; RI Calypso - Is Like So / That Man)
  • Tall Dark Stranger , (CD, 1997; songs for the film 'Rachel And The Stranger' from 1948 and the theme song of the film 'Young Billy Young' as well as some pop standards that he recorded as demos. The enclosed 72-page book shows many rare film posters, lobby cards, programs, filmography and other rare material)
  • The Wrath Of God (LP, 1972)

Documentary film

  • Robert Mitchum - Star Reluctant (Original Title: Robert Mitchum - The Reluctant Actor) . TV documentary, USA 1991, 60 minutes
  • Robert Mitchum - Hollywoods Bad Boy , TV documentary for Arte (F), director: Stéphane Benhamou, FR 2017, 55 minutes


  • Michael Althen: Robert Mitchum. His films - his life . Heyne-Bücher, Volume 32, Heyne-Filmbibliothek, No. 101. Heyne, Munich 1987, 287 pages, ISBN 3-453-86103-5 .
  • Klaus Bittermann: The Crazy Never Die: American rebels in popular culture (= Critica diabolis , Volume 185), Edition Tiamat, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-89320-153-2 .

Web links

Commons : Robert Mitchum  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. [1] "Robert Mitchum Talks About Marilyn Monroe", published on June 14, 2010 (Eng.)
  2. See Michael Althen: Robert Mitchum, his films, his life, Heyne 1986, p. 173
  3. [2] "Robert Mitchum interviewed by Roger Ebert", December 6, 2007 (engl.)
  4. IMDb Quotes
  5. [3] "Bandit und Biederling", Der Spiegel, July 7, 1997
  6. ^ Obituary for Dorothy Mitchum at the Hollywood Reporter
  7. , "Kian Mitchum." ( Memento from December 19, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) The Fashion Spot, April 28, 2007.