Welcome to the first edition of Mugshot! This feature will feature bios of famous movie tough guys and girls and the roles that made them icons.
Mr. Cool himself
The first celebrity in the mugbook will be famously nonchalant leading actor Robert Mitchum. Like Bette Davis. Mitchum’s most recognized features are his eyes. In his case, famously hooded and scowling, they could show an air of casual indifference as a hero or incredible menace as a villain. This was used to spectacular effect in Night of the Hunter as the deranged “Reverend” Harry Powell.
Love him or hate him. Night of the Hunter is a truly iconic film
It seems Robert Mitchum was born to be a rebel. By the age of 12, he had already run away from home and was involved in a variety misadventures including working for the CCC as a ditch digger as well as amateur boxing and committing a variety of petty crimes and misdemeanors.
A vagrancy charge led to him being imprisoned to and then escaping from a chain gang in Georgia. After recovering from injuries sustained in the escape, he hopped a freight to California. The next four years were spent working as a poet, ghost writer and amateur theater actor before he got a job in the aviation industry. It was stress from this job that led him to try his hand at acting. After several bit parts and villain roles, success in 30 Seconds Over Tokyo and Nevada led to him being cast in the smash hit GI Joe. Which led to further starring roles.
Equally at home as leading man or villain, Mitchum had a surprisingly long career because of this versatility. He had no problems playing in a range of productions from A-list productions to small productions such as the excellent Thunder Road, which was produced and bankrolled by Mitchum himself. B-list production credits such as White Witch Doctor (1953) and Where Danger Lives (1950) are seen along with top list productions such as Macao (1952) and Story of GI Joe (1945). Which earned Mitchum a best supporting actor nomination.
He also had no problem working in a range of movie types including family dramas, suspense, film noir, action, westerns and military films.
Some career highlights include his role as a destroyer escort captain facing off against Curd Jurgens’ U-boat captain in The Enemy Below.
As fearsome ex-con Max Cady, in the suspense great Cape Fear.
Anti-hero moonshiner Lucas Doolin in the excellent Thunder Road.
This carefully crafted indifference extended beyond the screen into the leading man’s real life. This was shown when he was convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession is 1948 and spent some time in jail. Far from ending his career as predicted by the press and older Hollywood. This conviction, mugshot and imprisonment in a prison colony only served to endear him to the younger generations of the ’50s and early ’60s who saw him as a fellow rebel and non-conformist.
Mitchum also clashed famously with famous people such as Robert DeNiro, Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne, who all considered him unserious or untalented. Wayne even fired him from one set as uncontrollable, after Mitchum destroyed an office and threw a member of the film crew into a river during a dispute.
Other directors were able to tap into the considerable talent beneath his enigmatic surface and many Mitchum performances stand out as some of the best in the business.
Mitchum’s career continued into the ’90s, the now elderly actor still lending his still considerable talents to a range of film and TV productions. His voice work in Tombstone (1993) being the last major production he was involved with.
A heavy smoker throughout his life, Robert Mitchum passed away from lung cancer and emphysema in 1997, just shy of 80 years old and with 135 acting credits. All in all, not a bad run for a man who didn’t consider himself a “serious” actor.