Robert Mitchum(1917-1997)

     Did anyone define the tough guy better than Robert Mitchum? Mitchum's bulky frame and crooked facial features were planted on screen as a warning. Don't fool with this guy. Not only did his many movie roles define this star, his off-screen reputation as a brawler and hard-nosed drinker helped perpetuate his screen persona.
     I liked Mitchum in so many movies, but none better than the psychopathic Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter. Mitchum's slightly over the top performance melds frightening fairy tale with an underlying nastiness. It's emphasized preserved by the casual delivery of the actor. Casting a black shadow against the evening sky and melodiously crooning a hymn to the moon, I rarely have felt a more chilling presence in a film. Later, in Cape Fear, Mitchum found another permutation of the Harry Powell character as the twisted Max Cady. In The Lusty Men, the very fine Nicholas Ray drama about rodeo cowboys, Mitchum brings amazing reality to his role as bulldogging Jeff McCloud. He ignites sparks across the black and white screen opposite the sexy Susan Hayward.
     Out of the Past is the film that defines Mitchum's noir persona. The actor's hooded eyes and smooth, deep voice offer up a vision of  a man beyond fear. This same casual force carried him successfully through so many films. The Yakuza is a splendid example at Mitchum at his best as he tangles with the tough guys of the Japanese mob. The remake of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep provided another noirish opportunity for Mitchum to strut his stuff.
      Westerns were second nature tot he rugged star. Whether toiling in a latter day Hawks feature like El Dorado or in the early noir western Blood on the Moon, Mitchum rode rough in the saddle. A sleeper of a Mitchum film that's lots of fun is The Wrath of God with Rita Hayworth and a young Frank Langella as co-stars. Even in his last film, the Jim Jarmusch revisionist Western starring Johnny Depp,  Dead Man, Mitchum commands the screen in his few prime minutes.
     Over a long career Mitchum appeared in more than one hundred films, many of them memorable. Truly a force of the screen and star of major magnitude, this is one actor that was almost always fun to watch.

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