Tag Archives: Robert Mitchum

Robert Mitchum Centennial

6 Aug

Robert Mitchum was born on August 6th, 1917, 100 years ago today. (My father was born less than two months later.) I was born on August 6th also, on Mitchum’s 36th birthday. Mitchum died on July 1, 1997, a little over a month shy of his 80th birthday. He happens to be my favorite movie star. I wrote about him here three times already, covering his debut film, BORDER PATROL (1943); his 1949 film, HOLIDAY AFFAIR; and in a piece about Sam Fuller’s THE BIG RED ONE, his appearance in THE LONGEST DAY (1962), where he played the general leading the attack on Omaha Beach, site of the bloodiest fighting on D-Day.

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The Art of EL DORADO

29 Jun

50 years ago today, EL DORADO opened in New York City. It was the next-to-last film directed by Howard Hawks and it starred John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. I didn’t see it in 1967; I had to wait till it came back as part of a double feature with William Wyler’s last movie, THE LIBERATION OF L.B. JONES, in 1970, shown at the Earl Theater on 161st Street in the Bronx, just a block away from Yankee Stadium. It’s something of a follow-up to Hawks’ earlier western, RIO BRAVO (1959), which had a similar situation of a small band of lawmen holding a powerful prisoner and fending off attempts by the prisoner’s army of gunslingers to free him. In both films, one of the lawmen is a drunk and has to sober up fast when all hell breaks loose. I wrote about RIO BRAVO in my Dean Martin Centennial piece and I’ll write more about EL DORADO in my upcoming Robert Mitchum Centennial piece, slated for August 6, and in an upcoming piece on the best films of 1967. RIO BRAVO is arguably the better film, offering more layered characters and focusing less on plot mechanics than on character relationships and interactions. It’s a more complex, serious film while EL DORADO is more light-hearted and entertaining. RIO BRAVO is more demanding and, ultimately, more satisfying, but I’ve seen EL DORADO much more often (about ten times to RIO BRAVO’s four or five). It has more clever scenes and imaginative bits of action and great chemistry among its group of lead actors (Wayne, Mitchum, James Caan, Arthur Hunnicutt, Charlene Holt). It also introduces the drunk character (Mitchum) when he’s sober and in full command of his faculties, so we know what he’s like before he sinks into an alcoholic daze. In RIO BRAVO, we just have to accept Wayne’s word that the drunk (Dean Martin) was once his best man with a gun, since we only see him in his drunk phase for roughly the first half of the movie.

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Paris is a Movie Lover’s Town, Part 2

20 Jul

Sunday, my last full day in Paris, found me in the morning waiting on line in the rain to enter the Musee d’Orsay, where a Van Gogh exhibit awaited.

It was the last day of the exhibit, so I’m glad I got to see it even though I had to wait on line a second time inside the museum to see it. I’ve seen Van Gogh paintings before, but not so many of them in one exhibit–and in Paris where most of these paintings originally found their home! No photography was allowed in the exhibit, so I didn’t get any shots, but here’s a famous one that was included:

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Merry Christmas: HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949) with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh

22 Dec

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET Lite. That may be a convenient way to sum up HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949) with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh, a Christmas-themed Hollywood movie that was obviously inspired by the success of the earlier film. It has a New York department store setting (at least part of the time) and a lawyer in love with a beautiful widow with a precocious young child. There’s even a kindly old man (the department store head in an unlikely turn of behavior) who functions as a Santa Claus figure and a scowling floorwalker at the store who functions as a villain in the way some of the department store personnel in the earlier film did. However, the real hero is not the lawyer, but a newly-unemployed drifter who rather boldly enters the life of the widow and child and diverts their affections from the lawyer. While the adorable little tyke (a boy here, not a girl as in MIRACLE) plays a huge part in the action, the film is really about the interplay between the mother, Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh), and the two grown men who basically jockey for her affections, lawyer Carl Davis and the drifter, Steve Mason. Mason is played by Robert Mitchum and Davis is played by Wendell Corey, so it’s an unfair competition right from the start, only because Mitchum had so much more natural charm than Corey. But the movie doesn’t try to stack the deck in Mitchum’s favor. Quite the contrary. The character of Carl Davis is a nice guy and he’s genuinely gentle, tender and affectionate with Connie. He clearly loves her and would make a good husband, arguably more so than the dashing but impetuous Mason.

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BORDER PATROL (1943): Robert Mitchum’s film debut

11 Apr

I’ve been on a B-western kick lately and was happy to learn that BORDER PATROL (1943), one of the Hopalong Cassidy westerns contained on the Cowboy Legends Collector’s Set (from Echo Bridge), was indeed the film debut of my all-time favorite movie star, Robert Mitchum.

I’d long known that he’d gotten his start in the series of Hopalong Cassidy westerns released by United Artists in the 1940s, but I’d never had the opportunity to see any of them.

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Sam Fuller’s THE BIG RED ONE: Screenplay to movie to novel to autobiography

20 Feb

Late last year I read The Big Red One, a novel by filmmaker Sam Fuller, based on his World War II experiences. It was published in 1980, the same year as the film he made with that title, and was based, I believe, on the film’s screenplay on which Fuller had been laboring for decades. I then read the portions of Fuller’s autobiography that dealt with the war. Titled A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking (2002), it was like reading a streamlined version of the novel. Everything he recounted in the autobiography was in the novel. I’d seen the movie, THE BIG RED ONE, when it came out in 1980 in the studio-mandated 113-minute version that was much shorter than Fuller’s intended cut, but at this point I’d never seen the reconstructed version of 162 min. that came out in 2004, seven years after Fuller’s death, even though I had the DVD.

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