Robert Mitchum being held hostage by a fan, c. 1954.
Robert Mitchum playing a mandolin while exiting a hotel in France, 1954.
Robert Mitchum and Dorothy Mitchum, c. 1948.
Robert Mitchum enjoys a cigarette and some tea, c. 1940s
Robert Mitchum is an actor who does not like to improvise, and liked to have all of his dialogue in his hands a few days at least before shooting. I was a little bit intimidated by him because, hell, he’s Robert Mitchum, one of my all-time favorite screen actors. But he’s a very self-effacing, really funny, intelligent man, and it was a real honor to work with him. But it was also very funny. He has a shotgun which is a prop in the scene. I knew he had some guns and thought he was maybe interested in them, so I got several vintage shotguns form the period for him to choose, put them in my car and drove from LA to Santa Barbara where he lived, and went to his house.
His wife let me in and I laid out the guns on a carpet in the living room to let him come and look at the shotguns. And he came in and said, “What the hell’s this?” and I said, “Well, I wanted you to choose the gun that you use in the film,” and he said, “Why the hell should I care which one it is, you’re the damn director!” I had spent a day going to the place, picking the guns, researching everything and I said, “You don’t care which one it is?” and he said, “I gotta hold the damn thing in several scenes, right?” and I said, “Yeah”, and he said, “Well, which one’s the lightest?” (Laughter)
Also, when we were shooting that scene when he was talking to the three killers, he was basically in two positions: one leaning over the desk and one standing up. I kept shooting it with different lenses and different sizes, and he got confused where we were picking up a certain section from and he said, “Well dammit Jim, was I in the receiving position, or was I fully erect?” and I said, “You were fully erect,” and he said, “Goddamn right I was!” (Laughter) What an amazing man I tell you.
—Jim Jarmusch on directing Mitchum in his final role in 1996’s Dead Man
Yes, he put out two records actually and wrote music for Thunder Road and used his voice in The Night of the Hunter, Rachel and the Stranger, and River of No Return.
Robert Mitchum photographed with his wife Dorothy and sons Christopher and James, c. late 1940s.
Robert Mitchum in The Grass Is Greener (1960)
The game of defining Robert Mitchum is widely played by many, including the man himself, but I have yet to find a sure winner at it. A director who knows Mitchum well told me, “This guy is one of the most fascinating characters we have in Hollywood, far more complex than Brando or Sinatra. He’s a strange, lonely man in almost constant conflict with himself. There’s Mitchum the primitive and Mitchum the sophisticate. I think he really wants the sophisticate to win out, but for some strange reason he feels comfortable only with the primitive and allows it to predominate.” The public knows mostly Mitchum the primitive. Once in 1953, for example, Mitchum, who has constant problems with telephones and often stops up their works with wads of chewing gum to prevent them from ringing, attempted to get a dial tone from the operator to make an outside call. When the dial tone was not forthcoming, Mitchum destroyed his dressing room. The Los Angeles Herald-Express reported: Robert definitely made a partial wreck out of the room. He said to have jerked two phones from the wall, to have broken a glass, on his neon-lighted dressing table and to have kicked a hole in a big ceramic pot holding plant.After that he proceeded to the set and is said to have told assembled fellow workers, “If they treat me like an animal, I’ll behave like an animal.”
—Bill Davidson "The Many Moods of Robert Mitchum" 1962
1967: 809th Engineers at Camp Ruam Chit Chai outside Sahon Nakon in northeast Thailand. Bad boy Robert Mitchum arrived via helicopter drinking beer.