Full name, Robert Charles Duran Mitchum; born August 6, 1917, in Bridgeport,CT; died of emphysema and lung cancer, July 1, 1997, in Santa Barbara, CA. Actor, director, writer. During his lengthy show business career, Mitchum was amajor star who was cast in more than 125 films, often in tough-guy roles. Awriter for CNN Interactive called him "a rugged leading man and sometime badboy who defined cool before Hollywood knew what it was." Mitchum's talents allowed him to take on a variety of roles, from villains and heroic soldiers toOld West lawmen and psychotic killers. According to the Washington Post, "Mitchum, known for his self-deprecating humor, described himself as a 'poet with an ax.' He said that 'when producers have a part that's hard to cast, theysay "Send for Mitchum; he'll do anything."' He seemed to agree, saying 'I don't care what I play; I'll play Polish gays, women, midgets, anything.'"
Born in Connecticut, Mitchum lived for a time in New York City before he lefthome at the age of twelve. In performed a variety of odd jobs, including work in a local theater as a stagehand, director, and actor, as well as work asa aircraft assembler, deckhand, ditch digger, nightclub bouncer, shoe salesman, coal miner, boxer, and radio script writer. He was also arrested for vagrancy in Georgia at age sixteen and was sentenced to time on a chain gang.
His first film work began in the 1940s as he was signed to appear in westernsfeaturing Hopalong Cassidy. In 1943 alone he made more than a dozen films. The decade also saw Mitchum in movies such as Thirty Seconds Over Toyko, Holiday Affair, and The Story of G.I. Joe. He was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for the last film. The decade also ended with Mitchum in trouble again with the law. He was arrested on charges of marijuana possession and served two months on a prison honor farm. "The drug charge could have destroyed some careers, but at the time it enhanced his image as a rebel," reported the New York Times. In the 1950s he starred in motion pictures such as Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Fire Down Below, and The Wonderful Country. In 1962 he appeared as a psychotic killer in Cape Fear, and he later made a cameo appearance in the 1991 remake starring Robert De Niro. Other 1960s appearances included roles in The Sundowners, What a Way to Go!, El Dorado, and Five Card Stud. In the 1970s and 1980s he worked in movies such as Ryan's Daughter, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Last Tycoon, Scrooged, and That Championship Season. His later work included the opening narration in the western Tombstone, starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, and a role in Dead Man. Mitchumalso made television appearances in the miniseries The Winds of War, War andRemembrance, and North and South, and he appeared on the series A Family forJoe and Family Man. "Mitchum's trademarks were his athletic 6-foot-1 frame, heavy-lidded eyes and a casual attitude that could unerringly convey either stoic heroism or devious sadism," explained a Chicago Tribune writer. "He parlayed these qualities, plus his instinctive gifts and unflappability, into a career playing movie tough guys of all varieties." The London Times surmised: "A gift for impressionists, Mitchum was a big man with sleepy eyes, a laconicvoice and drooping shoulders whose world-weary cynicism was often laced withdry humour. He could be menacing or charming and was sometimes both at once."He received a lifetime achievement award from American Theatre Arts in 1983and a Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992, but never was honoredwith an Academy Award.