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Robert Mitchum: Real American Badass
liquorhead - 09/08/00


"The only difference between me and other actors is I've spent more time in jail."-Robert Mitchum

When you see actors and musicians who live their lives as if they are real life tough guys, it's funny to remember that half of these guys experiences with the police are from watching COPS on TV.

Take Kid Rock, for instance. He wears the monicker AMERICAN BADASS, but with the "roughest" part of his past consisting of being a member of a breakdancing crew named "The Furious Funkers", you realize that AMERICAN CANDYASS is a more fitting title.

Don't get me wrong. Being in and out of jail alone is no way to deserve a badass title (I'm sure nobody would throw Jim Bakker or Robert Downey, Jr. that nickname). But when you lead an amazing "real life" as well as produce entertainment that truly portrays the BADASS image, you've got what it takes to be called that for real.

Pound for pound, you just don't get more badass than Robert Mitchum.

Let's just look at this guy's childhood for a moment. His father was killed in a train accident when he was just 2, and after 12 years of living with his Aunt, he ran away from home and wandered the roads. He made ends meet by rolling hapless bums he came across, and while strolling through Georgia, he was picked up for vagrancy and forced to be a part of a chain gang.

Obviously not wanting to spend his days splittin' rocks with hammers, Mitchum escaped after 15 days and headed out west, an instant real life fugitive.

Mithcum continued his badass ways by becoming a professional boxer and fought in 27 fights. The abuse from angry fists eventually gave him the sleepy eyes and busted nose that became his trademark in years to come.

His experiences that followed were even more bizarre and varied. He was a ghost writer for a popular astrologer, a poet, and worked for a while at Lockheed in a job that was so intense and stressful that he was blinded for a short time from the pressure.

When he finally got his first break in the film industry, by getting cast in the 1943 film THE DANCING MASTERS, he went on to appear in 13 more movies...ALL IN THAT SAME YEAR.

X-E fans should take note that in 1945 Mitchum starred in the film THE STORY OF GI JOE. Yep, nearly 25 years before the toy, Mitchum was laying down the foundation for what would later evolve into a worldwide phenomenon. It's hard to think that without Mitchum we may not have had Cobra Commander, but it's true! And don't think it was just an act, Mitchum spent time in The Army for real.

A few years later, Mitchum embraced controversy by getting busted for Marijuana use, and actually spent 60 days in prison. After his release, it only jacked up his image as a badass and got him more parts than ever before.

You can certainly check out the gobload of films Mitchum has been in elsewhere, but one of his most amazing was NIGHT OF THE HUNTER directed by Charles Laughton (of Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Captain Bligh fame). Mitchum plays a crazy preacher who marries a young (and surprisingly hot and sexy) Shelly Winters to get at $10,000 she has. After drowning her in her own car, he hunts down her children to get the money they've swiped, in one of the more eerie cat and mouse games ever captured on film.

My grandma told me it was the scariest movie she's ever seen, and the creepy stark black and white photography used really adds a brooding sense of fear unlike anything I've experienced. Mitchum's low key performance is amazing.

In on of the film's more memorable scenes, Mitchum explains exactly why he has the words "LOVE" and "HATE" tattoeed on his fingers (which was later used in a tribute in Spike Lee's DO THE RIGHT THING with the character Radio Raheem).

"Ah, little lad, you're staring at my fingers. Would you like me to tell you the little story of right-hand/left-hand? The story of good and evil? H-A-T-E! It was with this left hand that old brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. L-O-V-E! You see these fingers, dear hearts? These fingers has veins that run straight to the soul of man. The right hand, friends, the hand of love. Now watch, and I'll show you the story of life. Those fingers, dear hearts, is always a-warring and a-tugging, one agin t'other. Now watch 'em! Old brother left hand, left hand he's a fighting, and it looks like love's a goner. But wait a minute! Hot dog, love's a winning! Yessirree! It's love that's won, and old left hand hate is down for the count!"

Mitchum went on to play a ton of other great roles, most noteably the psychotic Nick Cady from the original CAPE FEAR. Anyone who appreciates the amazing performance that Robert DeNiro gave in the Martin Scorsese remake has to be impressed with Mitchum's take on the same part.

(Funny aside as far as how much times have changed since 1961 when the first film came out...In the 1991 version (which Mitchum also appears) DeNiro is trying to dig up information about Nick Nolte's flight at the airport, and encounters much privacy and security defensiveness from the ticketing agent until he concocts a convincing sob story), while in the original, Mitchum merely walks up, asks what flight Gregory Peck left on, and is told with no delay.)

Mitchum even recorded a Calypso album in 1957! Truly a jack of all trades.

As time went on, Mitchum starred in one of TV's more popular miniseries, THE WINDS OF WAR, became a spokesperson for The Beef industry, and had a fun crazy part in the Johnny Depp film DEAD MAN before dying of lung cancer in his sleep in 1997.

Badass attributes aside, he also had time to be a real man and was a long time good husband and father, as well.

Ultimately, what I like best about Mitchum was that he didn't seem to take his film career or self too seriously. And in the process created some of the more honestly amazing characters ever.

I'll end this with a quote from Mitchum that sums that all up nicely...

""Years ago, I saved up a million dollars from acting - a lot of money then - and I spent it all on a horse farm in Tucson. Now when I go down there, I look at the place and I realize my whole acting career adds up to a million dollars worth of horseshit"

-liquorhead