By Damien Love
SOLID, DAD, CRAZY
(London: B. T. Batsford, 2002)
Review by Dr.
Central Texas Historical Association
January 4, 2023
certainly lived a full life. Hobo, womanizer (though married to the
same woman for fifty-seven years), hard drinker, dope smoker, convict,
singer, and actor "an outsider who built a career playing outsiders"Robert
Mitchum appeared in more than one hundred films over a fifty-year
career. Born in Connecticut in 1917, the iconic Hollywood tough guy
died of lung cancer at the age of 79 in California. Although praised
by such directors as Howard Hawks, Charles Laughton, and John Huston,
Mitchum coolly belittled his profession, declaring, "This is not a
tough job. You read a script. If you like the part and the money is
O.K., you do it. Then you remember your lines. You show up on time.
You do what the director tells you to do. When you finish, you rest
and then go on to the next part. That's it." Moreover, he shrugged
when it came to his own ability, asserting that, "I have two acting
styles: with and without a horse." And Mitchum also nonchalantly claimed,
"Movies bore me; especially my own."
Despite his dismissive comments, the American Film Institute ranked
him number 23 on the list of the Greatest Male Stars of Classic American
Cinema. Over such a lengthy career, Mitchum starred in motion pictures
with a host of Hollywood luminaries, including John Wayne, Marilyn
Monroe, Dean Martin, Rita Hayworth, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Gregory
Peck, Jane Russell, Lee Marvin, Charlton Heston, Olivia de Havilland,
Henry Fonda, and Deborah Kerr. In addition to Hawks, Laughton, and
Huston, such important filmmakers as Arthur Penn, Don Siegel, Nicholas
Ray, David Lean, Otto Preminger, Sidney Pollack, William A. Wellman,
Edward Dmytryk, Vincente Minnelli, Henry Hathaway, Raoul Walsh, Stanley
Kramer, and Fred Zinnemann directed him. Mitchum's motion pictures
include WE'VE NEVER BEEN LICKED (1943), THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO
(1944), 1945's THE STORY OF G.I. JOE (for which he received his sole
Oscar nomination), WEST OF THE PECOS (1945), OUT OF THE PAST (1947),
CROSSFIRE (1947), THE BIG STEAL (1949), MACAO (1952), THE LUSTY MEN
(1952), RIVER OF NO RETURN (1954), TRACK OF THE CAT (1954), THE NIGHT
OF THE HUNTER (1955), NOT AS A STRANGER (1955), HEAVEN KNOWS, MR.
ALISON (1957), THUNDER ROAD (1958), THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY (1959),
HOME FROM THE HILL (1960), THE SUNDOWNERS (1960), CAPE FEAR (1962),
THE LONGEST DAY (1962), EL DORADO (1966), RYAN'S DAUGHTER (1970),
THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (1973), FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975), and
the miniseries epic THE WINDS OF WAR (1983).
Cinema scholar and journalist Damien Love has perceptively examined
the man and his key films in the superb study, ROBERT MITCHUM: SOLID,
DAD, CRAZY. Love divides his book into four major segments: Noir Movies,
War Movies, Weird Movies, and Westerns. He also provides a chronology
of Mitchum's life, considers his singing career (which includes a
"rollicking calypso album" from 1957), and discusses the actor's infamous
1948 marijuana arrest. "Mitchum's bust," Love contends, "could have,
should have, wrecked his career. That it didn't, that the American
public didn't allow it to, shows how deeply, perhaps unconsciously,
they understood and responded to Mitchum's persona, his utterly detached
Love argues that Mitchum possessed "a disaffectedness surpassing Bogart's
and a maverick strain to equal Brando's." He also points out that
fabled music critic Lester Bangs viewed the actor as a forerunner
of punk. According to Love, "Bangs, who functioned as poet laureate
and messed-up Pepysian chronicler of the American punk scene, placed
Mitchum among a pantheon of figures responsible for the genesis of
punk, tracing a line from Iggy Pop back through Lou Reed, Gene Vincent,
James Dean and Marlon Brando to Mitchum." And VANITY FAIR magazine
described him as, "The original dreamy bad boy, the dope-toking, hard-drinking
womanizer who went from hobo to Hollywood."
Cinema buffs will appreciate Love's entertaining and insightful study.
It's solid, dad, crazy!
One: Mitchum fans should also read Lee Server's terrific ROBERT
MITCHUM: "BABY, I DON'T CARE" (2002). According to Server, "Mitchum's
powerful presence and simmering violence combined with hard-boiled
humor and existential detachment to create a new style in movie acting:
the screen's first hipster antihero-before Brando, James Dean, Elvis,
or Eastwood-the inventor of big-screen cool."
Note Two: Several of the aforementioned Mitchum films take
place in the Lone Star State, including WE'VE NEVER BEEN LICKED, WEST
OF THE PECOS, THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY, and HOME FROM THE HILL.