MITCHUM, Robert


MITCHUM, Robert
(1917–1997)
   Born in Connecticut, Robert Mitchum spent years playing heavies in B Westerns, including several Hopalong Cassidy films, before he became a certified Hollywood star in the 1950s. His mastery of an easygoing nonchalance in any situation brought him a wide variety of roles. In River of No Return (1954), for example, Mitchum as Matt Calder rescues Kay Weston (Marilyn Monroe), a dance hall girl, and her common-law partner, Harry Weston (Rory Calhoun), from a raging river, only to be betrayed by Harry who steals his horse. Much of the film involves Calder and Kay on the river, fleeing Apaches and chasing after Harry.
   Mitchum and Monroe had known each other long before either of them began their careers. He was a natural choice for roles in which the line between the bad guy and the good guy was blurred. Heavy eyelids, the result of an early boxing career, and deep jaws gave an automatic appearance of toughness, while a smooth voice could make anything sound appealing. Other Mitchum Westerns include El Dorado (1966), The Way West (1967), and Villa Rides (1968), all classic Westerns. His last film, though, was the postmodern Western Dead Man (1995) in which he played one of Johnny Depp’s antagonists.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.