Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Spencer Tracy ... Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle
Van Johnson ... Ted Lawson
Robert Walker ... David Thatcher
Phyllis Thaxter .. Ellen Lawson
Tim Murdock ... Dean Davenport
Robert Mitchum ... Bob Gray
Plot Synopsis: Tells the tale of the brave flyboys who go on "Doolittle's Raid," the payback for Pearl Harbor, on April 18, 1942.
Verdict: Not much Mitchum (or Spencer Tracy, for that matter), but a fine bit of patriotic wartime moviemaking.
Behind the Scenes: After a screen test, director Mervyn LeRoy told Mitchum, "You're either the lousiest actor in the world or the best. I can't make up my mind." His indecision didn't stop him from casting the young actor. While on location in England, Mitchum earned the nickname "Redass" -- due to its use as a rallying cry in the cast's barroom brawls -- and for his habit of mooning, according to co-star Steve Brodie.
The Story of G.I. Joe
Studio: United Artists
Director: William Wellman
Burgess Meredith ... Ernie Pyle
Robert Mitchum ... Lt. Capt. Bill Walker
Freddie Steele ... Sgt. Steve Warnicki
Wally Cassell ... Dondaro
Plot Synopsis: Taken from the real-life war correspondence of Ernie Pyle, who wrote of the heroics of Company C, following them from the African desert toward Rome, concentrating on their stoic commander, Lt. Capt. Walker (Mitchum).
Verdict: One of Mitchum's finest performances netted him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, with such raves as "extraordinarily haunting," (The Village Voice) and "the best peformance of the year," (New York Daily News).
Behind the Scenes: Mitchum didn't attend the Academy Awards and was never invited back -- as a nominee, that is. He reteamed with director Wellman on the metaphysical Western The Track of the Cat and, later, Blood Alley, but was fired for pulling pranks and replaced by John Wayne. In case you're wondering, yes the G.I. Joe doll took its name from this film.
If You Liked This Movie, You Might Also Like: A Walk in the Sun with Dana Andrews
Till the End of Time
Plot Synopsis: Three service buddies adapt to life after the war with varying results. Cliff falls in love with an older woman who's also a war widow, ex-rodeo star Tabeshaw wants to start his own ranch but is impeded by a metal plate in his head, and Perry is confined to a wheelchair.
Verdict: While star Guy Madison is easy on the eyes, he's not much of an actor, which is especially evident in his scenes opposite screen natural Mitchum. Gotta love the plot involving Mitchum's metal plate in his noggin (not as much of a plot point as it is with William Bendix in The Blue Dahlia, sadly) -- and the scene where he and his pals get into a barroom brawl with some bigots.
Behind the Scenes: Although this preceded the similarly themed The Best Years of Our Lives to the screen, it was the second film that swept the Oscars that year and is best remembered today. Jean Porter, who plays a bobby-soxer in the film, ended up marrying the director.
Director: Edward Dmytryk
Robert Young ... Captain Finlay
Robert Mitchum ... Sgt. Peter Kelley
Robert Ryan ... Monty Montgomery
Gloria Grahame ... Ginny Tremaine
Paul Kelly ... The Man
Sam Levene ... Joseph Samuels
Plot Synopsis: An anti-Semitic private (Ryan) becomes the prime suspect in the beating death of a Jewish man.
Verdict: A first-rate, landmark noir with excellent, low-key turns by Mitchum and Young, and Oscar-nominated performances from Ryan and Grahame. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay. Mitchum's role, as a sergeant alternately hindering and aiding the pipe-smoking Young with the investigation, is small but worthwhile.
Behind the Scenes: In adapting "The Brick Fox Hole" for the screen, the murder victim was changed from gay to Jewish. References to homosexuality were also expunged from other films of the era, including The Lost Weekend and A Streetcar Named Desire. Ironically, a few years after this high point, Dmytryk was named as one of the "Hollywood Ten" and imprisoned. Ryan's nomination was the only one he ever received and he became typecast as violent, bigoted types afterward in films such as On Dangerous Ground and Odds Against Tomorrow.
Links: Film Monthly article on Crossfire