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Robert Mitchum: Bio

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.

— Robert Mitchum

Born: August 6, 1917
Died: July 1, 1997

ROBERT MITCHUM'S heavy-lidded, insolent expression communicated an uncaring charm that kept him active in films for well over 50 years. A man who did his fair share of riding the rails (he admitted to having rolled bums and being arrested for vagrancy) and weathering tough times in menial jobs like ditch-digging and coal-mining, Mitchum went from working for Lockheed Aircraft and acting in local theater productions to appearances in a series of "Hopalong Cassidy" westerns and other supporting roles in B-movies of the early '40s. Mitchum didn't mind working cheap (an easygoing, undiscriminating attitude he maintained throughout his career), and so at first, he wasn't considered much of an actor — just another handsome side of beef to decorate films. But people started to sit up and take notice of him after his breakthrough role as the heroic Lt. Walker in 1945's The Story of G.I. Joe, a magnetic supporting performance that drew him an Academy Award nomination and catapulted him onto the A-list. A stint in the Army, a 1948 arrest for marijuana possession, and appearances in any number of tacky films did nothing to break his swaggering stride: with his rugged good looks, sleepy eyes (the result of chronic insomnia and a boxing injury that weakened his eyesight), and laconic, nonchalant ease, Mitchum was the ideal post-War antihero. The durable and virile leading man worked steadily for five decades, making dozens of pictures, some good (Cape Fear), some bad (One Minute to Zero), before age narrowed his film choices and he turned to television. In that medium, the actor found particular success in The Winds of War miniseries and its sequel.

Mitchum had achieved iconic status by the '80s by virtue of the fact that he was one of the last actors from Hollywood's Golden Era still working, a fact which prompted one writer to comment, "He's our last Gary Cooper." In the '90s, Mitchum used his still-seductive speaking voice to best advantage by stumping for the beef industry ("Beef. It's what's for dinner."). At the age of 79, Mitchum was still stalwart and slinging guns in 1996's Dead Man; it would be his last feature film appearance. The actor, who had long been suffering from emphysema, succumbed to lung cancer in 1997.

Copyright 2000 Mr. Showbiz