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Thunder Road

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Year: 1958
Studio: United Artists
Director: Arthur Ripley
Cast (in credits order):
Robert Mitchum ... Luke Doolin
Gene Barry ... Troy Barrett
Jacques Aubuchon ... Carl Kogan
Keely Smith ... Francie Wymore
Sandra Knight ... Roxanna Ledbetter
Jim Mitchum ... Robin Doolin

Picture: Sandra Knight and Mitchum in Thunder Road

Plot synopsis: Legendary Kentucky moonshiner Luke Doolin tries to stay one step ahead of the federal revenue agents and to keep his younger brother from taking up the family business.

Verdict: A terrific B-movie that was the touchstone for all the subsequent moonshine films and the "let's outrun the cops" genre, like Smoky and the Bandit and TV's The Dukes of Hazzard. Luke Doolin's anti-establishment persona and his "I don't give a damn," attitude makes this Mitchum's most iconic role, after The Night of the Hunter. Singer Keely Smith, best known for teaming up with Louis Prima, here plays Mitchum's girlfriend.

Behind the Scenes: This is Mitchum's most personal film. He came up with the story, handpicked the director, and produced the film. He also cast his son Jim as his younger brother, and sang the title song, "The Ballad of Thunder Road," which became a minor hit. (It's since been reissued on the "Calypso is Like So" CD.)

Mitchum reportedly wanted none other than Elvis Presley for either the lead or the kid brother part, depending on which biography you read. Word is, The King was all for it, but his advisors turned down this low-budget affair, which is a crying shame! Next best thing: watch this back to back with King Creole.

Mitchum penned an article for The Hollywood Reporter about the "Problems of Producing," which began, "You got problems? Well, climb on the pad and tell old Dad. I don't have any. Or, I didn't have until producing a picture messed me up. I flipped for the whole enchilada. Now my troubles come in color, wide-screen, and third-dimension." (Of course, this film was neither color, wide-screen, nor 3-D).

Links:
Robert Mitchum, The Singer
The Mitchum Acting Clan
Latest news about Thunder Road.