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Robert Mitchum ??


misswonderly3
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I have heard more than once that Robert Mitchum was a racist. This really bothers me, as I am a huge fan of his. I also have trouble believing it, because I know that in many ways he "bucked the trend" for the time he was living in, and was certainly not conventional in his views on many matters.

 

Can anyone tell me more about why he was considered (possibly) a racist? I'm hoping it's all a big misunderstanding.

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MissW, I'm currently reading Lee Server's biography of Mitchum (very enjoyable), which does address the subject. Mitchum was an excellent mimic, and like many of his contemporaries, enjoyed ethnic jokes of all varieties. He was known to tell "Rastus" jokes in the voice of Stepin Fechit, for instance. While this would be politically incorrect today, there was probably no malicious intent.

 

It's apparently true that Mitchum's political views drifted toward the right as he grew older. However, he was never a very systematic political thinker. He was more likely to make friends with the workers on the set than the powers that be, and unlike many stars he did not put on diva airs. Mitchum was also a great fan of jazz musicians, many of whom were African-American.

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kingrat, if you're reading that biography, maybe you can clarify something for me.

 

The reason I had the impression that Mitchum was a racist was because of something Tony Curtis said in a TCM interview a few months back. He said that Mitchum had been approached about one of the two lead roles in The Defiant Ones, and that Mitchum had refused the role because it would have meant working closely with a black actor (Sidney Poitier, of course). !!! Outrageous! If Mitch did say that I'm so disillusioned, I don't know how I'll be able to handle watching him anymore. I don't usually judge actors on their personal lives. I don't care about marital infidelity, drug use, alcohol abuse, bad tempers and bad behaviour. But this is different.

 

Tony Curtis said that the studio then offered the part to him, and Curtis is very good in it. Mitchum would have been too old anyway. But I'm hoping he was misquoted or something.

 

Maybe the book you're reading has the real scoop on this story. Please let me know.

 

celluloidkid, thanks for the cool pic. Although I'm disillusioned, I still like looking at that wonderful face.

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Sorry to barge in where I probably don't belong. I got the impression from that interview with Curtis that it wasn't so much that Mitchum refused to work with Poitier, but that Mitchum thought that the scenario wasn't believable--a black man shackeled to a white man in the Deep South. Because at the time, it wouldn't have happened in real life even with prisoners.

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*I got the impression from that interview with Curtis that it wasn't so much that Mitchum refused to work with Poitier, but that Mitchum thought that the scenario wasn't believable--a black man shackeled to a white man in the Deep South. Because at the time, it wouldn't have happened in real life even with prisoners*

 

Helen,

 

I, too, had the same impression as you from listening to Tony Curtis' interview. Robert Mitchum was a lot of things but a racist?? I think Tony Curtis would disagree with the OP's original take on his words.

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helenbaby, as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing on these messageboards as "barging in where you don't belong". In fact, I think everyone can and should "barge in" whenever they want to say something. That's what this fan community is supposed to be all about. And in fact, far from "barging in", you made a very helpful comment. I must have been half asleep or something at the time of the Curtis interview to have missed that detail about Mitchum's refusal to act in The Defiant Ones , If that's the reason (felt it was unrealistic for a white man and a black man to be shackled together) then I guess that accounts for it.

lzcutter got the same impression as you, so I must have been dozing the night of that interview, and obviously got it only half right -or rather, half wrong.

 

Thanks to both of you, and kingrat, let us know when you finish that book!

 

...phew, now I can go back to enjoying Robert Mitchum films again.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jun 2, 2010 9:09 PM

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The reason I said that was because 1) you really weren't asking me and I felt like I was barging in on a conversation that I was "eavesdropping" on; 2) I haven't read the book and 3) it's been a while since I saw that Private Screening with Tony Curtis so I wasn't sure if I was remembering correctly. Thanks Lynn, for confirming what I thought. I'm a Mitchum fan so I felt it was important to defend him.

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I've always been able to divorce my favorite stars from their political/personal views. That's why I continue to like people like Bardot, John Wayne, Walter Brennan and Robert Taylor. They were all racists, however, as film characters, that doesn't affect the movies for me.

 

In the words of Robert Mitchum from my favorite film of his, "Baby I Don't Care"

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Right, I get it about divorcing the art from the artist, as I said myself, I don't usually do that. It was just that racism and Robert Mitchum did not seem to go together. Those other actors you mentioned didn't defy convention the way Mitch did, so I would have expected them to accept the values of the day. I just thought Robert Mitchum was above that -and apparently he was. I was evidently mistaken about what I'd heard, and happy to be so.

 

I feel very strongly that it's misguided to dislike the work of an actor, director, singer, writer or any kind of artist -or sports celebrity for that matter -based on their personal lives. I've heard Frank Sinatra had a nasty side to him, but I'm not interested in that, and I don't care. It doesn't affect my appreciation of his music whatsoever.

 

Robert Mitchum is one of my favourite actors of any era.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jun 2, 2010 10:39 PM

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helenbaby, I don't feel there's such a thing as "eavesdropping" on these boards. It's not like a personal Facebook wall or something. They're here for everyone who's interested. The posts I've read by you strike me as thoughtful and a valuable contribution to the discussion (of whatever thread you're on)

I think I haven't always agreed with you, (ie Goodfellas) but that's ok. There wouldn't be as much to talk about if we all agreed about everything.

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*I don't feel there's such a thing as "eavesdropping" on these boards. It's not like a personal Facebook wall or something. They're here for everyone who's interested*

 

MsWonderly,

 

I doubt anyone here would disagree with you. It's just that we all have different ways of joining a conversation. Some jump right in while others prefer to ease into a conversation.

 

Bottom line is that we all end up talking no matter the approach.

 

And personal walls at Facebook, I thought Facebook walls were very public.

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That's the problem with Hollywood history. Three people talking about the same

event will often give three different stories, and it's hard to know who to believe.

It seems Bob made some racist and anti-Semitic statements later in his career, but

whether they were heartfelt or just to provoke people I don't know. And despite his

outlaw image, he was a product of his time just like most other people.

 

 

I've always heard that Mitchum was something of a "street intellectual." Though he

didn't have much formal education, he was an avid reader throughout much of his

life. Who knows if it's true or just some more Hollywood hype. I've always liked the

title of a much earlier Mitchum bio, It Sure Beats Working. Good old Bob.

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I thoroughly enjoyed Server's Mitchum biography entitled *Baby, I Don't Care*, taken from Jeff Bailey's comment to Cathy in *Out of the Past*. Mitchum was, it seemed, when he had an audience of his pals and folks he was trying to impress with his bravado, a poet, a singer, and a storyteller of legend.

 

I especially enjoy the craftsmanship of *Night of the Hunter* and the stories concerning Mitchum's kindness in directing and helping the children in this film were some of the positive comments concerning Mitchum's behavior. Charles Laughton's only directorial foray was a masterpiece, and I encourage everyone to view this film. The lighting, the visual effects of a children's tale, the staging, and the performances, especially by Lillian Gish, the children, and Mitchum make it an endurable classic, and it was interesting to learn about the history of its creation.

 

What I found so fascinating about *Baby, I Don't Care* is that the facts about Mitchum's escapades are not presented in a preachy shame-on-him kind of scenario, and the reader is allowed to judge Mitchum without being presented with a preconceived morality clause by the author, Lee Server.

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> {quote:title=misswonderly wrote:}{quote}

> The reason I had the impression that Mitchum was a racist was because of something Tony Curtis said in a TCM interview a few months back. He said that Mitchum had been approached about one of the two lead roles in The Defiant Ones, and that Mitchum had refused the role because it would have meant working closely with a black actor (Sidney Poitier, of course). !!! Outrageous! If Mitch did say that I'm so disillusioned, I don't know how I'll be able to handle watching him anymore. I don't usually judge actors on their personal lives. I don't care about marital infidelity, drug use, alcohol abuse, bad tempers and bad behaviour. But this is different.

 

If Mitchum -- eight years Curtis's senior and ten years Poitier's -- had, indeed, been offered the part of "Joker" Jackson, that offer, and Mitchum's refusal, certainly would not have taken place with Curtis present (Mitchum likely read the script -- or had his agent do it -- and turned it down through that agent, with no meeting even taking place). As such, whatever Curtis may have heard was second-, third- or even tenth-hand hearsay, and no one should be "convicted," posthumously or not, of being a racist via such specious scuttlebutt. There's a very good reason why hearsay is inadmissible in U.S. courts of law.

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Facebook is currently changing the rules for privacy. I believe you can actually hide your wall comments to only show for friends. You just go to your Privacy settings and set them for just Friends or Public if you'd like to.

 

Just a clarification for those who may not know or are interested in Facebook. :-)

 

-Renee

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SueSue: I think you really nailed *Night of the Hunter*. Your description of that great film was one of the most concise and accurate I've ever read! And you appreciated the poetry and visual beauty of it, too.

 

It seems *Night of the Hunter* has been rediscovered in recent years. The last time it was aired, I got my (teenage) kids to watch it with me. I'm always trying to get them to watch classic films, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. They loved it!

 

Mitch could be so good at playing scary and creepy. (Not only this role, but how about *Cape Fear* ?)

That "sleepy" look and general lassitude belies a great acting intelligence at work.

I think he's one of those magnetic actors -you just can't take your eyes off him.

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> {quote:title=misswonderly wrote:}{quote}

> SueSue: I think you really nailed *Night of the Hunter*. Your description of that great film was one of the most concise and accurate I've ever read! And you appreciated the poetry and visual beauty of it, too.

>

> It seems *Night of the Hunter* has been rediscovered in recent years. The last time it was aired, I got my (teenage) kids to watch it with me. I'm always trying to get them to watch classic films, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. They loved it!

>

> Mitch could be so good at playing scary and creepy. (Not only this role, *but how about *Cape Fear* ?*)

> That "sleepy" look and general lassitude belies a great acting intelligence at work.

> I think he's one of those magnetic actors -you just can't take your eyes off him.

 

His performance in *Cape Fear* has to be some of the best creepiness I have ever seen in film. It beats Tony Curtis' Boston Strangler and John Leguizamo's Son of Sam as well as many other creepy characters in between. Mitchum's dialogue in Cape Fear is a hoot along with his mannerisms. Great film.

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Yeah that Mickey Spillane could really write, hey hide that girlie mag, mom might walk

in. Yeah Bob was a street intellectual. Whenever he went to a seedy bar, he always

brought along a complete edition of Henry James. What a guy.

 

Bob is one of my favorites too. I always get a kick out of the scenes he has in Cape Fear

when he gives Gregory Peck a bit of his jailhouse lawyering in his slow as molasses accent,

'Now counseloorrr, you better think twice, cause you know you can't hang a vagrancy

charge on me, just take a look at that bankbook. I'm loaded, cousin. See ya around,

counseloorrr.

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I think another important thing to add to this thread would be the source of the info about Mitchum and The Defiant Ones. As much as I love Tony Curtis and his movies, he has always had a habit of saying outrageous things and/or putting his foot in his mouth! He is a bit of a rascally type, and I don't think he had any ill intent in his comments, but he does like to spin a "good story"....

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