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Robert Mitchum and his peers.


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Watched Thunder Road and The Big Steal last couple of days.  Got to thinking about some other Mitchum movies over the years compared to Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, Burt Lancaster and others from the 40's through 60's.

Decided that Mitchum's movies are more entertaining which is why I watch them more often.  Not sure if it is Mitchum, the screemplays or the director.

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It's Mitchum.

 

Peck almost always plays nice guys.

Grant almost always plays suave guys.

Lancaster almost always has bad hair.

 

With Mitchum, you never know what you're gonna get, which makes him very interesting to watch.

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Cid, I like Mitchum a lot, but I also like the other guys you have mentioned. I would say for myself it's mostly  a question of the type of films ( screenplay , director)  that makes the difference.  Example; If you are a big fan of noir, Mitchum did a lot of noir type films. Burt did early on in his career then moved away from that film type, only doing an occasional one like SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS.  The other  two guys don't get associated  with noir too often.  So I guess the real  answer is it's a combination of all of the factors.  I wonder what a guy like Hitchcock would have done with "Big Bob".  Which Hitchcock film would have been a good fit for Mitchum?

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It's Mitchum.

 

Peck almost always plays nice guys.

Grant almost always plays suave guys.

Lancaster almost always has bad hair.

 

With Mitchum, you never know what you're gonna get, which makes him very interesting to watch.

 

I love your line about Burt's hair.

 

Peck knew what he was doing when he hired Robert Mitchum to be the villain in Cape Fear.  He was an astute film producer.  Mitchum did a lot of ad libbing in terms of not stopping a scene when he should have for safety purposes.  He actually held Peck underwater too long and Peck couldn't breathe.

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Cid, I like Mitchum a lot, but I also like the other guys you have mentioned. I would say for myself it's mostly  a question of the type of films ( screenplay , director)  that makes the difference.  Example; If you are a big fan of noir, Mitchum did a lot of noir type films. Burt did early on in his career then moved away from that film type, only doing an occasional one like SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS.  The other  two guys don't get associated  with noir too often.  So I guess the real  answer is it's a combination of all of the factors.  I wonder what a guy like Hitchcock would have done with "Big Bob".  Which Hitchcock film would have been a good fit for Mitchum?

Because Mitchum played a lot of villains, it would have been interesting to see him cast against type in Hitchcock movies.    he always seemed to know what he was doing, so maybe a film where he was not quite sure of himself like The Trouble with Harry?  

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I wouldn't say Grant was a peer to Mitchum,  Peck and Lancaster.   Grant was in over 40 films before these guys, who were about 10 years younger then Grant,  were noticed by audiences.  

 

I do enjoy more films Mitchum was in than either Peck or Lancaster but the reason is what MrRoberts stated;  Noir is my favorite genre and Mitchum was an iconic noir actor.    But of course Mitchum also starred in some fine non-noir films.    e.g. the films he made with Deborah Kerr,  Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison and The Sundowners are just two examples of Mitchum stepping way outside the noir genre.

 

Susu1975 also has a solid point with "you never know what you're gonna get" with Mitchum.   He had a unique screen persona that combined two very opposite traits;  edginess and coolness (sometimes at the same time like in Cape Fear).     I just find him more interesting to watch than most other actors.

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When I thought of asking about Mitchum in a Hitchcock film  my first thought was the Robert Walker role in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN.  Walker's performance was great, its  hard to imagine anyone being better. But picture Mitchum in that part, his cool  deliberate manner with a touch of that Harry Powell character, would have worked well I think.  (But I also have thought about my  main man Richard Widmark  playing Bruno Anthony , he could have gone into the Tommy Udo mode at the end of the film). :)

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I always have to put in a plug for Richard Widmark.  I even  think he would have been  a good  "Mister Roberts".  Widmark had a lot of versatility as an actor, some not realized as well as it should have been.

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I always have to put in a plug for Richard Widmark.  I even  think he would have been  a good  "Mister Roberts".  Widmark had a lot of versatility as an actor, some not realized as well as it should have been.

I understand completely.  I never fully appreciated Mr. Widmark in Murder on the Orient Express until I saw Yellow sky for the first time and couldn't take my eyes off of him even when Gregory Peck was on screen.  So I paid attention to him in the credits.  Then I looked him up on imdb and realized I already knew him.  Then I watched everything I could find with him in it.  I've seen most of his work, although not the same percentage as Mr. Peck.

 

He appreciated the online fan club we had that his daughter showed him.  We were never an official l fan club.  But his daughter kept us up to date and told us he did not want a lifetime achievement Oscar so we could please stop trying to get him one.

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Of all these actors, William Holden has always been my favorite. A particular favorite movie of mine was Alvarez Kelly. It was Widmark and Holden playing adversaries during the Civil War.

 

Widmark plays the Confederate General trying to get the beef for his troops from Cattle Man Holden. It's too much fun seeing them fighting against each other.

 

They were so good together; I bet the audience never noticed how drunk Holden was during most of the movie. Reports were: they had a to tie him on the horse to keep him on it.

 

 

I loved Richard Widmark's southern accent - - I think it was one of his most colorful portrayals.

 

I don't know why Richard Widmark never reached the high level of stardom as say,Lancaster, Heston, Curtis or Holden. I don't know if it was a studio thing, a sex appeal thing or just one of those things.

 

I thought he had sex appeal LOL

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Widmark played a colonel, not a general.  Regardless, it is a very good movie.  I think it shows up on Encore Westerns occasionally.  It and The Horse Soldiers (another with Holden) are sort of Western/Civil War combinations.

Mitchum did some very good Westerns.

I think part of his attraction was often a subtle humor and often as not confused like most of us.  And he was excellent at villans - very believable.

Lancaster and Douglas were very good in Tough Guys (1986).

Of all these actors, William Holden has always been my favorite. A particular favorite movie of mine was Alvarez Kelly. It was Widmark and Holden playing adversaries during the Civil War.

Widmark plays the Confederate General trying to get the beef for his troops from Cattle Man Holden. It's too much fun seeing them fighting against each other.
 

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As has already been stated on this thread, I would strongly suspect that those who like Mitchum are very much into film noir. It's a genre with which you do not associate either Grant (who really wasn't a peer of these actors, as he had been in the business a good decade earlier) or Peck.

 

In my opinion, Robert Mitchum only appeared in one film that was great - Night of the Hunter. He appeared in a lot of mediocre stuff, but I like him most in his two darkest characterizations, as Harry Powell, of course, in the Laughton film, and as the white trash creepo of Cape Fear, truly a frightening characterization because it is so realistic.

 

But one of my favourite Mitch performances is also a very contrasting one, as the wanderlust father in The Sundowners. Mitchum's Aussie accent seems to be perfect to me, and he has great chemistry with Deborah Kerr, an actress with whom he worked on a least two other occasions, as well.

 

As mrroberts has stated, Lancaster was in a lot of noirs at the beginning of his career, including a classic (The Killers) and a damn good one (Criss Cross). But he then started to branch out, appearing in a couple of swashbucklers, before seeking to get serious acting credentials, starting off with Come Back Little Sheba.

 

After that Burt alternated between box office films (Apache, Vera Cruz, etc.) and those that allowed him to stretch his acting muscles (From Here to Eternity, Rose Tattoo, Sweet Smell of Success). The '60s continued to be a good period for Lancaster, both critically and as a box office champ, with two of my favourites from that period being The Train and the Professionals.

 

But I also love Lancaster's 1980 work in Atlantic City, USA, his last Oscar nomination. He brought a vulnerability to his role as an aging former tough guy, a small time loser, now reduced to doing, some of it demeaning, whatever he can to make a living in a run down Atlantic City past its prime, just like him.

 

There was something about watching Lancaster, a former, at times, macho screen star, playing an aging hustler who is in physical peril at the hands of a young punk in this film that deeply disturbed me. Time had passed, we physically change, we're no longer supermen, and Lancaster had the courage to play a role that reflected that reality.

 

But no one here has mentioned one of my favourite male stars of the same era, Kirk Douglas (the only one still with us today - he turns 100 in December).

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I like Mitchum in anything, just because. He is unique in looks, style and attitude so you always remember him.

 

I think he was very unlike most other male actors of his time. One performance of his that is way out of character that I liked was as the teacher in "Ryan's Daughter". He is quite believable but this is a part which is outside his wheelhouse for sure.
 

I'm sure Mitchum was in noir type films, because Mitchum's own life could have been a noir film.

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Of all these actors, William Holden has always been my favorite. A particular favorite movie of mine was Alvarez Kelly. It was Widmark and Holden playing adversaries during the Civil War.

 

Widmark plays the Confederate General trying to get the beef for his troops from Cattle Man Holden. It's too much fun seeing them fighting against each other.

 

They were so good together; I bet the audience never noticed how drunk Holden was during most of the movie. Reports were: they had a to tie him on the horse to keep him on it.

 

 

I loved Richard Widmark's southern accent - - I think it was one of his most colorful portrayals.

 

I don't know why Richard Widmark never reached the high level of stardom as say,Lancaster, Heston, Curtis or Holden. I don't know if it was a studio thing, a sex appeal thing or just one of those things.

 

I thought he had sex appeal LOL

I'll tell you why. It was because when he was not working he wanted to spend all his time at home with his wife and daughter.  He would not go out to parties etc. He was married to one woman for life.   After she died, he married Susan Blanchard who had been married to Henry Fonda.  This made Peter see him as a step-father.  Widmark did not like his name to be in gossip papers and he was horrified when his daughter married Sandy Koufax because he was a famous pitcher and that put him back in the gossip columns. 

 

Spencer Tracy was his favourite actor. Widmark believed in getting the job done.

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But I also love Lancaster's 1980 work in Atlantic City, USA, his last Oscar nomination. He brought a vulnerability to his role as an aging former tough guy, a small time loser, now reduced to doing, some of it demeaning, whatever he can to make a living in a run down Atlantic City past its prime, just like him.

 

There was something about watching Lancaster, a former, at times, macho screen star, playing an aging hustler who is in physical peril at the hands of a young punk in this film that deeply disturbed me. Time had passed, we physically change, we're no longer supermen, and Lancaster had the courage to play a role that reflected that reality.

 

 

I think Mitchum's later years title character in THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE might be similarly expressed with Lancaster's role in ATLANTIC CITY here, wouldn't you think, Tom?

 

 

 

But no one here has mentioned one of my favourite male stars of the same era, Kirk Douglas (the only one still with us today - he turns 100 in December).

 

And yeah, I also was thinking some mention of Kirk Douglas had been noticeable by its absence in this thread.

 

(...and although I mentioned the man in that Doris Day birthday thread the other day a few times, if you remember?!) ;)

 

LOL

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Oh, I am a big fan of Mr. Kirk Douglas.

 

I have not mentioned him yet because - well? I am not sure.

 

Kirk is the one living actor whose work I am able to watch regardless of the fact that he has most of his life behind him.  When Gregory Peck re-broke his ankle, I promptly stopped being able to watch him in anything that was sentimental or where people were old enough to die of old age.  That is why I have not yet seen The Portrait.  It was available to me, but with his real life daughter playinghis daughter, it was too close to home.  I have not had access to it since.

 

Kirk's dynamic performance and intensity in all his roles makes me able to watch all of the movies he made and enjoy them without it being in the back of my mind that he is 99.

 

And I admire him for making the first step in breaking the black-list by putting Trumbo's name on the opening credits of Spartacus.

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Regarding Robert Mitchum and "his peers", we were blessed with a bumper crop of very talented actors (and actresses too) from that  immediate post World War 2 time period. These people were born  well into the   20th century and had learned  a different approach to acting from the previous generation ( people like Gable, Cagney, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, etc) These young actors  started  at the tail end of the Hollywood studio era, in fact  many  were instrumental in pushing that  era out.  Not to knock the old school studio nurtured actors but this new generation had to fend for themselves and the daring ones were willing to push their talents into risk taking ventures. Sometimes they failed but the good ones had far more successes than flops.  And that resulted in their having long and varied  careers.

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I think Mitchum's later years title character in THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE might be similarly expressed with Lancaster's role in ATLANTIC CITY here, wouldn't you think, Tom?

 

 

 

I haven't seen Eddie Coyle, Dargo.

 

Anyone remember a 1985 Made for TV film called AMOS? It starred Kirk Douglas as a senior committed to a senior's home, run by an autocratic nurse, played by Elizabeth Montgomery, with Douglas rebelling against her authority. Sounds like shades of Cuckoo Nest, doesn't it?

 

I have no memories of the film, except for the fact that I found it to be effective. Amos, by the way, is available on You Tube, and I intend to catch up with it again..

 

By the way, don't forget that Kirk had starred in the 1963 Broadway adaption of Cuckoo's Nest, long before Jack Nicholson immortalized the role on film.

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I always have to put in a plug for Richard Widmark.  I even  think he would have been  a good  "Mister Roberts".  Widmark had a lot of versatility as an actor, some not realized as well as it should have been.

 

Widmark is just one of those great professionals who never disappoints. A few months ago I pulled out my disc of The Bedford Incident, one of my favourite Widmark films and performances. He brought a hard edged zeal to his role of the obsessive (Ahab like, almost) captain, but combined with an intelligence that made it such a realistic portrayal.

 

In particular, and without revealing anything story wise here, I connect with the film's final chilling scene - and that last expression on Widmark's face. His face so beautifully captured the multitude of feelings of his character at that moment - the shock mixed with regret, the hopelessness, the fear. And those were emotions that we NEVER saw in his character before.

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As has already been stated on this thread, I would strongly suspect that those who like Mitchum are very much into film noir. It's a genre with which you do not associate either Grant (who really wasn't a peer of these actors, as he had been in the business a good decade earlier) or Peck.

 

In my opinion, Robert Mitchum only appeared in one film that was great - Night of the Hunter. He appeared in a lot of mediocre stuff, but I like him most in his two darkest characterizations, as Harry Powell, of course, in the Laughton film, and as the white trash creepo of Cape Fear, truly a frightening characterization because it is so realistic.

 

But one of my favourite Mitch performances is also a very contrasting one, as the wanderlust father in The Sundowners. Mitchum's Aussie accent seems to be perfect to me, and he has great chemistry with Deborah Kerr, an actress with whom he worked on a least two other occasions, as well.

 

As mrroberts has stated, Lancaster was in a lot of noirs at the beginning of his career, including a classic (The Killers) and a damn good one (Criss Cross). But he then started to branch out, appearing in a couple of swashbucklers, before seeking to get serious acting credentials, starting off with Come Back Little Sheba.

 

After that Burt alternated between box office films (Apache, Vera Cruz, etc.) and those that allowed him to stretch his acting muscles (From Here to Eternity, Rose Tattoo, Sweet Smell of Success). The '60s continued to be a good period for Lancaster, both critically and as a box office champ, with two of my favourites from that period being The Train and the Professionals.

 

But I also love Lancaster's 1980 work in Atlantic City, USA, his last Oscar nomination. He brought a vulnerability to his role as an aging former tough guy, a small time loser, now reduced to doing, some of it demeaning, whatever he can to make a living in a run down Atlantic City past its prime, just like him.

 

There was something about watching Lancaster, a former, at times, macho screen star, playing an aging hustler who is in physical peril at the hands of a young punk in this film that deeply disturbed me. Time had passed, we physically change, we're no longer supermen, and Lancaster had the courage to play a role that reflected that reality.

 

But no one here has mentioned one of my favourite male stars of the same era, Kirk Douglas (the only one still with us today - he turns 100 in December).

In ATLANTIC CITY, the name "Nucky Johnson" is mentioned. He was the big political boss in Atlantic City back in the '20s-'40s, when Atlantic City really WAS a big deal.

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Mitchum is absolutely amazing. He was a strong presence but could be subtle or flashy whetever the role required. Perhaps he wasn't seen as an artist like Kirk Douglas or Gregory Peck because he seemed to be more self-deprecating than a type like Douglas (who I like as an actor) who blew his own horn.

 

According to co-star Jane Greer, she always respected Mitchum because he was an egoless performer who shared scenes rather than tried to steal them (like Douglas). Mitchum was a real natural and a brave actor, letting himself be be vulnerable onscreen with strong female stars like Jane Greer, Jane Russell, and Jean Simmons. As many commenters mentioned he wasn't always (or usually) victorious, often playing morally apathetic men above their heads in precarious situations. 

 

Another actor I liked from the same era was Robert Ryan, who also I felt used his strong burly physique in interesting ways, often conveying testosterone overboard combined with vulnerability and self-loathing.

 

Both Mitchum's and Ryan's and Widmark's films have aged better on the whole than somebody like Gregory Peck.   

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Mitchum is absolutely amazing. He was a strong presence but could be subtle or flashy whetever the role required. Perhaps he wasn't seen as an artist like Kirk Douglas or Gregory Peck because he seemed to be more self-deprecating than a type like Douglas (who I like as an actor) who blew his own horn.

 

According to co-star Jane Greer, she always respected Mitchum because he was an egoless performer who shared scenes rather than tried to steal them (like Douglas). Mitchum was a real natural and a brave actor, letting himself be be vulnerable onscreen with strong female stars like Jane Greer, Jane Russell, and Jean Simmons. As many commenters mentioned he wasn't always (or usually) victorious, often playing morally apathetic men above their heads in precarious situations. 

 

Another actor I liked from the same era was Robert Ryan, who also I felt used his strong burly physique in interesting ways, often conveying testosterone overboard combined with vulnerability and self-loathing.

 

Both Mitchum's and Ryan's and Widmark's films have aged better on the whole than somebody like Gregory Peck.   

Good points.  I think Farewell My Lovely (1975) was an excellent performance by Mitchum.  Not to mention The Winds of War and War and Rememberance TV mini-series.

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I mentioned in an earlier posting that You Tube has a copy of a 1985 TV movie starring Kirk Douglas and Elizabeth Montgomery, Amos. I just watched it.

 

The image quality is so-so (looks like a VHS tape) but the film is surprisingly well made, with strong performances by the two stars. Douglas plays a man committed to a seniors home. It is run by nurse Montgomery, little miss sunshine to the outside world but inside the place, watch out!

 

I won't go into plot details but it's fascinating to watch the cat-and-mouse interplay between Douglas, playing a rebellious man who tries to resist being intimidated (he faces the frustration of authorities not believing his tales of horror), and the still sexy Montgomery, who brings a very effective chilling cold bloodness to her characterization.

 

The film also has a cleverly written ending that I found to be quite satisfactory.

 

Douglas, of course, is still with us, unlike the other principal cast members, not only Montgomery, but Ray Walston. Pat Morita and Dorothy McGuire, the latter three all playing residents of the seniors home, all of them fine in their roles.

 

Amos is a good little drama, one well worth seeing.

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