A TRIB­UTE TO ROBERT MITCHUM 100 YEARS AF­TER HIS BIRTH

Los Angeles Times - - SUNDAY CALENDAR - — Kevin Crust cal­en­dar@la­times.com

On Aug. 6, 100 years ago, Robert Mitchum was born in Bridge­port, Conn., though he once claimed he didn’t have a home­town. Hum­ble be­gin­nings led to sev­eral trips west, at least one in a box­car, be­fore he found star­dom in Hol­ly­wood as one of its most iconic mid­cen­tury lead­ing men.

The ac­tor, who died in 1997, was known as an avid reader and a bit of a re­nais­sance man. He wrote poetry and songs, recorded two al­bums and once re­port­edly penned the li­bretto for an event Or­son Welles di­rected at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl. An in­tim­i­dat­ing man of con­tra­dic­tions, he could be surly and charm­ing, aloof and lo­qua­cious, hum­ble and ar­ro­gant, pug­na­cious and gen­tle, test­ing the met­tle of re­porters from gos­sip colum­nist Hedda Hopper to the Los An­ge­les Times’ own Charles Cham­plin.

Be­low are choice Mitchum quotes from his con­ver­sa­tions with The Times.

On act­ing

“I like act­ing. But I don’t want to stick to it all my life. I’ve got just one hobby — think­ing.” (1947)

“[John] Hus­ton and I be­came great pals while on lo­ca­tion [for ‘Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison’]. He and Charles Laughton can di­rect for me any day or place. John thinks I’m a fool to act — says I should write or di­rect.” (1957)

When asked about di­rect­ing, Mitchum replied, “In the theater, yes, but not pic­tures.” (1957)

“Ev­ery time, the same ... damned role. I’m wear­ing the same hat and the same boots I wore in ‘Five Card Stud.’ ” (1970)

On study­ing act­ing, Mitchum opined, “Do you go to school to be tall? Do you go to school to be blond? Stanislavski wrote a book about the Method, and he ad­mit­ted he did it for the money. And so now ev­ery­body fol­lows him, and he laughs. Tal­ent is like hav­ing an ear for pitch — you can’t de­velop it.” (1970)

“I just fall in and fall out. The id­iots need the im­por­tance. I just live in the brush, slip in when there’s work, then slip out again.” (1970)

On the film “The Yakuza”: “I have no emo­tional feel­ing for this pic­ture. I’m a pro­fes­sional ac­tor. It’s a job.” (1974)

“I have no idea where the cam­era is or what it’s do­ing.… I as­sume the di­rec­tor knows his stuff. A lot of the time if you’ve got a re­ally good cam­era­man you don’t need a di­rec­tor.” (1994)

On show busi­ness

“When I was a child, I didn’t want to be a cop, a fire­man or rail­road en­gi­neer when I grew up. I wanted to be a bur­glar. That’s a fact. I never quite re­al­ized my am­bi­tion, but when I first started rak­ing in movie and ra­dio money I thought that I was on my way. But af­ter do­ing seven pic­tures last year I ended up with ex­actly $2,200. Now I’m won­der­ing who bur­glar­ized who.” (1947)

Re­spond­ing to dis­crep­an­cies be­tween his stu­dio bio and his own ac­counts, “I didn’t write the darned thing.” (1947)

“I just re­port to what­ever stu­dio I’m told to and start work­ing.” (1947)

“Trou­ble with this place [Hol­ly­wood] is that you’ve gotta look like your­self all the time. The pub­lic gets a cer­tain idea about you and in­sists that you live up to it con­stantly. It gets mighty mo­not­o­nous.” (1947)

“I can make a mil­lion and a half [dol­lars] yearly — one of the high­est-paid ac­tors in the world. I don’t need to im­prove. I’ve made good ac­tresses out of or­di­nary ones and good di­rec­tors out of poor ones. I have tremen­dous love for this busi­ness.” (1957)

“I don’t like cal­luses. … I just clock in and clock out. That’s the ex­tent of it. I just look at the con­tract and see how many days off I get.” (1970)

“I didn’t show up at the cer­e­monies, and the academy hasn’t messed with me since.” (1970)

On his pref­er­ence for spend­ing time with the crew over other ac­tors like John Wayne or Kirk Dou­glas: “I just work with those guys, we never talk off the set.” (1970)

“A cast­ing of­fice asked me if I ever thought of hav­ing my nose fixed. I said, ‘It’s al­ready fixed, by about four left hooks.’ ” (1994)

On his life

“I was 15. They nailed me out of Sa­van­nah as a dan­ger­ous and sus­pi­cious char­ac­ter with no vis­i­ble means of sup­port, which was a com­mon charge of va­grancy, and gave me 180 days on the chain gang, on the Brown Farm. It cost 38 cents a day to feed a man, but the county rented us out to the high­way de­part­ment for $2 a day.” (1994)

“When my wife and I ar­rived in Cal­i­for­nia by bus we had $26. No job or prospects for one. The only per­son we knew here was my mother, and she had less money that we did.” (1947)

“I had a 26 [inch] waist, 47 [inch] chest and weighed 160 pounds then. They hit me but could never hurt me. I had only one punch and I could knock ’em dead. I could keep ’em off me for a long while be­fore I threw the punch — the dif­fer­ence to me was $15. Then I’d hop a freight out of town.” (1957)

“Ev­ery now and then some hooli­gan swag­gers up to me in a bar and says: ‘No so-and-so of an ac­tor can out­fight me.’ When they’re too per­sis­tent, you have to show ’em.” (1957)

“I won’t be threat­ened. I’ve been in seven jails. I’ve had pel­la­gra twice from lack of nour­ish­ment and have a cer­tain back­ground. I don’t re­act the way they ex­pect when they tell me, ‘I’ll fix you!’ I just say: ‘If you’re going to shoot, get it over quickly.’ ” (1957)

On the world

“This is the only coun­try that works. We’re goofy. Our blood mix­tures make us en­er­getic.” (1957)

“I feel sorry for those guys [the Bri­tish]. Lit­tle by lit­tle they’re Amer­i­can­iz­ing them­selves. They know if they don’t they’ll be out of com­pe­ti­tion. Now we have only two sides to the world — the West and the Sovi­ets . ... Eng­land is squeezed in be­tween, and the French are drink­ing them­selves to death — of course, it’s a nice way to go. But Amer­ica is the ex­am­ple. There can be only one world in the fi­nal anal­y­sis.” (1957)

“Ours is the coun­try least sus­pect in its mo­tives. It’s in­con­ceiv­able to the rest of them — they just don’t un­der­stand.” (1957)

“This is what I used to write about be­fore I chick­ened out to be­come an ac­tor.” (1957)

“That’s what peo­ple are for, to be pushed this way and that. Ig­no­rance is just to be made money of, by the smart guys. … If there was no more pesti­lence and war, ev­ery­body would be out of work. … There’s no more happy cob­bler. Today he has to own the shoe fac­tory. … When you think you’ve ar­rived, noth­ing has hap­pened. The re­al­iza­tion comes too late, when you re­al­ize life is the pur­pose of life. That when you give, you’re not los­ing ev­ery­thing. Ev­ery time you breathe it’s a new life. … I think it’d be good to be an ar­chi­tect, the build­ing en­dures, and the word en­dures. … ‘Sink or swim, I have at least had my dream.’ Was that By­ron?” (1970)

Univer­sal Pic­tures

ROBERT MITCHUM in the 1962 film “Cape Fear,” di­rected by J. Lee Thomp­son. This week marks the 100th an­niver­sary of his birth.

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