As one of classic Hollywood's most iconic stars, Robert Mitchum typified the rugged antiheroes of film noir while turning in one great performance after another. But despite his long career, Mitchum was nominated for only one Academy Award, and that was for an early supporting role in 1945.
Regardless of the lack of award recognition, Mitchum remained a top leading actor well into the 1970s and found continued life in the '80s on television, a testament to both his wide appeal and extraordinary talent. Here are eight of Mitchum's best films.
Turner Home Entertainment Company
Having already appeared in a number of film noirs, Mitchum starred in one of his defining roles as former private investigator hiding out as a small town gas station owner whose sordid past comes back to haunt him when a ruthless gangster (Kirk Douglas
) and a cold-blooded femme fatale (Jane Greer) track him down. Though dismissed by critics and only a modest hit upon release, Out of the Past
has since been revered as a text book noir. But it’s Mitchum’s pitch-perfect performance as the classic anti-hero that makes this film legendary.
MGM Home Entertainment
Actor Charles Laughton’s one and only directing effort, The Night of the Hunter
was not a critical or a commercial hit when released. But it did feature an intense performance by Mitchum, who played a sadistic criminal who poses as a travelling preacher to terrorize the family of his former cellmate in order to find a hidden cache of stolen money. Mitchum’s terrifying turn has been hailed by later generations of critics, and even horror master Stephen King dubbed his character as one of the greatest villains in all fiction. This one is not to be missed.
20th Century Fox
This sweeping romantic drama featured Mitchum as a U.S. Marine stranded on a Pacific Island with a nun (Deborah Kerr) while surrounded by the Japanese during World War II. As they await rescue, the mismatched pair struggles to survive, only to discover their biggest challenge lies in their growing attraction for one another. Of course, she won’t renounce her vows, but that doesn’t stop him from growing deeper in love. Directed by John Huston
, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
earned Kerr an Academy Award nomination, but once again Mitchum was left off the ballot following a deserving performance.
Co-star Deborah Kerr was nominated for Best Actress, director Fred Zinneman received a nod for Best Director, and even the film itself – which was a financial disaster in the United States – was given Best Picture consideration. But Mitchum was overlooked once again following another strong performance. This time he played Paddy Carmody, a wandering sheep herder in 1930s Australia whose itinerant urges prevent him from settling down with his wife (Kerr) and son in one place for very long. His wife’s hopes of one day owning a farm looks possible, only to see Paddy dash her dream on a horse race. Despite the subtlety of the film itself, Mitchum and Kerr are once again a memorable pair.
20th Century Fox
Mitchum was one of the leading performers in an all-star cast that included John Wayne
, Rod Steiger, Richard Burton
, Peter Lawford, Henry Fonda
and Sean Connery
for this sweeping war epic
about the Allied invasion of Normandy in World War II. Through dozens of characters, three directors deftly recreated the events of five different invasion points in this giant retelling of the historical operation that turned the tide of the war. Of course, not one actor stands out among the rest, but Mitchum’s star power was enough to make him one of the more prominent characters in the mammoth film.
Combing charm and amiability with ruthlessness and revenge, Mitchum delivered one of his most enduring performances in this classic psychological thriller. He played Max Cady, a convict set free after serving eight years for rape and assault who holds a Georgia attorney, Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck
), responsible for his conviction and begins a reign of terror against him and his family as payback. Of course, Cady makes sure to stay within bounds of the law and leaves Sam little choice but to take matters into his own hands. While Martin Scorsese
’s 1991 remake with Robert De Niro is better known to contemporary audiences, the original remains unforgettable thanks to Mitchum’s unnerving performance.
Essentially a remake of Howard Hawks
’ Rio Bravo
(1958), Mitchum played the Dean Martin role of a drunken deputy who helps his old friend and former sheriff (John Wayne) take on a ruthless land baron (Ed Asner). Along for the ride is James Caan in the Ricky Nelson role of Wayne’s new partner, who happens to be handy with a knife. Like Rio Bravo
, El Dorado
focuses on the themes of friendship, duty and the need for order on the frontier. Hawks’ image of a wounded Wayne and hobbled Mitchum walking off together remains one of the director’s more iconic screen moments.
MGM Home Entertainment
Set in an Irish seaside town in 1916, director David Lean
’s sweeping romance starred Mitchum as a stiff-collared schoolmaster whose restless and much younger wife (Sarah Miles) engages in a passionate love affair with a British officer (Christopher Jones). Her secretive dalliances are discovered, leading to a series of events – including her father informing on her to the IRA – that lead to tragedy and the resignation that she will spend the rest of her life in a loveless marriage. Cast against type, Mitchum at times gives an uneven performance. But the sheer grandeur of the film still makes this must viewing for fans of both the actor.