Robert Mitchum – The Soul Of Film Noir.

‘Some walk like they own the place /Whilst others creep in fear/ Try if you can to walk like a man /You’ve got to walk like a panther tonight’

Robert Mitchum by Kate Gabrielle

Or so said, Jarvis Cocker,and, indeed, he really could have been talking about the great uncaged beast that was Robert Charles Durman Mitchum.

Big Bob, certainly prowled though many films like he ‘owned the place’ although, in typically self-deprecating fashion, he said this: “People say I have an interesting walk. Hell, I’m just trying to hold my gut in.”

For most of his life Mitchum was also uncaged. After being expelled from High School, he traveled throughout the country on railroad cars, taking a number of jobs including a ditch-digger and a professional boxer. He experienced many adventures during his years as one of the Depression era’s “wild boys of the road.”

However, in Georgia he was arrested for vagrancy and put on a local chain gang . Years later, in August 1948, he was arrested by narcotics officers for marijuana possession and sentenced to 60 days at a California prison farm.

But in film he always seemed free. Roger Ebert called Mitchum ‘the soul of Film Noir’ and this was true in films such as Crossfire, The Big Steal,. Otto Preminger’s Angel Face and Out of the Past, directed by Jacques Tourneur ,where Mitchum’s cynical, mischievous attitude, along with his lascivious droopy eyes and lazy mouth, were ideally suited to the role of the anti-hero.

However, the Charles Laughton helmed The Night of the Hunter is still considered by many to be Mitchum’s best performance, playing a psychotic criminal posing as a preacher to find money hidden in his cell mate’s home.

Hell, Mitchum was so cool that  he recorded a calypso album and Julian Cope wrote this song about him.



Published by PaulDBrazill

A writer and teacher, from England and living in Poland. 'The Poundland Poe.' Books include The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, and Gumshoe Blues. This/ That/ & The Other.

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