Cooler than Steve McQueen – more of a rebel than Marlon Brando and tougher than John Wayne – Robert Mitchum: possibly the most naturalistic screen actor of them all was born exactly 100 years ago today in Bridgeport Connecticut.
Mitchum always professed to be a reluctant movie star – constantly playing down his considerable talents (‘I have two styles of acting – with or without a horse’) but behind the laconic sleepy-eyed image and that inimitable bandy legged walk lay a consummate professional – even if he did have a healthy disregard for the movie industry.
He perfected a studied insouciance that fooled people into thinking he wasn’t really doing much acting and perhaps he wasn’t as he pretty much invested much of his own (multiple) personalities into his roles.
Perhaps it was this laid-back self-deprecating demeanour that led to him being so underrated for so long.
He was only ever nominated once for an Oscar – not that he cared particularly.
It was only in the 1970s that he began to be recognised by the critics for the quality of his acting.
The public always loved him however – recognising that he was the real deal unlike so many other manufactured stars.
Even a jail term in 1948 for possession of marijuana – which would have ruined other careers – didn’t dent his popularity at the box office.
The drugs bust was later proven to be a fit-up and Mitchum’s conviction was quashed but did allow him to demonstrate his trademark deadpan humour when he gave his occupation as ‘former actor’ when he was arrested.