By any normal standards, one would say Robert Mitchum is kind of funny-looking. But also astonishingly beautiful, at least sometimes.

Suck it in, Mitch!

What, can’t one man admire another’s ruggedly chiselled physiognomy?

That shot in OUT OF THE PAST when he straightens up after fighting his ex-partner in a darkened room, and Jane Greer has just fired her gun… that’s another of those Mitchum shots that takes my breath away.

This one, however, is from PURSUED, a wildly Freudian western written by Niven Busch, directed by Raoul Walsh, and photographed by James Wong Howe. I say “Freudian” because the plot, MARNIE-style, turns on Mitchum’s need to recover a repressed childhood memory. I loved this right up to the finish, which seemed contrived and unconvincing. One character gets to shoot another, who was posing no immediate threat, and yet nobody suggests that a crime has been committed. I know it was the bad guy who gets shot, and nothing says “the story’s finished” better than killing the bad guy, but it seemed… unnecessarily generic. And not explicable in realistic terms, since earlier in the movie the hero is tried after killing a man in self-defense. How come nobody’s bothered this time?

I’m not usually among what Hitchcock dismissively called the plausibilists, but when a film violates its own inner logic it does bug me a little.

I have never forgiven them for my arm.

Still, 90% of the film is great, noirish, unconventional and imaginative, and with a rather strong villain played by Dean Jagger, a man so determined to wipe out his enemies, he sacrifices his own arm rather than give up the hunt. I admired his cussedness.

5 Responses to “Ah-woo-wah-wow”

  1. A truly complicated character. He liked to pretend that he didn’t care about acting, but of course he did, greatly. When you see the rushes from The Night of the Hunter it’s quite obvious how much Mitchum cared. Losey said he wrote poetry, but didn’t want people to know. He also said he greatly admired the way Mitchem helped Mia Farrow, who was going through a bad patch of personal problems during the shooting of Secret Ceremony.

  2. He seems to have had an extraordinary capacity for either brutality or tenderness, both as actor and human being. There are plenty of beastly stories about him (Losey also said he was pretty obstreporous) and lots of intriguing ones. He wrote much of The Lusty Men and Macao for Nick Ray (and The Lusty Men is one of my favourite Rays) and could extemporise amazing flights of bullshit — he blew Jim Jarmusch’s mind. And then there’s ugly stuff like that clip of him on Youtube suggesting the US nuke Viet Nam rather than withdraw, because “You can’t withdraw from the human race.”
    I also rather admire his ability to play horrific characters like Max Cady without any form of emotional or physical disguise.

  3. shane clifford Says:

    Have you watched where danger lives yet?!?

  4. He was also great at impressions. He did the best John Huston I’ve ever seen and a truly amazing George Cukor.

  5. Wow!

    Still to dig out Where Danger Lives. Thanks for the reminder!

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