Hollywood film noir legend Robert Mitchum spent some time in my home town of Invercargill, New Zealand in 1988. He was filming the TV spy-thriller, THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE, directed by triple Emmy winner, Marvin J Chomsky. I was fortunate to be able to spend a few days on set to write some feature articles for The Southland Times NIE pages.
Critics called Mitchum one of the finest actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood. One stated that he was an “underrated American leading man of enormous ability who sublimates his talents beneath an air of disinterest.” He was more modest. In a BBC interview he said,”Look, I have two kinds of acting. One on a horse and one off a horse.”He used to annoy fellow actors saying the profession wasn’t challenging or hard work. “You turn up on time, you learn your lines, you hit your marks, you go home.” The American Film Institute listed him as the 23rd greatest actor in American Cinema – an accolade he ignored, saying, “Movies bore me, especially my own.”
His distinctive features included his sleepy, indifferent eyes. One of his nicknames was in fact, ‘old, rumple eyes’. They were a result of boxing injuries, chronic insomnia and lots of drinking alcohol. I did a quick sketch on set, emphasising them. I think the actual day was 8.8.88. He laughed when he saw it and signed it with a question mark.
“I started out to be a sex fiend, but couldn’t pass the physical”, he once said.
Robert died on 1 July,1997 from lung cancer.