Robert Mitchum Talking Pictures


Robert Mitchum

The life and career of Robert Mitchum is examined using footage of his appearances on the BBC, illustrating why he was a favourite of film fans and an interviewer's nightmare.


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Transcript


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Robert Mitchum was a star who split opinion.

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Critics called him a great screen actor.

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Mitchum himself claimed he had just two acting styles,

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on a horse and off.

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Fellow actors and directors loved to work with him.

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Interviewers, as we shall see, dreaded him,

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uncertain if he'd answer their questions with the truth,

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lies or silence.

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Before acting, Mitchum had worked as a professional boxer,

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a ghost-writer for an astrologer and even on a chain gang.

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His acting break came with small parts in B movie westerns,

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and here he is in 1987 talking about the early days

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and his first dealings with the bosses at RKO studios.

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First of all, they asked me if I...

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Why I hadn't had my nose fixed,

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and I just simply said it hadn't occurred to me.

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I could breathe through it fairly well.

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They were going to change my name to Robert Marshall.

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And, you know, they thought the, like,

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Taylor, Gable, Garland, you know...

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And the man who wanted to change my name was named Herman Schlum.

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So he changed his son's name to Marshall Schlum

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and everything worked out.

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-PRODUCER:

-What was your first contract?

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40 weeks out of 52 for 350 a week.

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What was your first film for RKO?

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The first one I was in drag, actually,

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in the beginning of the picture.

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-MAN IN FILM:

-You look good to me!

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Well, I had sort of a prairie style flouncing skirt

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and I was done up in drag.

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You for me, ma'am, I like them big.

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Well, they don't come too big for me either, bud.

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MAN IN HAT CACKLES

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That's good! Got a voice to match your figure.

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I'm buying you the first drink, sweetie pie.

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It was sort of like a club, RKO.

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They had commitments, expensive commitments,

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like with Cary Grant, Crosby, people like that,

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and then they had what was more or less a B factory, which we did,

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we had the westerns and Larry Tourney did Dillinger

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and that sort of thing, and it was just a good, functioning factory.

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The crew was very familiar, we worked with the same crew more or less

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all the time, and it was sort of down home.

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What sort of areas could you chose what you wanted?

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Could you chose the directors you wanted to work with?

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It makes no difference.

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-No difference.

-Still doesn't.

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You don't believe that the director makes the picture?

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I have no idea. Possibly does, you know.

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But I have the same general attitude that John Huston taught me,

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and Johnny said...

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"They want the bad pictures, we can me them too, kid.

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"They want them bad, it'll cost a little more,

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"but if they want them bad, we can make them bad."

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Doesn't concern me.

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In 1948, Mitchum was arrested for possession of marijuana.

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The Federal Narcotics Bureau said they had been watching him

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for some time, eight months in all.

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He was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

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It did have an effect on your career, did it not, though?

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It... Probably, yeah. It made it a bit more...

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Well, I couldn't play, for instance,

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Eagle Scouts or Baptist preachers.

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But I tell you one thing,

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it certainly enlisted an enormous number of new fans.

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Everybody thought that was the end of Mitchum's career.

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Well, it wasn't at all. Mitchum...

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Everybody was kind of fascinated by this.

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Maybe if it had been Farley Granger or some attractive young guy

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with a different kind of image, it would

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have been a different thing, but Mitchum, they liked Mitchum

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to be a little dangerous, a little reckless, a little...

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The kind of things that he was.

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That's the character he played and that's the kind of person he was.

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Perhaps as a result of his arrest,

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Mitchum found himself gravitating towards film noir, and a period of

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mostly tough guy roles that tapped into his reputation as a bad boy.

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But there was much more to him than that,

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as was demonstrated in later films like The Sundowners

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and Heaven Knows, Mr Allison.

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Both featured the English rose Deborah Kerr,

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who called Mitchum her favourite co-star.

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In 1969, Mitchum was in Ireland,

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working on Sir David Lean's film Ryan's Daughter.

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He was interviewed on location by Film Night's Tony Bilbow

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in what wasn't the easiest encounter of the reporter's career.

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-TONY BILBOW:

-Robert Mitchum, when you're offered a film,

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you're said to look at the contract to see how many days you get off.

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Not the contract, look at the script.

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That's the only days off I get.

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Was this a good script from that point of view?

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It was, but I was led down the garden path, you see.

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When I'm not working, I'm standing by. I'm under house arrest.

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TONY CHUCKLES

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-Do you find this irksome?

-Rather, yeah.

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There's a kind of legend about you, which you...

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..help to perpetuate, I think, that, erm,

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you walk through your parts,

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that you don't really take your career or yourself very seriously.

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Value for value received.

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Could you explain that a bit more?

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Well, you know, they can have it any way they want it. If they want it...

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We make bad pictures too. Cost a little more, but...

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..if they're convinced that,

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you know, if they're insistent upon dull, bad, dreary making.

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I can't help feeling that this is a facade, erm,

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and that behind it all you really are a dedicated actor.

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I am indeed, I am desperately dedicated.

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Very sensitive to criticism or frustration.

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I cry myself to sleep at night.

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I've already designed a monument for myself.

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-What form will it take?

-I cannot tell you that.

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Someone's liable to steal it.

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TONY CHUCKLES

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Somebody once said that, er, dignity has ruined more actors than drink.

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-Do you agree with that?

-I think John Barrymore said that.

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Dignity or trained voices.

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But what I'm really getting at is, you see,

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I wonder whether this is what is behind

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what I still think of as a facade,

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that underneath all this you take your profession very seriously...

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Very seriously.

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-TONY LAUGHS

-You're sending me up again!

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-But you're...

-Well, you said it, not I.

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I think you take it very seriously

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-but you like to pretend that you don't.

-OK.

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-Would you agree?

-No, but...

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All right, I'll give you an example of what I mean.

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Somebody like Humphrey Bogart, who I admired very much as an actor,

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who is generally agreed, I think, to have been a very fine actor,

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one of the finest we've ever had. And yet he, like you,

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used to give the impression that he didn't give a damn about his job.

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No, no, he was a professional actor from nine till six.

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After that he was Bogart.

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-Just himself.

-Ah, so now we have it.

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Would you admit that you're a professional actor?

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When I'm paid. Yeah, during working hours.

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TONY LAUGHS

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I think you did once say that if you could you'd rather write than act.

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Well, I... I had proposed to write, I began as a writer, but, er...

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..I was seduced, you know, led down the garden path

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and became a movie actress instead.

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-TONY CHUCKLES

-When did this seduction take place?

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June 1942, I needed 500 and I found it.

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But how did this happen?

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You don't just suddenly walk into a film studio.

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No, but, er, somebody had said

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if I'd ever wanted to do anything professionally to let them know

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and they'd see if they couldn't get me a job, so I did.

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Economic expedient, I needed the money.

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It was also very lucky in a way because you came in at the tail end

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of the era of the matinee idol...

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-Mm.

-..so that...

-I came along with the ugly leading man.

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-TONY LAUGHS

-You said it, I didn't.

-That's right.

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I got out of the army, there I was, you know, in profile all the time.

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So did you feel that you were very much in the right time...?

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No, I just, er, I began as a...

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..sort of as a character actor. I began in the Hopalong Cassidys,

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all beard, very little dialogue, you know. 100 a week

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and all the horse manure I could carry home.

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It was great playing Cowboys and Indians

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and picnicking out in the fields. It was, you know, all right.

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And I just stayed on the tip, that's all.

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I don't want to pursue this any more than I need,

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but there's one extra thing I'd like to ask you.

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Somebody once said of you that there's very little chance

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that your real talent as an actor will be revealed

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because that would mean exposing more of your real personality.

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That's quite possible, yeah.

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-Could you give me just a little bit of...?

-You just said it, you know.

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What are the things that you're afraid of exposing?

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Nothing at all, really.

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It's just a matter of, of, er, further involvement and complication,

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just personal involvement.

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And you don't want to be involved?

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-I don't want to charm anyone, no.

-No, we're not talking about charm.

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-I don't want to interest anyone.

-No, but as an actor.

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You've admitted you're a dedicated actor, a professional actor.

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I'm, you know, I'm a professional actor, that's all.

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I got a union card that says so.

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And a job that says so.

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-Mm.

-That's the end of it.

-Yes, but...

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As much as anyone need know as far as I...

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I mean, you know, my feeling.

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Are you aware of certain facets of your character or personality

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that you instinctively dislike?

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Oh, yes, the dark, dismal depths of depravity that I hide...

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THEY LAUGH

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..I don't wish to exhibit to children, you know.

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No, all right, you're making a joke,

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but is it possible there's a little bit of truth in that?

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-That if you really...

-I, listen, I'm sure no more than in anyone else,

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I don't know. I mean, I don't regard myself, er, I mean, I don't have a...

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I'm not a thief and I'm not a compulsive liar or a cheat.

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I don't think that I burden anyone else with my, er,

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shortcomings or my sins.

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As I say, at six o'clock I just shut off and go home.

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Well, let's take a more superficial picture of you,

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the image produced by the films of the tough He-Man.

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Erm, and like a lot of other stars of your kind,

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who have this image, erm, a lot of people in private life

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like to take a swing at you, take a punch at you.

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What do you do in those situations?

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Fall down.

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But I mean, do you never retaliate?

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Never happens, really, or very rarely happens.

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But I mean you have this reputation in the press anyway...

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Oh, well, you know, according to the press Tom Dewey is president,

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you know, and...

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-all sorts of things.

-Mm, cos in the past you've had to live down

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some rather unfortunate publicity.

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I'm thinking of that narcotics charge some years ago, and the...

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-That was a conspiracy charge.

-Conspiracy charge?

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Yes, which was later dropped, rescinded,

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I received a clean bill of health and a letter of apology.

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No-one ever published that because it didn't sell any newspapers.

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-Did you feel bitter about that?

-Not at all.

-Didn't mind?

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Then there was the very silly,

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blown up thing about the Cannes Film Festival when some starlet...

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-I had nothing to do with that.

-No, I know you didn't!

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When she flung herself into your arms, erm, she took her top,

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took her bra off, and there was this...

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She was going for the load but, er,

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I opted out.

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But I wonder, do you think...?

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To what extent would you take...

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..responsibility for that kind of thing happening to you?

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Well, just the...

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The, er, being a public freak, you know, being a...

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..a zoo animal on the loose, that's all.

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There was the time when you said that you wouldn't care

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if you never made another picture at all.

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I'd have said that the first day I ever went to work.

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I'm not, I was never starry-eyed and fascinated by

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the magic of the movies, you know.

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Take the money and run.

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So what would you do

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if you suddenly found that the offers weren't coming in?

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Weep, I suppose.

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All the way to the bank.

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Like Tony Bilbow, Michael Parkinson would also find Mitchum to be

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one of his more challenging guests.

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Parkinson later wrote that Mitchum had been up to his old tricks,

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smoking something exotic just before the interview,

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and thought this was one reason why it went the way it did.

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Good evening and welcome.

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My special guest tonight is one of the cinema's superstars.

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He's made so many films

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that he claims to have stopped counting after 130.

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In a changing industry he's remained a constant, a fixture,

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defying the ebb and flow of a shifting world.

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He once claimed that the only thing he'd changed

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since going to Hollywood was his underwear.

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Ladies and gentlemen, Robert Mitchum.

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APPLAUSE AND MUSIC

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I really can't see all those people, I guess I'd better...

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They can see you, that's the important thing.

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They always have. A frightening thing.

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You're not nervous, are you,

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-about appearing in front of a live audience?

-Yes, I am.

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-That is as steady as a rock.

-Mm-hm.

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Really, don't you like the live audience,

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don't you like the feel of it?

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I come from Los Angeles, a rock is not so steady.

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LAUGHTER

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How is it, do you think, that you've, I said in the intro there,

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that you've been, or you are, one of Hollywood's most durable stars,

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you've had a long career and it's not fluctuated.

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I mean, why is it, do you think, that you've remained so constant?

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I should think just that, endurance, you know. Just general durability.

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Some of them fell dead from playing tennis,

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found in bed with a blonde, you know.

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Some are lost at sea, and I just, er...

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-You don't play tennis.

-I don't leave the house too much.

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Why do you think, though, I mean, to be serious, if we can

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for a moment, have you ever tried to analyse your popularity?

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One time, I guess it was the first time

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that my wife and I went to Rome,

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and we met an Italian journalist, a lady, and, er, she said,

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"You have no problems at all walking through the streets of Rome."

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We were going down window shopping on the Via Condotti and were

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staying up at the Hassler Hotel at the top of the Spanish Stairs,

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and she cited, you know, the appearance

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and sort of walk about of Gary Cooper and Bogart and on and on.

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And she said,

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"Oh, no, the Italian people have great respect for the artiste."

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I said, "OK, fine,"

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so we went off and we wound up being sort of boxed in in the middle

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of the Via Condotti with about 2,000 people blocking both ends.

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And there's a big smiling Carabinieri standing next to me,

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and I went on speaking Polish for two hours, and finally,

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some guy jumped up, he said, "Well, he's been very kind, very..."

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My wife was hiding in a doorway back across the street.

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And this, you know, fella sort of let me off the hook.

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He said, "He's been very kind, he's given of his time,

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"I think we should let him go,"

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so they finally turned me loose to great cheers from the crowd,

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and we marched back up, back on up the stairs

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and back to the hotel and we met this newspaper woman.

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And I told her my experience, and I said,

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"I guess they don't consider me, you know, a grand artiste."

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"Oh, yes," she said, "the great, they have great respect for you.

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"Really great artiste but with the common touch."

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LAUGHTER

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Thanks a lot. So they feel they can hit you, you know,

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speak to you, those other cats they stand in awe of, but you...

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-..they can touch.

-Do you think that's true, though?

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I'm afraid it is true, yeah.

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-Yeah?

-Yeah.

-Why is it, then?

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Well, because I've been just about

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every place everyone else has, you know, except good.

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So, I, uh, you know, I pretty much know what it's like,

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and I've spent most of my life sort of giving odd asides from the balcony

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and, er, I think people pretty well understand what I'm talking about.

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Mm. Do you mean that they sort of look at you and identify with you?

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-They can...

-Well, if the dialogue is really bad,

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you know, I speak the dialogue

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and then turn straight around to the audience like Jack Benny,

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and say, "How about that?"

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Really, you know, I think it's pretty well understood that I...

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..you know, I go to work in the morning

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and I come home at night, God willing, and, er, I have,

0:18:100:18:15

-I reserve my own attitudes about what I'm doing.

-Yes, yes.

0:18:150:18:19

I mean, I remember one time in New York at the Paramount Theatre,

0:18:190:18:23

and they have that stage that goes down at the end,

0:18:230:18:26

and this was right after or during

0:18:260:18:28

the Sinatra craze, you know, that period,

0:18:280:18:30

and I had been there with Frank and I watched this whole thing.

0:18:300:18:34

And, er, I did, I stood on the stage and said,

0:18:340:18:37

"Well, now, that's about the end of it.

0:18:370:18:39

"We've done our gig and that's it."

0:18:390:18:41

And I said, "Now this foul film comes on, and I've seen it,

0:18:410:18:43

"and I would advise you to split." And nobody left, nobody left!

0:18:430:18:48

Nobody left, they just creamed, you know, "Gotta see it."

0:18:480:18:52

But RKO didn't send me on too many more exploitations.

0:18:520:18:55

You mentioned, though, this thing about being boxed in in Rome.

0:18:560:19:00

-Does this lack of privacy, does it annoy you?

-It's not a lack of...

0:19:000:19:03

Well, it's frightening.

0:19:030:19:05

You know, you can't see that many people all headed in your direction

0:19:050:19:08

without, er, having some vague memory of a lynch mob,

0:19:080:19:13

because you can't find, you really can't

0:19:130:19:15

believe in your heart that there are that many people who mean you well.

0:19:150:19:19

LAUGHTER

0:19:190:19:21

-Not in concert, really.

-No.

0:19:210:19:23

Among them there's got to be some cut-purse or some stabber or...

0:19:230:19:27

It's kind of, you know, nervous making, I think.

0:19:270:19:30

But, I mean, if you ever took it to its extreme, though,

0:19:300:19:32

if you ever really thought about it before you went out,

0:19:320:19:35

you'd never go out, would you? So, I mean, how...?

0:19:350:19:38

-I don't much, really.

-You don't much go out?

-No, I don't, no.

0:19:380:19:41

No, I go out in drag a few times, you know.

0:19:410:19:44

LAUGHTER

0:19:440:19:46

Oh, I see.

0:19:460:19:49

Dicey musician over there.

0:19:490:19:51

LAUGHTER

0:19:510:19:52

There's no such thing as a dicey musician, they're dicey from birth.

0:19:520:19:57

Do you in fact...?

0:19:570:19:58

You said earlier on that you, erm, you regard what you do as a job,

0:19:580:20:03

you go in the studio, turn up and you go home.

0:20:030:20:05

Do you enjoy it, though? Do you enjoy making movies?

0:20:050:20:08

Of course, of course. Certainly.

0:20:080:20:11

I find myself, I have always found myself telling other people,

0:20:110:20:15

other sort of novitiates that, erm,

0:20:150:20:18

find themselves very awkward in the presence of, you know,

0:20:180:20:21

120 crew and general technicians,

0:20:210:20:25

and, er, they freeze up, you know, they become inhibited, and I said,

0:20:250:20:30

"Look, it's your turn and all these people are here for you."

0:20:300:20:33

Really, they're on your side,

0:20:330:20:34

and once that's understood then the ambience of, you know...

0:20:340:20:39

It's the only truly communal business.

0:20:390:20:41

Everybody gets together for you at that time, and it works very well.

0:20:410:20:46

-Mm.

-And I sort of...

0:20:460:20:47

My, sort of, my mature life was, er,

0:20:470:20:53

in that climate and that atmosphere,

0:20:530:20:55

and I must say I'm very grateful for it, really, because I found, er...

0:20:550:21:00

..well, a great deal of human concern

0:21:010:21:04

that people are just not ordinarily...

0:21:040:21:09

-ordinarily exposed to. And I'm very grateful for it.

-Mm.

0:21:090:21:13

-I, you know, I think it's an improvement. It helps growth.

-Mm.

0:21:130:21:17

But what about movies themselves?

0:21:170:21:19

-I mean, you've made a hell of a lot, haven't you? More than most.

-Well...

0:21:190:21:23

You know, you propose in front that this is dumb or that's stupid

0:21:250:21:29

or that's, you know, er...

0:21:290:21:31

And they, they argue.

0:21:330:21:37

They don't even argue, really.

0:21:370:21:39

They draw up, and, er, they pay.

0:21:390:21:44

They steal but they pay.

0:21:440:21:46

So, er, if you want less than the best, fine.

0:21:460:21:50

I'm very well prepared to give less than the best if that's your game.

0:21:500:21:53

Good, really.

0:21:530:21:55

Really? You mean you don't...?

0:21:550:21:57

-Why not?

-Well...

-I wouldn't want to embarrass a producer

0:21:570:22:00

by being better than he expected me to be.

0:22:000:22:02

LAUGHTER

0:22:030:22:05

No, but you might like to satisfy yourself to be

0:22:050:22:08

as good as you know you can be.

0:22:080:22:09

I satisfy myself when it's dark.

0:22:090:22:11

LAUGHTER

0:22:120:22:15

Later.

0:22:150:22:16

-Is that...?

-I satisfy myself that I outlive them.

0:22:180:22:21

Out-enjoy them.

0:22:220:22:23

Outperform them.

0:22:240:22:26

-Do you always want to be a movie star?

-No, I wanted to be Queen.

0:22:270:22:31

LAUGHTER

0:22:310:22:34

No, I didn't, it never occurred to me.

0:22:340:22:37

Didn't make it. I didn't make the weight.

0:22:370:22:40

APPLAUSE

0:22:400:22:41

Couldn't make the weight.

0:22:410:22:43

No, it never occurred to me until it came up, you know.

0:22:430:22:46

With this extraordinary varied background that you had,

0:22:460:22:49

how do you eventually arrive in movies?

0:22:490:22:52

-Did they find you?

-It was an economic expedient, I needed the job.

0:22:520:22:56

My wife was going to have a baby and I needed 500

0:22:560:22:59

and I just went up and knocked on the door and asked if they were

0:22:590:23:02

taking any hands in the acting department, and they said, "Why not?"

0:23:020:23:07

That was it, I went to work.

0:23:070:23:09

-And you worked on, what, Hopalong Cassidy movies?

-Never looked back.

0:23:090:23:12

LAUGHTER

0:23:120:23:14

100 a week and all the horse manure I could carry home.

0:23:150:23:19

Couldn't beat that with a stick.

0:23:190:23:21

How long did it take to shoot those movies in those days?

0:23:220:23:25

We made, er, two pictures, I think, in 21 days.

0:23:250:23:29

-I think that's what it was.

-That's going some.

0:23:290:23:32

We went out into the locations...

0:23:320:23:33

No, we did the interiors for one, then did both exteriors, and,

0:23:360:23:39

you know, changed cast in the middle and came back and did

0:23:390:23:43

the interiors for the second, so the location trip served for both films.

0:23:430:23:47

Yeah. I suppose the first film that really lifted you out of that

0:23:470:23:52

and got you a lot of recognition was The Story of GI Joe.

0:23:520:23:56

I suppose it was. Some people say Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.

0:23:560:24:00

Some people say it was my picture in the Police Gazette, you know.

0:24:000:24:04

I guess it was. If you say so, I guess it was.

0:24:040:24:07

-No, I only say so, I mean...

-Cos other people say so?

0:24:070:24:09

No, no, not at all, because it's the only picture you were

0:24:090:24:12

-nominated for an Academy Award for.

-Ah, ahhh...

-Ah.

0:24:120:24:16

That impresses me.

0:24:160:24:18

Yeah, I guess so, right.

0:24:180:24:20

I just wonder what you thought about Academy Awards and nominations?

0:24:200:24:24

It has really not much to do with me.

0:24:240:24:27

If someone should call me up and say, "You just got the Academy Award,"

0:24:270:24:31

I'd jump up and down and go on...

0:24:310:24:33

Put a sign outside the window, you know. But other than that

0:24:330:24:36

I really don't know much about it.

0:24:360:24:38

You don't take George Scott's attitude about it?

0:24:380:24:41

I mean, he's antagonistic toward the whole system.

0:24:410:24:45

Well, yeah, he has a position, you know,

0:24:450:24:47

he has a position of antagonism.

0:24:470:24:49

I have no position at all.

0:24:490:24:50

There it is, you know.

0:24:520:24:54

It's like a choice of restaurants, or, I don't know...

0:24:570:25:01

I'm sure that it's valid and very important

0:25:010:25:04

and it's important to people who...

0:25:040:25:07

Who are...

0:25:080:25:10

Every year we give each other awards. You're OK, Charlie.

0:25:100:25:13

And er...

0:25:150:25:17

Which is good enough,

0:25:170:25:18

sort of a private club patting each other on the head.

0:25:180:25:21

And, if you...

0:25:230:25:26

..if you wear out a lot of foot leather

0:25:270:25:30

or spend at least part of your time

0:25:300:25:34

in seeking further jobs and further work,

0:25:340:25:38

that's a good thing to have in your portfolio.

0:25:380:25:40

Academy Award winner, Golden Gloves, 1903, you know?

0:25:400:25:44

But if you don't care,

0:25:440:25:46

then it really doesn't help much, does it?

0:25:460:25:49

What about the changes that you've seen in the industry, Mr Mitchum,

0:25:490:25:53

over the years?

0:25:530:25:55

The only thing I've noticed is that they call me "Sir".

0:25:550:25:57

"Yes, Sir."

0:25:570:25:59

Mr Mitchum, Sir.

0:25:590:26:00

They used to call me, "Hey, Rob, would you get your over here."

0:26:000:26:05

That's about the only changes I've seen.

0:26:050:26:07

That and the sort of cyclical return

0:26:070:26:11

to amateurism which is...

0:26:110:26:14

..largely prevalent now and I should think that out of it

0:26:140:26:17

comes hard-working, young people

0:26:170:26:20

with a sense of doing

0:26:200:26:23

and they do it.

0:26:230:26:25

I suppose they eventually will wind up being

0:26:250:26:28

the relatives of the needle trades advocates

0:26:280:26:32

who built Hollywood, and on and on I suppose.

0:26:320:26:35

Even in the sense that nothing is new?

0:26:350:26:38

Not really, not really.

0:26:380:26:41

Because all the giants were built out of really...

0:26:410:26:44

..trash catchers who sold it back to you in wholesale lots

0:26:450:26:49

and made you pay for it.

0:26:490:26:50

And...

0:26:520:26:53

You know, that wasn't too bad, was it?

0:26:530:26:57

I would think that a new group

0:26:570:27:00

coming in with all the waste and all the amateurism

0:27:000:27:04

should develop some straight,

0:27:040:27:08

good movie-makers

0:27:080:27:10

because I'm convinced that the audiovisual medium...

0:27:100:27:14

There's nothing else

0:27:140:27:16

until we find ourselves

0:27:160:27:18

in some sort of mental medium that

0:27:180:27:21

transcends that, but up until that I should think that

0:27:210:27:25

the audiovisual medium is better than all the languages in the world

0:27:250:27:28

because people can see it, they can make it up in their own heads.

0:27:280:27:32

And I have great faith in it, I really do, you know.

0:27:320:27:36

And I see people

0:27:360:27:38

who progress far beyond the material progress of it.

0:27:380:27:43

You have sons, also, who are sort of carrying on in the...

0:27:430:27:46

Looking for jobs.

0:27:460:27:48

Looking for jobs.

0:27:480:27:50

I wonder was there any advice you gave them when they became actors?

0:27:500:27:54

Just remember your lines

0:27:540:27:56

and don't write home for money.

0:27:560:27:58

LAUGHTER

0:27:580:28:02

-That's all they need to know.

-Neither of which they took to heart.

0:28:020:28:05

No, they do as they will.

0:28:050:28:08

That's their lives, isn't it?

0:28:080:28:10

They could have been burglars. as long as...

0:28:110:28:13

I said, "Whatever you do, don't get caught at it."

0:28:130:28:16

GIGGLING

0:28:160:28:18

No-one's ever caught me acting.

0:28:180:28:20

LAUGHTER

0:28:200:28:23

Did you ever contemplate retiring?

0:28:230:28:26

This morning I did.

0:28:260:28:28

And every morning.

0:28:280:28:30

I am retired really.

0:28:300:28:32

-Really?

-Yes.

0:28:320:28:34

You keep on making movies.

0:28:340:28:36

On my own terms, generally.

0:28:380:28:41

-And that's the best way?

-I would think so, yes.

0:28:410:28:44

-I would agree with you, yes.

-It's kind of juicy, really.

0:28:440:28:47

Of course Mitchum hadn't retired.

0:28:470:28:50

Amongst other things, the following year saw him

0:28:500:28:53

starring in a series of well-received crime dramas,

0:28:530:28:56

including two adaptations

0:28:560:28:58

of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels.

0:28:580:29:01

And there was, of course,

0:29:010:29:03

Night Of The Hunter directed by the actor Charles Laughton.

0:29:030:29:07

It had flopped on its original release in 1955,

0:29:070:29:11

but developed a cult following and over the years came to be

0:29:110:29:15

reappraised as one of American cinema's great classics.

0:29:150:29:19

Here we find Mitchum with his fellow cast and crew

0:29:190:29:22

discussing the film for the programme Moving Pictures.

0:29:220:29:27

We took...

0:29:270:29:29

..a most unusual subject

0:29:300:29:32

and we took what we had to work with

0:29:320:29:34

and, er...

0:29:340:29:36

Mr Laughton

0:29:360:29:38

made a gem of it.

0:29:380:29:40

Oh, God.

0:29:400:29:42

We had a mutual appreciation society.

0:29:430:29:46

We all knew we were involved in a great classic that was timeless.

0:29:460:29:50

They never had to shout for silence.

0:29:500:29:52

I was very much taken by

0:29:540:29:56

Davis Grubb's writing

0:29:560:30:00

and by his, er...

0:30:000:30:03

..delineation of the characters.

0:30:030:30:06

It was right on.

0:30:060:30:07

When I read the novel,

0:30:070:30:10

I was so impressed by the beautiful horror of the writing.

0:30:100:30:13

He was a master at words

0:30:130:30:16

and it was like beauty

0:30:160:30:18

and fear all together

0:30:180:30:21

and Laughton got that.

0:30:210:30:22

The original script was done by James Agee

0:30:220:30:26

and I saw it and I read it

0:30:260:30:29

and I held it in my hands.

0:30:290:30:31

It was at least 250 pages long, an extraordinarily long,

0:30:310:30:35

detailed script.

0:30:350:30:37

I think it was probably a masterpiece, but it wasn't a film script.

0:30:370:30:40

Jim Agee was sleeping on the couch in my den

0:30:400:30:45

and he turned in

0:30:450:30:46

a script that looked like a WPA project.

0:30:460:30:50

The goddam thing must have weighed 18 pounds.

0:30:500:30:53

And then my understanding from Laughton was that

0:30:530:30:56

he went back to the book which is a very, very cinematic book.

0:30:560:31:00

It's one of those books that you almost tear the pages out,

0:31:000:31:03

paste it in a notebook and shoot.

0:31:030:31:05

And he went back to the original book

0:31:050:31:08

and wrote the screenplay.

0:31:080:31:11

Charles really is responsible for the script.

0:31:110:31:14

Looky here.

0:31:140:31:16

Do you know what that is?

0:31:160:31:18

Do you want to see something cute? Now, looky.

0:31:180:31:20

How about that?

0:31:220:31:25

This is what I use on meddlers.

0:31:250:31:27

John might be a meddler.

0:31:270:31:29

Ah, no, no!

0:31:290:31:31

No, little lamb, don't touch it.

0:31:310:31:33

Don't touch my knife, that makes me mad. It makes me very, very mad.

0:31:330:31:36

Just tell me, where is the money hidden?

0:31:380:31:41

But that's why I promised John I wouldn't tell.

0:31:410:31:43

John doesn't matter!

0:31:430:31:45

Can I get that through your head, you poor, silly, disgusting, little wretch.

0:31:460:31:51

'It was an unusual part

0:31:510:31:53

'and I was very grateful for it.'

0:31:530:31:55

It, er...

0:31:550:31:57

gave me a little exercise.

0:31:570:31:59

I... It took me off, you know,

0:32:010:32:05

smiling and kissing the horse at the end.

0:32:050:32:08

And I knew the character fairly well,

0:32:080:32:11

having grown-up

0:32:110:32:13

and rambled around in that territory when I was a kid.

0:32:130:32:16

Yeah, I made several trips out on freight trains.

0:32:160:32:21

Bummed all through that country.

0:32:220:32:24

Charles Laughton would call Mitchum one of the best actors in the world,

0:32:260:32:30

a tender man

0:32:300:32:32

and a great gentleman.

0:32:320:32:34

And when Mitchum died in 1997 aged 79,

0:32:340:32:38

the tributes were equally glowing.

0:32:380:32:41

He was described as one of the true greats of Hollywood's Golden Age,

0:32:410:32:45

and the soul of American Film Noir.

0:32:450:32:48

Not bad for a man who when asked what he thought of his profession

0:32:490:32:53

would always answer,

0:32:530:32:55

"It sure beats working for a living."

0:32:550:32:57

The life and career of one of Hollywood's original bad boys, Robert Mitchum, is examined using archive footage of his appearances on the BBC that illustrate why he was a favourite of film fans, and an interviewer's nightmare.


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