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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

R. Mitchum's hobo years - through the 1929 depression

“I never take any notice of reviews - unless a critic has thought up some new way of describing me. That old one about my lizard eyes and anteater nose and the way I sleep my way through pictures is so hackneyed now." –  
                     Robert Mitchum

Robert left school at the age of 14 and made frequent freight-hopping trips around the country, working as a laborer, coal miner, boxer and aircraft assembler. Run-ins with the police gave him a lifelong antipathy to authority.


1- Mitchum Sings  -redtreetimes

Okay, he was a great actor.  But it was some of the other details of his life that caught my eye.  I discovered he was one of the “wild boys of the road” during the Great Depression, young men and women, often no more than 15 or 16 years old, who were cut loose from their families during those dire times, told that they were a burden on the family and that they must go out on their own.  It was estimated that during the peak years of the Depression, when unemployment was over 25%, that there were over 250, 000 of these wild boys riding the railroad boxcars and hitchhiking around the US seeking work and a better life.  It was a life of violence, depravation and hardship, one that is a little known footnote to the history of that time. 

After leaving this life as a hobo (the term is supposedly derived from hoe boy when migrant workers followed the crops by riding the boxcars) Mitchum found himself in the world of movies and never looked back.

The Ballad of Thunder Road, he even wrote this.

ACTING ---- Here
 his eyes and look-a-like --- here

2 -  What Made Them Great: Robert Mitchum
June 24, 2013 by Alastair Newport   

Classic Westerns, Thrillers and Noirs full where real men like Kirk Douglas and Humphrey Bogart manned about, saying manly phrases like ‘damn it’ and doing manly things such as drinking neat liquor, rescuing dames and sticking to their principles.During this weirdly masculine period in the history of acting, there was one man who was even manlier than the rest, whose being was powered by some kind of super testosterone made unavailable after August 6th 1917. He wasn’t just rougher and tougher than his Hollywood contemporaries; he was rougher and tougher than anyone. His name was Robert Mitchum.
Mitchum lived through the great depression of the 30’s where like so many, he rode the railroads and drifted from town to town looking for work. At the age of 14 he was arrested for vagrancy and spent 90 days in a chain gang doing hard labour…I don’t know what you were like when you were 14 but personally the idea of drifting and chain ganging would have seriously got in the way of my girl chasing and weed smoking career and would have no doubt killed me.

Eventually falling into acting and finding himself in Hollywood, Mitchum found some success playing villains in B-movie westerns films and TV slowly building enough attention to be cast as a lead in the genre that would make him an icon, Film Noir.

It was the 1947 Noir ‘Out of the Past’ (known sometimes in the UK as ‘Build My Gallows High’) that really cemented his place in the firmament. 

3- Throughout Robert's childhood, he was known as a prankster, often involved in fistfights and mischief. When he was 12, Ann sent Robert to live with his grandparents in Felton, Delaware, where he was promptly expelled from his middle school for scuffling with a principal. A year later, in 1930, he moved in with his older sister, waitress and stage actress Julie (originally Annette) Mitchum, in New York's Hell's Kitchen. 

After being expelled from Haaran High School, he left his sister and traveled throughout the country on railroad cars, taking a number of jobs including a ditch-digger for the Civilian Conservation Corps and a professional boxer. He experienced numerous adventures during his years as one of the Depression era's "wild boys of the road."

 In Savannah, Georgia he was arrested for vagrancy and put on a local chain gang. By Mitchum's own account, he escaped and returned to his family in Delaware. It was during this time, while recovering from injuries that nearly lost him a leg, that he met the woman he would marry, a teenaged Dorothy Spence. He soon went back on the road, eventually riding the rails to California.

4- American Legends: The Life of Robert Mitchum

Mitchum plays anti-heroes who are victims of circumstance, but even as he is placed in situations beyond his control, he maintains a cool, if dispassionate countenance. Mitchum was, in short, neither a hero nor a villain but someone who seemed to defy the often-simplistic distinctions between protagonist and antagonist, hero and villain.
Even so, for someone who put on such a cool façade, Mitchum certainly experienced a great deal of hardship. From the death of his father, James, to his rough adolescence—much of which was spent traveling on railcars during the throes of the Great Depression—Robert Mitchum lived the part of the hard-luck antiheroes he portrayed onscreen. Up until his adult life, there was little indication that he would grow up to become anything more than a working-class factory worker, let alone a world-famous movie star. It is telling that Mitchum remained within the confines of the gritty noir and western genres; to imagine him acting in a romantic comedy would be antithetical to the reputation that he built. Mitchum was, to be sure, one of the premier A-list stars of the 1940s and 1950s, but he was a leading man in the hypermasculine mold of Humphrey Bogart rather than the more diverse skill set of Henry Fonda or Jimmy Stewart. In any event, one of the great mysteries of Robert Mitchum’s career is that for all the poor luck that his characters experienced, he still was able to affect a debonair sensibility that made him identifiable–a man to which viewers were irresistibly attracted, even if his characters did not necessarily warrant such a response.

This biography looks at the process that led from Robert Mitchum rising from impoverished Depression-era youth to leading Hollywood celebrity. Mitchum’s harsh childhood, including the premature death of his father and his dangerous life on the road, are discussed, as well as the process that saw him ascend through the acting industry.

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