28 June 2017

Simone Simon

We're in Bologna for Il Cinema Ritrovato, where one of the interesting festival sections this year is Colette and Cinema. The activities in the field of cinema of this 'monumental figure of French literature' were manifold and intense. She wrote the French subtitles of Mädchen in Uniform, the screenplay Divine for Max Ophüls, the dialogues for the first film version of Gigi by Jacqueline Audry, and she adapted Lac aux dames for Marc Allégret. The grand discovery of Lac aux dames was kittenish Simone Simon (1910-2005), one of the most seductive and brilliant stars of the French cinema of the 1930s and 1950s. Publicity dubbed her ‘La Sauvage Tendre’ (The Tender Savage).

Simone Simon
French postcard by Erpé, no. 658. Photo: Fox Film.

Simone Simon
French postcard by Erpé, no. 560. Photo: Fox Film.

Simone Simon
French postcard, no. 498. Photo: publicity still for Les yeux noirs/Black eyes (Marc Allégret, 1935).

Simone Simon in Les yeux noirs
French postcard. Photo: publicity still for Les yeux noirs/Black eyes (Marc Allégret, 1935).

Simone Simon
Vintage postcard, no. 98. Photo: Fox-Europa.

Simone Simon
British postcard in the Art Photo series, no. 37-2. Photo: 20th Century Fox, no. 135.

Tyrolean Romance

Simone Thérèse Fernande Simon was born in Marseille, France (some sources say Béthune, a small town in the Pas de Calais province near the Belgian border) in 1910 (some sources say 1911). She was the daughter of Henri Louis Firmin, a French engineer, and Erma Maria Domenica Giorcelli, an Italian housewife.

Simone spent much of her early childhood in Madagascar, where her father managed a graphite mine. Her schooling was somewhat unsettled, her family moving from city to city (Berlin, Budapest, Turin) before finally establishing themselves in Paris in 1930.

There she worked briefly as a singer, model and fashion designer. She was discovered for the cinema by exiled Russian director Victor Tourjansky, who cast her in Le Chanteur inconnu/The Unknown Singer (1931), starring opera singer Lucien Muratore.

By the time Tourjansky and Simon worked together again, in Les Yeux noirs/Dark Eyes (Victor Tourjansky, 1935), Simon had already established herself as a popular young player in the French film industry.

She had achieved stardom with her role opposite Jean-Pierre Aumont in the delicate Tyrolean romance Lac aux dames/Ladies Lake (Marc Allégret, 1934), adapted by Colette from Vicki Baum's novel.

Simone Simon
Dutch postcard by J.S.A. Photo: Century Fox / M.P.E.

Paul Lukas, Simone Simon
British postcard by Real Photograph, London, no. FS 101. Photo: 20th Century Fox. Publicity still for Ladies in Love (Edward H. Griffith, 1936) with Paul Lukas.

Simone Simon
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. 1093a. Photo: 20th Century Fox. Publicity still for Seventh Heaven (Henry King, 1937).

Simone Simon and James Stewart in Seventh Heaven (1937)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 1158/1, 1937-1938. Photo: 20th Century Fox. Still from Seventh Heaven (Henry King, 1937) with Simone Simon and James Stewart.

Simone Simon
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 2911/1, 1939-1940. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox.

Simone Simon
Big German Ross Verlag card. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Europe’s Sweetheart

After seeing Simone Simon in Lac Aux Dames, Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck brought her to Hollywood in 1936. A widespread publicity campaign billed her as ‘Europe’s Sweetheart’. However her films for 20th Century Fox were only moderately successful.

In Girls’ Dormitory (Irving Cummings, 1936) she competed with Ruth Chatterton for the attentions of Herbert Marshall; and in Ladies in Love (Edward H. Griffith, 1936), she was fourth-billed after Janet Gaynor, Loretta Young, and Constance Bennett.

In Seventh Heaven (Henry King, 1937), a remake of the 1927 silent version with Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, she played one of her best roles as a Parisian street urchin romancing a miscast James Stewart. Unfortunately the film flopped, and 'See-moan See-moan' returned, dissatisfied, to France.

There, she reestablished herself as an actress to be reckoned with in the influential, moody drama La Bête Humaine/The Human Beast (Jean Renoir, 1938), based on Emile Zola’s novel. The film exudes the dark, fatalistic sensibility of the ‘poetic realism’ cycle of sombre romances of Marcel Carné and Julien Duvivier in the 1930s. A train driver (Jean Gabin) falls in love with the wife of a railwayman , beautifully played by Simon.

The exquisite film was a huge hit. Jean Renoir offered her next the role of Christine de la Chesnaye in La règle du jeu/The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939), but Simone Simon preferred to return to Hollywood.

Simone Simon
Vintage postcard, no. 2903. Sent by mail in Belgrade in 1960.

Simone Simon
French postcard by Collection Chantal, Paris, no. 98. Photo: Fox Europa.

Simone Simon
Small collector's card.

Simone Simon
French postcard, no. 61.

Simone Simon
French postcard.

Bewitching, Unearthly Seductress

For RKO Studios Simone Simon achieved her greatest Hollywood successes with a bewitching portrayal of an unearthly seductress in The Devil and Daniel Webster (William Dieterle, 1941), and as a troubled woman who believes she turns into a panther whenever she gets emotionally stirred up, in the cult horror film Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942).

These films, however, did not lead to more good roles and she languished in mediocre films – and a small part as a ghost in the interesting sequel The Curse of the Cat People (Robert Wise, 1944) - until the end of the war. Then she returned to France permanently.

She and Edwige Feuillère were owners of an 1880s girls' boarding school in the controversial Olivia/The Pit of Loneliness (Jacqueline Audry, 1950), which had censor boards outraged at its portrayal of lesbianism.

The same year, she was one of the many stars in La Ronde/Roundabout (Max Ophüls, 1950), a witty version of Arthur Schnitzler's play depicting love as a bitterly comic merry-go-round. Two years later she made a second film with Ophüls, Le Plaisir/House of Pleasure (Max Ophüls, 1952), based on three stories by Guy de Maupassant. In the third episode, La Modèle, she was the lovesick model of a philandering artist (Daniel Gélin). When a suicide attempt leaves her crippled, he marries her out of pity, and in the haunting last shot he is seen wheeling her along the beach.

Her film roles were few after this, and she worked mainly onstage. Her final film appearance was in La Femme en bleu/The Woman in Blue (Michel Deville, 1973).

Simone Simon never married. During WW II she was dating double-agent Dusko Popov, who worked for MI5. In 1942 Simon was watched by the FBI, because of this relationship. The couple broke up in 1943. In the 1950s, she was romantically involved with the French banker and racehorse owner/breeder Alec Weisweiller. Simone Simon died in Paris in 2005, aged 94.

Clip of James Stewart and Simone Simon in Seventh Heaven (1937). Source: ClassicMovieShop (YouTube).

Trailer La Bête Humaine/The Human Beast (1938). Source: felixxxx999 (YouTube).

Trailer Cat People (1942). Source: ClassicMovieTarilers (YouTube).

Trailer Pétrus (1946). Source: _ XYZT (YouTube).

Sources: Andre Soares (Alternative Film Guide), Tom Vallance (The Independent), Bruce Eder (AllMovie), I.S. Mowis (IMDb), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

27 June 2017

Marcello Mastroianni

We're in Italy at Il Cinema Ritrovato and today we feature Marcello Mastroianni (1924-1996), Italy's favourite leading man of the second half of the 20th century. In his long and prolific career, he almost singlehandedly defined the contemporary type of Latin lover, then proceeded to redefine it a dozen times and finally parodied it and played it against type. One of his first films, Domenica d’agosto (Luciano Emmer, 1950), a nostalgic look at Rome's favourite recreation area: the beach at Ostia, is shown in the section A Sunday in Bologna. Marcello plays a traffic cop who devotedly helps his struggling girlfriend. "The film truly is a little gem with a wink and a big beating heart", according to the IMDb reviewer.

Marcello Mastroianni
Italian postcard by Turismofoto, no. 76.

Marcello Mastroianni
Italian postcard by Rotal Foto, Milano (Milan), no. 250.

Marcello Mastroianni
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano, no. 460.

Marcello Mastroianni and Maria Schell in Le notti bianche (1957)
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 3486. Photo: G.B. Poletto. Publicity still for Le notti bianche/ White Nights (Luchino Visconti, 1957) with Maria Schell.

Marcello Mastroianni and Anouk Aimee in La dolce vita (1960)
Small Romanian collectors card by Casa Filmului Acin. Photo: publicity still for La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960) with Anouk Aimée.

Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni in La Notte (1961)
Small Romanian collectors card by Casa Filmului Acin. Photo: publicity stil for La Notte (Michelangerlo Antonioni, 1961) with Jeanne Moreau.

Marcello Mastroianni and Claudia Cardinale in Otto e Mezzo (1963)
French postcard by Edition La Malibran, Paris, no. MC 38, 1990. Photo: Claude Schwartz. Publicity still for Otto e Mezzo/8½ (Federico Fellini, 1963) with Claudia Cardinale.

Marcello Mastroianni
Franco-German postcard by Ufa AG, Berlin/Editions P.I., Paris. Photo: Betzler / Bavaria / Schorcht Film.

Marcello Mastroianni
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, no. 1445. Photo: Cineriz.

Marcello Mastroianni
Russian postcard from 1987. Collection: Pierre sur le Ciel.

Forced-labour Camp

Marcello Vincenzo Domenico Mastroianni was born in Fontana Liri, a small village in the Apennines, in 1924. He was the son of Ida (née Irolle) and Ottone Mastroianni, who ran a carpentry shop. Marcello grew up in Turin and Rome.

He appeared as an uncredited extra in Marionette (Carmine Gallone, 1939) and later appeared as an extra in Una storia d'amore/Love Story (Mario Camerini, 1942) and I bambini ci guardano/The Children Are Watching Us (Vittorio De Sica, 1944).

He worked in his father's carpentry shop, but during World War II he was put to work by the Germans drawing maps. During 1943–1944 he was imprisoned in a forced-labour camp, but he escaped and hid in Venice.

In 1944, Mastroianni started working as a cashier for film company Eagle Lion (Rank) in Rome. He began taking acting lessons and acted with the University of Rome dramatic group. In the university's production of Angelica (1948) he appeared with Giulietta Masina.

His first real film credit was in I Miserabili/Les misérables (Riccardo Freda, 1948) with Gino Cervi.

That year Mastroianni joined Luchino Visconti's repertory company, which was bringing to Italy a new kind of theatre and novel ideas of staging. The young actor played Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire, Happy in Death of a Salesman, Stanley Kowalski in Visconti's second staging of Streetcar, and roles in Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya.

He also acted in radio plays and he had his first substantial film role in the comedy Una domenica d'agosto/Sunday in August (Luciano Emmer, 1949).

In 1955 Mastroianni co-starred with Vittorio De Sica and Sophia Loren - an actress with whom he would frequently be paired in the years to come - in the screwball comedy Peccato che Sia una Canaglia/Too Bad She's Bad (Alessandro Blasetti, 1955) and later worked with De Sica again on the comedy Padri e Figli/Like Father, Like Son (Mario Monicelli, 1957).

His roles gradually increased in importance, but for the most part both the casts and crews of his projects were undistinguished, and he remained an unknown outside of Italy. Mastroianni permanently sealed his stardom in Italy, playing a timid clerk whose love is not reciprocated by Maria Schell, in Le notti bianche/White Nights (Luchino Visconti, 1957).

He soon became a major international star appearing in films like I soliti ignoti/Big Deal on Madonna Street (Mario Monicelli, 1958) with Vittorio Gassman. In this classic crime caper he displayed a light touch for comedy, playing the exasperated member of an inept group of burglars.

In 1960 he played his most famous role as a disillusioned and world-weary tabloid columnist who spends his days and nights exploring Rome's high society in Federico Fellini's La dolce vita/The Sweet Life (1960) with Anita Ekberg. La dolce vita changed the look and direction of the Italian cinema.

Hal Erickson at AllMovie: "Throughout his adventures, Marcello's dreams, fantasies, and nightmares are mirrored by the hedonism around him. With a shrug, he concludes that, while his lifestyle is shallow and ultimately pointless, there's nothing he can do to change it and so he might as well enjoy it. Fellini's hallucinatory, circus-like depictions of modern life first earned the adjective 'Felliniesque' in this celebrated movie, which also traded on the idea of Rome as a hotbed of sex and decadence. A huge worldwide success, La Dolce Vita won several awards, including a New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Foreign Film and the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival."

Marcello Mastroianni
Italian postcard by Turismofoto, no. 94.

Marcello Mastroianni
Big East-German card by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 68/72. Photo: Steffen.

Marcello Mastroianni in La Bella Mugnaia (1955)
Italian postcard by B.F.F. Edit., no. 3163. Photo: Titanus. Publicity still for La Bella Mugnaia/The Miller's Beautiful Wife (Mario Camerini, 1955).

Marcello Mastroianni
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden / Westf., no. 2361. Photo: Bavaria / Schorcht / Vogelmann. Publicity still for Mädchen und Männer/La ragazza della salina/Sand, Love and Salt (1957).

Marcello Mastroianni
East-German postcard by Progress, no. 1372, 1960.

Stefania Sandrelli and Marcello Mastroianni in Divorzio all'italiana (1961)
Small Czech collectors card by Pressfoto, Praha (Prague), 1965, no. S 83/6. Publicity still for Divorzio all'italiana/Divorce, Italian Style (Pietro Germi, 1961) with Stefania Sandrelli.

Marcello Mastroianni
Franco-German postcard by Ufa AG / Editions P.I. Photo: Fried Agency.

Marcello Mastroianni
Spanish postcard by Toro de Bronce, no. 44, 1963.

Marcello Mastroianni
Small Czechoslovakian card by Presseojo, Praha (Prague), 1964. Retail price: 0,50 Kcs.

Marcello Mastroianni
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 512, 1958. Retail price: 0,20 DM. Photo: Unitalia.

Not one-dimensional pretty boys

During the 1960s Marcello Mastroianni played in many great films and regularly worked with top Italian and French filmmakers. He appeared as the title character in Il bell'Antonio/Bell' Antonio (Mauro Bolognini, 1960) and starred in Michelangelo Antonioni’s masterpiece La notte/The Night (1961), where again his distanced, expressionless demeanour fit perfectly into the film's air of alienation and remote emotionality.

He appeared in interesting films like L'assassino/The Assassin (1961, Elio Petri), La Vie Privée/A Very Private Affair (1962, Louis Malle) with Brigitte Bardot, and Cronaca familiare/Family Diary (Valerio Zurlini, 1962) with Jacques Perrin.

Mastroianni followed La dolce vita with another signature role for Fellini, that of Fellini’s alter-ego, a film director who, amidst self-doubt and troubled love affairs, finds himself in a creative block while making a film in Otto e Mezzo/8½ (Federico Fellini, 1962). The film won two Academy Awards.

Mastroianni won the British BAFTA award twice for his roles in the black comedy Divorzio all'Italiana/Divorce, Italian Style (Pietro Germi, 1963) and the deliciously funny three-part sex farce Ieri, oggi, domani/Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Vittorio De Sica, 1963) costarring with Sophia Loren. He and Loren starred together again in the equally amusing sex comedy Matrimonio all'italiana/Marriage Italian Style (Vittorio De Sica, 1964).

According to Elaine Mancini on Film Reference “Mastroianni's masculinity blends perfectly with Loren's exuberant earthy personality” in both these films. While he was to become known for playing Latin lover roles (which he spoofed in Casanova 70 (Mario Monicelli, 1965), his characters often were far more complexly drawn. They were not one-dimensional pretty boys; rather, beneath their handsome exteriors they were lazy, world-weary, and doubt-ridden.

Other films were La decima vittima/The Tenth Victim (Elio Petri, 1965) with Ursula Andress and the Albert Camus adaptation Lo Straniero/The Stranger (Luchino Visconti, 1967) with Anna Karina.

Mastroianni won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for Dramma della gelosia - tutti i particolari in cronaca/Drama of Jealousy (Ettore Scola, 1970). In 1987 he would win the award again for Oci ciornie/Dark Eyes (Nikita Mikhalkov, 1987). Mastroianni, Dean Stockwell and Jack Lemmon are the only actors to have won the award twice.

During the 1970s Mastroianni continued to work in interesting films by prolific directors like Leo the Last (John Boorman, 1970), Permette? Rocco Papaleo/My Name Is Rocco Papaleo (Ettore Scola, 1971) with Lauren Hutton, Che?/What? (Roman Polanski, 1972) with Sydne Rome and La donna della domenica/The Sunday Woman (Luigi Comencini, 1975) with Jacqueline Bisset.

He often worked with controversial director Marco Ferreri at Liza (Marco Ferreri, 1972) with Catherine Deneuve, La Grande Bouffe/Blow Out (Marco Ferreri, 1973), Touche pas à la femme blanche/ Don't Touch the White Woman! (Marco Ferreri, 1974), and Ciao maschio/Bye Bye Monkey (Marco Ferreri, 1978) with Gérard Depardieu.

Other interesting films are Così come sei/Stay as You Are (Alberto Lattuada, 1978) with Nastassja Kinski, L'ingorgo - Una storia impossibile/Traffic Jam (Luigi Comencini, 1979) with Annie Girardot, and La terrazza/The Terrace (Ettore Scola, 1980) with Vittorio Gassman.

He played against his Latin lover image in Scola’s Una giornata particolare/A Special Day (Ettore Scola, 1977), in which Mastroianni's homosexual and Sophia Loren's oppressed housewife come together on the day in 1938 when Adolph Hitler was cheered on the streets of Rome during his visit to Benito Mussolini.

His seemingly detached air was perfectly suited to satire as well, as he demonstrated in films as diverse as the historical drama Allonsanfàn (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, 1974), and La città delle donne/City of Women (Federico Fellini, 1980).

Marcello Mastroianni
Belgian card by Publishop, Brussels for Cine Metro, Antwerpen, no. 18. Photo: MGM.

Marcello Mastroianni in Matrimonio all'italiana (1964)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 2634. Photo: publicity still for Matrimonio all'italiana/Marriage Italian Style (Vittorio De Sica, 1964).

Marcello Mastroianni
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 2557, 1966.

Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren in La Moglie del Prete
German postcard by pwe Verlag, München (Munich). Photo: publicity still for La moglie del prete/The Priest's Wife (Dino Risi, 1970) with Sophia Loren.

Marcello Mastroianni
Russian postcard by Izdanije Byuro Propogandy Sovietskogo Kinoiskusstva, no. 3624, 1975. This postcard was printed in an edition of 200.000 cards. Retail price: 5 kop.

Marcello Mastroianni in Casanova 70 (1970)
German postcard by Friedrich W. Sander Verlag, Minden. Photo: Inter Film. Still for Casanova 70 (Mario Monicelli, 1970).

Marcello Mastroianni
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin, no. 4881.

Marie Trintignant and Marcello Mastroianni in La terrazza (1980)
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin. Photo: publicity still for La terrazza (Ettore Scola, 1980) with Marie Trintignant.

Marcello Mastroianni in Enrico IV (1984)
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin. Photo: publicity still for Enrico IV/Henry IV (Marco Bellocchio, 1984).

Marcello Mastroianni in Ginger e Fred (1986)
German press photo, no. 5. Photo: Tobis. Publicity still for Ginger e Fred (Federico Fellini, 1986).

Wonderfully Nostalgic

In the latter stages of his career, Marcello Mastroianni continued to take serious dramatic roles. For instance, he played the senior citizen who simply looks back on his past. In Stanno tutti bene/Everybody's Fine (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1990), he is an elderly man who is absorbed in his memories, and who travels through Italy to call on his five adult children.

In Oci ciornie/Dark Eyes (Nikita Mikhalkov, 1987), he gives a tour-de-force performance as a once young and idealistic aspiring architect who married a banker's daughter, fell into a lifestyle of afternoon snoozes and philandering, and proved incapable of holding onto what was important to him.

His on-screen presence has also been directly linked to his earlier screen characterisations. In Prêt-à-Porter/Ready to Wear (Robert Altman, 1994), he was reunited with Sophia Loren, and at one point in the scenario, she recreated her famous steamy striptease sequence from Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Loren was as beguiling as she had been 30 years earlier but Mastroianni was no longer the attentive young lover, so Sophia's seductive moves only put him to sleep.

Mastroianni's appearance in two of Fellini's final features is especially sentimental. Ginger e Fred/Ginger and Fred (Federico Fellini, 1996) is sweetly nostalgic for its union of Mastroianni and Giulietta Masina, two of the maestro's then-aging but still vibrant stars of the past.

In Intervista (Federico Fellini, 1987), he appears as himself with Anita Ekberg, with whom he had starred decades before in La dolce vita. Mastroianni's entrance is especially magical; the sequence in which he and Ekberg (who, he remarks, he has not seen since making La dolce vita) observe their younger selves in some famous clips from that film is wonderfully nostalgic.

In 1988 Mastroianni was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the European Film Awards. He kept appearing in critically acclaimed films like To meteoro vima tou pelargou/The Suspended Step of the Stork (Theodoros Angelopoulos, 1991), in which he was quietly poignant as an obscure man who may have once been an important Greek politician who had disappeared years earlier.

Other films were Al di là delle nuvole/Beyond the Clouds (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1995) and Trois vies et une seule mort/Three Lives and Only One Death (Raúl Ruiz, 1996) with Anna Galiena. His final film was Viagem ao Princípio do Mundo/Voyage to the Beginning of the World (Manoel de Oliveira, 1997).

Marcello Mastroianni was married to Italian actress Flora Carabella (1926-1999) from 1948 until his death. They had one child together, Barbara. Mastroianni also had a daughter, actress Chiara Mastroianni, with French film star Catherine Deneuve, his longtime lover during the 1970s.

Both Flora and Catherine were at his bedside in Paris when he died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 72, as was his partner at the time, author and filmmaker Anna Maria Tatò. According to Christopher Wiegand and Paul Duncan in their book Federico Fellini, when Mastroianni died in 1996, the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain), which is so famously associated with him due to his role in Fellini's La dolce vita, was symbolically turned off and draped in black as a tribute.

His brother Ruggero Mastroianni (1929-1996) was a highly regarded film editor who edited several of Marcello's films directed by Federico Fellini, and appeared alongside Marcello in Scipione detto anche l'Africano/Scipio the African (Luigi Magni, 1971), a comedic take on the once popular Peplum, the sword and sandal film genre. Marcello Mastroianni had held starring roles in about 120 films over the course of his long career.

Trailer for Domenica d'agosto (1950). Source: Ugo Tramontano (YouTube).

The classic Trevi Fountain scene in La dolce vita/The Sweet Life (1960) with Anita Ekberg. Source: רונן אברהם (YouTube).

Trailer for 8 1/2 (1961). Source: BFI (YouTube).

Trailer for La Notte (1961). Source: Hadalat (YouTube).

Trailer for Ieri, oggi, domani/Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (1963). Source: Jeffrey M. Anderson (YouTube).

Trailer for La Grande Bouffe/Blow Out (1973). Source: Arrow Video (YouTube).

Trailer for Una giornata particolare/A Special Day (1977). Source: Argent Films (YouTube).

Trailer for La città delle donne/City of Women (1980). Source: Das Film Feuilleton (YouTube).

Trailer for Ginger e Fred/Ginger and Fred (1986). Source: Movieclips Trailer Vault (YouTube).

Sources: Elaine Mancini (Film Reference; updated by Rob Edelman), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Jason Ankeny (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

26 June 2017

Robert Mitchum

At Il Cinema Ritrovato, Robert Mitchum (1917–1997) is the subject of the section Two Faces of Robert Mitchum. The American actor is one of the icons of Hollywood thanks to his roles as tough guys, loners and drifters in many War films, Westerns and such classic Film Noirs as Out of the Past (1947) and His Kind of Woman (1952). His facade of cool, sleepy-eyed indifference proved highly attractive to both men and women. Mitchum portrayed two of the scariest screen villains ever: the psychotic evangelist Reverend Harry Powell in Night of the Hunter (1955) and cruel rapist Max Cady in the original Cape Fear (1962). During his notable 55-year acting career, he appeared in more than 125 films.

Robert Mitchum
Belgian collectors card by Kwatta, Bois d'Haine, no. C 215. Photo: M.G.M. Publicity still for Desire Me (George Cukor, Jack Conway, 1947).

The Night of the Hunter
Italian programme card for Il Cinema Ritrovata 2003. Photo: publicity still for The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955).

A trouble-making, wayward boy

Robert Charles Durman Mitchum was born in 1917 in Bridgeport, Connecticut into a Methodist family. His parents were James Mitchum, a railroad worker of Irish descent, and Anne Mitchum, the daughter of a Norwegian ship captain. He had an elder sister, Annette (known as actress Julie Mitchum).

In 1919, James Mitchum was crushed to death in a railyard accident, when his son was less than two years old. Anne remarried to a former Royal Naval Reserve officer, Major Hugh Cunningham Morris. Robert grew up as a trouble-making, wayward boy and was sent to live with his grandparents when he was 12 years old. There he was expelled from his middle school for scuffling with a principal.

A year later, in 1930, he moved in with his older sister, in New York's Hell's Kitchen. After being expelled from Haaren High School, he left his sister and travelled throughout the country on railroad cars, taking a number of jobs including professional boxing. At age 14 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.

During this time, while recovering from injuries that nearly cost him a leg, he met the girl he would marry, Dorothy Spence. In 1936, he went back on the road, eventually riding the rails to California. In Long Beach, he worked as a ghost-writer for astrologer Carroll Righter.

His sister Julie convinced him to join the local theatre guild with her. In his years with the Players Guild of Long Beach, he made a living as a stagehand and occasional bit-player in company productions. He also wrote several short pieces which were performed by the guild. In 1940, he returned East to marry Dorothy Spence, taking her back to California. He remained a footloose character until the birth of their first child, James, nicknamed Josh (two more children followed, Chris and Petrine).

Mitchum then got a steady job as a machine operator with the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. A nervous breakdown (which resulted in temporary blindness), apparently from job-related stress, led Mitchum to look for work as an actor or extra in films. An agent got him an interview with the producer of the series of B-Westerns starring William Boyd as flawless good guy Hopalong Cassidy. Mitchum's broad build, deep voice and insolent expression made him a perfect villain in several films in the series during 1942 and 1943.

He found further work as an extra and supporting actor in numerous productions for various studios. After playing a heroic co-pilot in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (Mervyn LeRoy 1943), Mitchum signed a seven-year contract with RKO Radio Pictures. He found himself groomed for B-Western stardom in a series of Zane Grey adaptations.

Robert Mitchum
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. W 758. Photo: R.K.O. Radio.

Robert Mitchum
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano, no. 386.

Unique blend of strength, slow-burning sexuality and devil-may-care attitude

Following the moderately successful Western Nevada (Edward Killy, 1944), Robert Mitchum was lent from RKO to United Artists for The Story of G.I. Joe (William Wellman, 1945). In the film, he portrayed war-weary officer Bill Walker, who remains resolute despite the troubles he faces. The film, which followed the life of an ordinary soldier through the eyes of journalist Ernie Pyle (Burgess Meredith), became an instant critical and commercial success.

Shortly after making the film, Mitchum was drafted into the United States Army, serving at Fort MacArthur, California. At the 1946 Academy Awards, The Story of G.I. Joe was nominated for four Oscars, including Mitchum's only nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He finished the year off with the Western West of the Pecos (Edward Killy, 1945) and a story of returning Marine veterans, Till the End of Time (Edward Dmytryk, 1946).

The genre that came to define Mitchum's career and screen persona was Film Noir. His unique blend of strength, slow-burning sexuality and devil-may-care attitude helped to make him the personification of the Noir hero. His first foray into the genre was a supporting role opposite Kim Hunter in the B-movie When Strangers Marry (William Castle, 1944), as a woman's former lover who may or may not have killed her new husband.

Undercurrent (Vincente Minnelli, 1946) featured him playing against type as a troubled, sensitive man entangled in the affairs of his brother (Robert Taylor) and his brother's suspicious wife (Katharine Hepburn). The Locket (John Brahm, 1946) featured Mitchum as bitter ex-boyfriend to Laraine Day's femme fatale. Pursued (Raoul Walsh, 1947) combined Western and Noir styles, with Mitchum's character attempting to recall his past and find those responsible for killing his family.

Crossfire (Edward Dmytryk, 1947) featured Mitchum as a member of a group of soldiers, one of whom kills a Jewish man in an act of anti-Jewish hatred. It featured themes of anti-Semitism and the failings of military training. The film earned five Academy Award nominations.

Following Crossfire, Mitchum starred in Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947). Mitchum played Jeff Markham, a small-town gas-station owner and former investigator, whose unfinished business with gambler Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) and femme fatale Kathie Moffett (Jane Greer), comes back to haunt him.

In 1948, after a string of successful films for RKO, Mitchum and actress Lila Leeds were arrested for possession of marijuana. The arrest was the result of a sting operation designed to capture other Hollywood partiers, as well, but Mitchum and Leeds did not receive the tip-off. After serving a week at the county jail, Mitchum spent 43 days at a Castaic, California, prison farm, with Life photographers right there taking photos of him mopping up in his prison uniform. The arrest became the inspiration for the exploitation film She Shoulda Said No! (Sam Newfield, 1949), which starred Leeds.

Mitchum claimed he was framed and in 1951 his case was overturned and his record cleared. However, the case enhanced his image as a rebel. The films released immediately after his arrest were box-office hits. The Western Rachel and the Stranger (Norman Foster, 1948) featured Mitchum in a supporting role as a mountain man competing for the hand of Loretta Young, the indentured servant and wife of William Holden, while he appeared in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck's novella The Red Pony (Lewis Milestone, 1949) as a trusted cowhand to a ranching family. He returned to true Film Noir in The Big Steal (Don Siegel, 1949), where he again joined Jane Greer.

Robert Mitchum
Italian postcard by Edizioni Beatrice D'Este, no. 20240. Photo: Ernest Bachrach, 1948.

Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum in River of No Return  (1954)
Vintage postcard. Photo: publicity still for River of No Return (Otto Preminger, 1954) with Marilyn Monroe.

The words Love and Hate tattooed on his hands

Robert Mitchum played a doctor who comes between a mentally unbalanced Faith Domergue and cuckolded millionaire Claude Rains in Where Danger Lives (John Farrow, 1950). The Racket (John Cromwell, Nicholas Ray, 1951) was a Noir remake of the early crime drama of the same name and featured Mitchum as a police captain fighting corruption in his precinct.

The Josef von Sternberg film Macao (1952) had Mitchum as a victim of mistaken identity at an exotic resort casino, playing opposite Jane Russell. They co-starred again in the steamy crime comedy-drama His Kind of Woman (John Farrow, 1952). Craig Butler at AllMovie: “Mitchum, by the way, is perfectly cast here, using his laconic, interior style to very good effect. Even Jane Russell, attired in outfits that emphasize her cleavage at every opportunity, turns in a more than decent performance. Woman is weird but wonderful.”

Otto Preminger's Angel Face (1953) was the first of three collaborations between Mitchum and British actress Jean Simmons, in which she plays an insane heiress who plans to use young ambulance driver Mitchum to kill for her. Mitchum was expelled from Blood Alley (1955), purportedly due to his conduct, especially his reportedly having thrown the film's transportation manager into San Francisco Bay. Producer John Wayne took over the role himself.

Following the Marilyn Monroe Western River of No Return (Otto Preminger, 1954), he appeared in Charles Laughton's only film as director, The Night of the Hunter (1955). Adapted by James Agee from a novel by Davis Grubb, the thriller starred Mitchum as a terrifying killer who had the words Love and Hate tattooed on his hands and who poses as a preacher to find money hidden in his cellmate's home. Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “Combining stark realism with Germanic expressionism, the movie is a brilliant good-and-evil parable, with ‘good’ represented by a couple of farm kids and a pious old lady, and ‘evil’ literally in the hands of a posturing psychopath.” Mitchum’s performance as Reverend Harry Powell is considered by many to be one of the best of his career.

Stanley Kramer's melodrama Not as a Stranger (1955), was a box-office hit. The film starred Mitchum against type, as an idealistic young doctor, who marries an older nurse (Olivia de Havilland), only to question his morality many years later. However, the film was not well received, with most critics pointing out that Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, and Lee Marvin were all too old for their characters. Olivia de Havilland received top billing over Mitchum and Sinatra.

In 1955 Mitchum formed DRM (Dorothy and Robert Mitchum) Productions to produce five films for United Artists though only four films were produced. The first film was Bandido (Richard Fleischer, 1956). Following a succession of average Westerns and the poorly received Foreign Intrigue (Sheldon Reynolds, 1956), Mitchum starred in the first of three films with Deborah Kerr. The war drama Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (John Huston, 1957), starred Mitchum as a Marine corporal shipwrecked on a Pacific Island with a nun, Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr), being his sole companion. In this character-study, they struggle to resist the elements and the invading Japanese army. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. For his role, Mitchum was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor.

In the WW II submarine classic The Enemy Below (Dick Powell, 1957), Mitchum gave a strong performance as U.S. Naval Lieutenant Commander Murrell, the captain of a U.S. Navy destroyer. He matches wits with a German U-boat captain Curd Jürgens, who starred with Mitchum again in The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, 1962).

Thunder Road (Arthur Ripley, 1958), the second DRM Production, was loosely based on an incident in which a driver transporting moonshine was said to have fatally crashed on Kingston Pike in Knoxville, Tennessee. Mitchum not only starred in the film, but also produced it, co-wrote the screenplay, and allegedly directed much of the film himself. He returned to Mexico for The Wonderful Country (Robert Parrish, 1959) and Ireland for A Terrible Beauty/The Night Fighters (Tay Garnett, 1960) for the last of his DRM Productions.

Robert Mitchum
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano, no. N. 68.

Robert Mitchum
German postcard by Netter's Starverlag, Berlin. Photo: RKO Radio Film.

Menacingly vengeful rapist

Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr reunited for The Sundowners (Fred Zinnemann, 1960), where they played husband and wife struggling in Depression-era Australia. Opposite Mitchum, Kerr was nominated for yet another Academy Award for Best Actress, while the film was nominated for a total of five Oscars. Robert Mitchum was awarded that year's National Board of Review award for Best Actor for his performance. The award also recognised his superior performance in the Western drama Home from the Hill (Vincente Minnelli, 1960).

He was teamed with former leading ladies Kerr and Simmons, as well as Cary Grant, for the comedy The Grass Is Greener (Stanley Donen, 1960). Mitchum's performance as the menacingly vengeful rapist Max Cady who terrorises lawyer Gregory Peck and his family in Cape Fear (J. Lee Thompson, 1962) brought him even more attention and furthered his renown for playing cool, predatory characters.

The 1960s were marked by a number of lesser films and missed opportunities. Among the films Mitchum passed on during the decade were John Huston's The Misfits (1961), the Academy Award–winning Patton (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1970), and Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971).

The most notable of his films in the decade included the war epics The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, 1962) and Anzio (Edward Dmytryk, 1968), the Shirley MacLaine comedy-musical What a Way to Go! (J. Lee Thompson, 1964), and the Western El Dorado (Howard Hawks, 1967), a remake of Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959), in which Mitchum took over Dean Martin's role of a drunken sheriff who helps John Wayne defend a town against unscrupulous cattlemen. He then teamed with Martin for the Western 5 Card Stud (Henry Hathaway, 1968), playing a homicidal preacher.

One of the lesser-known aspects of Mitchum's career was his forays into music, both as singer and composer. Mitchum's deep, commanding, yet lively voice was often used instead of that of a professional singer when his character sang in his films. After hearing traditional calypso music and meeting artists such as Mighty Sparrow and Lord Invader while filming Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison in the Caribbean islands of Tobago, he recorded Calypso — is like so ... in March 1957. A year later, he recorded a song he had written for Thunder Road, titled The Ballad of Thunder Road. The country-style song became a modest hit.

Although Mitchum continued to use his singing voice in his film work, he waited until 1967 to record his follow-up record, That Man, Robert Mitchum, Sings. Little Old Wine Drinker Me, the first single, was a top-10 hit at country radio, and crossed over onto mainstream radio, where it peaked at number 96. Its follow-up, You Deserve Each Other, also charted on the Billboard Country Singles chart. He also sang the title song to the Western Young Billy Young (Burt Kennedy, 1969).

Robert Mitchum and Carroll Baker in Mister Moses (1965)
Italian postcard. Photo: DEAR Film. Publicity still for Mister Moses (Ronald Neame, 1965) with Carroll Baker.

Robert Mitchum
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. FK 4568. Photo: Terb-Agency.

A low-rent Boston crook on the wrong end of the mob's attentions

Robert Mitchum seriously considered retiring from acting in 1968 due to concerns over the quality of his recent films. After a year's absence, during which he spent much of the time driving around America visiting old friends and staying in motels, he was lured back to star in Ryan's Daughter (David Lean, 1970). He made a departure from his typical screen persona with his role as Charles Shaughnessy, a mild-mannered schoolmaster in World War I-era Ireland. Though the film was nominated for four Academy Awards (winning two) and Mitchum was much publicised as a contender for a Best Actor nomination, he was not nominated. George C. Scott won the award for his performance in Patton.

The 1970s featured Mitchum in several well-received crime dramas. He was a low-rent Boston crook who finds himself on the wrong end of the mob's attentions in The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Peter Yates, 1973). He played a retired detective sent to Japan to rescue a client's daughter from gangsters in The Yakuza (Sydney Pollack, 1974), which transplanted the typical Film Noir story arc to the Japanese underworld.

He also appeared in Midway (Jack Smight, 1976) about an epic 1942 World War II battle, and opposite Robert De Niro in The Last Tycoon (Elia Kazan, 1976). Mitchum's stint as Raymond Chandler's noble private eye Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely (Dick Richards, 1975) was sufficiently well received by audiences and critics for him to reprise the role in The Big Sleep (Michael Winner, 1978).

His last interesting role in this late-career revival came with the film version of Jason Miller's play That Championship Season (Jason Miller, 1982), with Mitchum as the coach of a quartet of former high school basketball teammates who struggle to adjust to middle age and maturity.

He expanded to TV work with the big-budget miniseries The Winds of War (Dan Curtis, 1983) as navy man Victor ‘Pug’ Henry, whose family is deeply involved in the events leading up to America's involvement in the war. He also played George Hazard's father-in-law on the Civil War miniseries North and South (Richard T. Heffron, 1985). He followed it with the sequel War and Remembrance (Dan Curtis, 1988).

Mitchum replaced old friend John Huston in his son Danny's largely ignored comedy Mr. North (Danny Huston, 1988). He also was in Bill Murray's comedy film, Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988). In 1991, Mitchum was given a lifetime achievement award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures and the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Golden Globe Awards in 1992.

Mitchum continued to act in films until the mid-1990s. He appeared, in contrast to his role as the antagonist in the original, as a protagonist police detective in Martin Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear (1991). He also gave a lively performance as a robber baron of sorts who drives Johnny Depp's character into the wilderness in Jim Jarmusch's eccentric Western, Dead Man (1995). His last film appearance was a small but pivotal role in the television biopic, James Dean: Race with Destiny (Mardi Rustam, 1997), playing Giant director George Stevens opposite Casper Van Dien as James Dean. His last starring role was in the Norwegian film Pakten/Waiting for Sunset (Leidulv Risan, 1995) with Cliff Robertson and Erland Josephson.

A lifelong heavy smoker, Mitchum died in 1997, in Santa Barbara, California, due to complications of lung cancer and emphysema. Mitchum was 79. He was survived by his wife of 57 years, Dorothy Mitchum and actor sons, James Mitchum, Christopher Mitchum, and writer-daughter, Petrine Day Mitchum. His grandchildren, Bentley Mitchum and Carrie Mitchum, are actors, as was his younger brother, John, who died in 2001. His ashes were scattered by wife Dorothy and longtime friend Jane Russell.

Trailer The Big Steal (1949). Source: Movieclips Trailer Vault (YouTube).

Trailer The Night of the Hunter (1955). Source: Movieclips Trailer Vault (YouTube).

Trailer Cape Fear (1962). Source: Movieclips Trailer Vault (YouTube).

Trailer Farewell, My Lovely (1975). Source: robatsea2009 (YouTube).

Sources: Sandra Brennan (AllMovie), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Craig Butler (AllMovie), Jim Beaver (IMDb), William Bjornstad (Find A Grave), The New York Times, TCM, Wikipedia, and IMDb.