Mention actor Robert Mitchum and motion pictures like, 1947's, "Out of the Past", 1951's, "His King of Woman", 1952's, "The Lusty Men", 1954's, "Track of the Cat" and the original 1962, "Cape Fear" might come to mind. Should you be a real fan of Robert Charles Durman Mitchum. You might add the 1943, "B", "Hopalong Cassidy" Western, "Bar 20". When he was still "Bob Mitchum", or Director John Huston's multi-cameo murder mystery, from 1963, "The List of Adrian Messenger".
However, this is a look at the other, mostly unknown, Robert Mitchum, "THE SINGER"!
When his singing career ended, Mitchum had recorded 65 songs.
This is a motion picture blog and, as such, I will take a look at the Ten motion pictures the singing voice of Robert Mitchum was heard. Maybe, only in passing, but heard. Although, he would record four albums, two of which are Caribbean style music, that are all still available today.
THE HUMAN COMEDY released March 2, 1943
Not only was this Robert Mitchum's first on-screen singing role, but it was also his first on-screen appearance. "The Human Comedy", starred Mickey Rooney and Frank Morgan and was based upon a best selling novel by William Saroyan.
Above left to right, are Robert Mitchum as "Quentin 'Horse' Gilford", Barry Nelson as "Norman 'Fat' Dana", and Don DeFore as "Bernard 'Texas' Anthony".
Mitchum's first song was "The Last Round-Up", better known by its lyrics, "Git Along, Little Dogie, Git Along".
Of the four actors, Barry Nelson had the only credited role in the picture. Which was about the affects of the Second World War on everyday life in a small-town. Mitchum and DeFore portrayed Nelson's Army buddies. The three have a night away from the army camp and go into town to meet girls. There, they meet Donna Reed's "Bess Macauley" and her friend "Mary Morris", portrayed by Mary Arena.
Above, left to right, Mitchum, Arena, DeFore, Reed and Nelson. Opposite the group is Frank, "The Wizard of Oz", Morgan as "Willie Grogan".
Twenty-six motion pictures would follow until Robert Mitchum's singing voice was heard again on-screen.
Among those films were seven of his "Hopalong Cassidy" "B" Westerns, starring William Boyd, and being billed as Bob Mitchum. Besides, two "B" Westerns as the star, a "B" Western-Comedy-Musical and a straight musical without the actor singing in either, and seven World War 2 movies. Which included Robert Mitchum's "Best Supporting Actor Oscar" nomination for, 1945's, "The Story of G.I. Joe". That would be the only time the actor would be nominated by the "Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences" for any of his performances.
TILL THE END OF TIME released July 23, 1946
"Till the End of Time" was the story of three Marine's returning to, and adjusting to, civilian life after World War 2 ended. Guy Madison portrayed "Cliff Harper", Robert Mitchum portrayed "William 'Bill' Tabeshaw" and Bill Williams portrayed "Perry Kincheloe". The film's star was actress Dorothy McGuire as "Pat Ruscomb".
Above, Robert Mitchum receives his discharge papers.
Above, left to right, Guy Madison, 1950's televisions "The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok", Robert Mitchum, and Bill Williams, 1950's televisions "The Adventures of Kit Carson". This scene at a local bar and proceeds the events that makes all three realize how lucky they are in their own ways.
"Bill" has a silver plate implanted in his head from action on Iwo Jima, but he also has $2,100 he won gambling and plans to buy a small cattle ranch in New Mexico. While, "Cliff", a promising College student, has deep emotional problems, because he rashly enlisted, right after Pearl Harbor, and considers that he "lost" four years of his life as a result. While, "Perry", lost both his legs and cannot adjust to the idea of using artificial ones to walk and now lives with his mother.
"Cliff" meets "Pat Ruscomb", who is a war widower, but hasn't gotten over her husbands death only fourteen months earlier.
"Perry's" mother has finally gotten through to her son and talked into finally using his artificial legs. He joins "Cliff" and "Bill" at the local bar seen in the above still. At the bar, "Bill" is approached by a group of men that invite him to join their veterans club. He's told that the organization excludes:
Catholics, Jews and Negroes
"Bill" reacts by spiting in the man who spoke's face and a fight breaks out. During the fight, "Bill" is hit over the head pushing on the silver plate and seriously injuring him.
At the hospital, as "Bill" is being prepared for surgery. "Cliff" finally realizes how lucky he is to have "Pat" and a decent job. While, "Perry" realizes how lucky he is to be able to walk again.
"Bill" will be just fine and still plans to go to New Mexico and buy that ranch.
In "Till the End of Time", Robert Mitchum sings, "I Got Spurs, That Jingle Jangle Jingle".
PURSUED released March 2, 1947
"Pursued" was Directed by "One Eyed" Raul Walsh. In 1930 Walsh directed the first motion picture to star John Wayne, in 1939 it was James Gagney and Humphrey Bogart in "The Roaring Twenties", in 1941, Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland in "They Died with Their Boots On" and in 1945, Alan Ladd and Gail Russell in "Salty O'Rourke.
The screenplay was by novelist Niven Busch. His novels were the basis for 1946's "Till the End of Time" and 1947's, "Duel in the Sun", starring Jennifer Jones, Gregory Peck and Joseph Cotton . Busch's screenplays include 1940's, "The Westerner", starring Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan and 1946's, "The Postman Always Rings Twice", starring Lana Turner and John Garfield.
What makes this an interesting motion picture is that the screenplay is considered a:
Western Melodrama Film-Noir
Teresa Wright portrayed "Thor Callum". Wright started her on-screen career with third billing behind Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall in 1941's, "The Little Foxes", portrayed Gary Cooper's wife, with second billing, in 1942's, "The Pride of the Yankees", starred in Alfred Hitchcock's, 1943, "Shadow of a Doubt". co-starring Joseph Cotton, and had fourth billing in the movie that overshadowed "Till the End of Time", 1946's, "The Best Years of Our Lives", co-starring with Myrna Loy, Fredrick March, and Dana Andrews.
Robert Mitchum portrayed "Jeb Rand". Mitchum had just been seen in the 1946, Film-Noir, "The Locket", co-starring Laraine Day. He would follow this feature with another Film-Noir, 1947's, "Crossfire", co-starring with Robert Young and Robert Ryan.
This is a complex story and I want to go into it in detail.
The story is set in New Mexico at the turn of the 20th Century and is told in flashback about "Jeb Rand".
As a 4 year old boy, he witnessed his entire family being slaughtered by a group of men. "Jeb" survives, having been saved by the widow, "Mrs. Callum", played by the future Dame Judith Anderson. She will raise, "Jeb", with her daughter, "Thor", and son "Adam", as her own. The young "Jeb" is plagued with nightmares about the slaughter, but only sees blurred faces.
"Jeb" is now 11, and while riding a horse is shot at, but the shooter misses the boy. "Mrs. Callum" confronts her brother-in-law, "Grant Callum", played by Dean Jagger, whom she believes was the one that attempted to murder the boy. He admits that there has been a long standing feud between the "Callum's" and the "Rand's", and "Jeb" is the last of his family.
The story, next, switches to the adult "Jeb", "Thor" and "Adam", played by John Rodney. The Spanish American War has started and the two young men are informed that one member of the family must join the army. They agree to decide by the flip of a coin and it is "Jeb". He goes off to war, is injured, and while recuperating in the hospital. "Jeb" begins to have nightmares, once more, of his families murder. "Jeb" is discharged from the army after being awarded "The Congressional Medal of Honor".
"Jeb" wants "Thor", who loves him, to run off and marry him, because he suspects someone is following him. She refuses, saying her marriage will be on her own terms. "Jeb" now rides off and comes across a burnt down old ranch house and has the feeling he's been there before. Returning, "Mrs. Callum", now confirms that the house was were he and his real parents lived and the murders took place.
"Jeb" is about to leave to go to a local casino to gamble, but "Adam" shows him his share of the profits from the ranch that was put aside while he was in the army. Their mother wanted everything split three ways between her children. However, "Adam", calls "Jeb's" money the "Rand's Share" and it is obvious the old feud is still alive. The two decide the ranch isn't big enough for the two to remain there and with another coin toss, "Jeb" again loses, leaves the money, and tells "Adam" that he will be back the next day to get "Thor".
At the casino, "Jeb", turns the coin toss coin into a big win and the owner, "Jake Dingle", played by Alan Hale, offers him a partnership. While, a brooding "Adam" doesn't want "Jeb Rand" marrying his sister "Thor" and ambushes "Jeb", but is killed instead.
Now, three events take place:
"Jeb" becomes co-owner of the casino, he is put on trial for the killing of "Adam", but found not guilty. Because, it was self-defense. However, the reaction to the verdict by "Thor" and "Mrs. Callum" is to declare "Jeb" as dead to them.
Meanwhile, "Grant Callum" uses "Thor's" fiancé, "Prentice", played by Harry Carey, Jr, to do his dirty work and kill "Jeb Rand". He goads the man over "Jeb's" love for "Thor" into wanting to kill him. "Dingle" hears about it and warns "Jeb".
"Jeb" slips out of the casino, but "Prentice" is coming down the street and a gunfight ensues. "Jeb" is forced, once again, to kill in self-defense.
The two woman hatch a plan to get revenge on "Jeb". "Thor" will marry "Jeb" and on their wedding night murder him.
When the moment for "Jeb's" murder is to take place. "Jeb" reveals that he knew all along about the plan to murder him. "Thor" knew she couldn't carry the plan out and admits her love for "Jeb" and the two reconcile.
Now, tired of waiting, "Grant Callum", rounds up a gang made up of other "Callum" family member and goes after "Jeb Rand" to finish what he had started.
Meanwhile, "Jeb" has finally seen the faces of his parent's murderers and knows that "Mrs. Callum" was also present at their deaths. While, "Thor", discovers that her mother was having an affair with "Jeb's" father. When, "Mrs. Callum's" husband found out about the affair, he attempted to kill "Jeb's" father, but was killed instead. Resulting in "Grant" slaughtering the entire "Rand" family except 4 years old "Jeb". "Mrs. Callum" was guilt ridden and out of that guilt, saved "Jeb" and adopted him.
Now, "Thor" pleads with her mother to save "Jeb" from being hanged by "Grant" and the other "Callum's". In the end, "Mrs. Callum" shoots and kills "Grant' and asks forgiveness. Which she receives and tells the two to leave and seek a future for themselves.
As to Robert Mitchum singing in "Pursued". There are two songs, "Danny Boy" and "The Streets of Laredo".
The next motion picture the audience heard Robert Mitchum's husky singing voice was:
RACHEL AND THE STRANGER that had its premiere in New York City on September 18, 1948
Lorretta Young portrayed "Rachel Harvey". Young had just been seen co-starring with Cary Grant and David Nivens in the Fantasy Comedy Drama, 1947's, "The Bishop's Wife", and would follow this movie with the Film-Noir, 1949's, "The Accused", co-starring with Robert Cummings and Wendell Corey.
William Holden portrayed "David Harvey aka: Big Davey". Holden had just been seen in the Comedy Musical, 1947's, "Variety Girl". As one of thirty-four cameos by actors on the RKO Lot as themselves. The movie actually co-starred a pre-"Star Trek", DeForest Kelley and three totally forgotten other actors. William Holden followed this picture with the 1948, Comedy, "An Apartment for Peggy", co-starring with Jeanne Crain and Edmund Gwenn.
Robert Mitchum portrayed "Jim Fairways". Mitchum had just been seen in Director Jacques Tourneur's outstanding Film-Noir, "Out of the Past", co-starring with Jane Greer. The film featured up and coming actor's Kirk Douglas and Rhonda Fleming. Robert Mitchum followed this picture with the Moody Western. 1948's, "Blood on the Moon", co-starring with Barbara Bel Geddes and Robert Preston.
The plot is simple, recently widowed "Big Davey Harvey" decides his son, "Young Davey", played by Gary Gray, needs a woman around to raise him. He goes to "Parson Jackson", played by Tom Tully, for advise. There's an indentured servant named "Rachel" and the Parson suggests "Big Davey" buy and marry her. Which he does, but she becomes a wife in name only. As "Big Davey" treats "Rachel" as the servant she was and "Young Davey" resents her, because he sees "Rachel" as a replacement for his mother "Susan".
Enter family friend, "Jim Fairways", a former suitor of "Susan's". "Jim" starts to fall in love with "Rachel" and sees her as a woman. It takes this fact to wake-up "Big Davey" to another fact, that he loves "Rachel".
The following link, at the time of this writing, will take my reader to Robert Mitchum singing the song "O-hi, O-ho", as he approaches "Big Davey's" farm.
The link below, has Robert Mitchum, Loretta Young and Gary Gray singing, "Just Like Me" and "Summer Song".
A piece of Trivia:
While filming "Rachel and the Stranger" , Robert Mitchum was arrested for possession of marijuana. RKO Pictures rushed the release of the motion picture to take advantage of Mitchum's arrest as a mean of guaranteeing audience attention.
RIVER OF NO RETURN released April 30, 1954
The Otto Preminger Directed motion picture had three things going for it;
Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe and Technicolor CinemaScope.
Robert Mitchum portrayed "Matt Calder". Mitchum had just been seen in the 1953, 3-D, "Second Chance", co-starring Jack Palance and Linda Darnell. He would follow this picture with 1954's, "Track of the Cat", co-starring with Teresa Wright and featuring Tab Hunter.
Marilyn Monroe portrayed "Kay Weston". This picture was proceeded by the 1953, Comedy Drama, "How to Marry a Millionaire", co-starring with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall. It would be followed by the 1954 Musical Drama, "There's No Business Like Show Business", co-starring Ethel Merman, Donald O'Connor, Dan Daily, Johnnie Ray and Mitzi Gaynor.
For those interested in Marilyn Monroe in an odd role as a psycho, a bit of music and her last role. My article, "MARILYN MONROE: Mentally Unstable Babysitter and Misfit" is at:
Rory Calhoun portrayed "Harry Weston". Calhourn had just been seen in 1953's, "How to Marry a Millionaire" and would follow this picture with the 1954 Western, "The Yellow Tomahawk", co-starring with Peggie Castle and Noah Beery, Jr. Between 1958 and 1960, Rory Calhoun starred in the television Western, "The Texan".
The movie is set in 1875 in the Northwest United States. Nine years old "Mark Calder", wearing a tag on his shirt to identify him, has come to a tent city mining boom town to await the arrival of his father. Whom he doesn't know! The man "Mark's" father arranged to take care of him until his arrival, abandoned the boy. Left to wandering around, "Mark" enters the tent saloon and meets dance hall singer "Kay Weston". Hearing the boys story, she looks out for him. Enter, Widower, "Matt Calder", who meets "Kay" and his son. Whom he hasn't seen in eight years and there is a reason for his absence all those years, but it is not mentioned.
Monroe sings three songs and a reprise, supposedly, of "River of No Return", that may have been dubbed by another singer.
"Mark" and "Matt" now leave for "Matt's" homestead, where they're to enjoy a life of hunting and fishing together. Enter, "Kay's" husband, gambler, "Harry Weston", who won a gold mine claim from a miner while playing porker. He needs to get to Council City to file his claim and with "Kay", the two are traveling downstream on a raft.
Near the "Calder" homestead, "Kay" and "Harry" encounter rapids and loose control of the raft. "Matt" rescues both and the raft is tied up near his house. "Harry", now offers to buy "Matt's" rifle and horse so he can get to Council City. "Matt" refuses, because he needs the rifle against Indian and outlaw attacks and the horse to plow the fields.
"Harry" knocks "Matt" unconscious, steals the rifle and horse, and tells "Kay" to get on behind him. "Kay" decides to stay and tend to the unconscious "Matt" and "Mark". "Harry" now leaves the three stranded in the wilderness and open for those Indian and outlaw attacks without protection.
"Kay" and "Mark" are becoming close friends, but--
---the anticipated takes place with an Indian attack. The three are forced to take the raft and head out through the rapids.
At one point on their journey down stream, "Matt" asks "Kay", why she married a man like "Harry"? She replies that at least he didn't kill a man in the back. "Mark" overhears their conversation and the secret of why his father was away for eight years is now out.
"Matt" explains to "Mark", that a friend of his was about to be killed by another and he defended his friend. Unfortunately, "Matt" had to kill the man and was sentenced to prison for murder. At this point, "Mark" doesn't understand why the other man had to be killed and in the back.
While, "Matt" and "Kay" have been getting closer to each other on the trip down river.
There will be other problems, besides the river, but finally, the three now come to Council City. "Kay" and "Matt" part ways as she heads for the local saloon. While, "Mark" and his father enter a General Store. There, "Matt" wants to buy a promised rifle for his son and "Mark" starts to inspect one.
In the saloon, "Kay" encounters "Harry", and he asks about "Matt". To him, it's obvious, his wife has feelings for the other man,
"Harry Weston" goes into the street and calls for "Matt" to come out of the General Store and fight him. When "Matt" comes cautiously out of the store and into the street, before he can react. "Harry" pulls out a gun and starts to shoot, but then falls to the ground dead. "Mark" has used the rifle he was inspecting and shot "Harry" in the back to save his father. "Mark" has learned a life lesson and now knows why his father did what he did.
"Kay" is back to working as a dancehall singer at the Council City saloon. In walks "Matt", who lifts "Kay" up over his shoulder and walks out of the saloon carrying her. He puts "Kay" in a wagon beside "Mark" and the three leave together. Fade out.
NIGHT OF THE HUNTER released July 26, 1955
This Film-Noir was Directed by Actor Charles Laughton. Who starred in 1933's "The Private Life of Henry the VIII", 1935's "Mutiny on the Bounty", 1939's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", 1945's "Captain Kidd" and 1952's "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd".
Robert Mitchum portrayed "Harry Powell". Mitchum had just been seen in 1955's "Not as a Stranger" having co-starred with Olivia de Havilland and Frank Sinatra". He would follow this picture with the 1955 Western, "Man with the Gun" co-starring Jan Sterling.
Shelley Winters portrayed "Willa Harper". Winters had just been seen in the 1955 British film, "I Am a Camera", co-starring with Julie Harris and Lawrence Harvey. She would follow this picture with 1955's "The Big Knife". at 13th billing in a movie starring Jack Palance and Ida Lupino,
There, the "REVEREND Harry Powell" sets out to charm the citizens of the small town and court "Ben Harper's" widow, "Willa". Who is a deeply religious woman and was afraid that by loosing her husband to the devil. His arrest and execution was a sign that her future might be in a life of sin.
The children escape and go to "Birdie Steptoe", played by James Gleason, on his old riverboat. However, "Uncle Birdie" is drunk after discovering "Willa's" body and fearing the town will blame him for her death.
"Pearl" and "John" take their father's boat and flee downstream to "Rachel Cooper", played by Lillian Gish, who takes in children and cares for them.
"Powell" tracks down "Pearl" and "John", but "Rachel Cooper" drives him off and he threatens to come back that night.
During an all night standoff, "Rachel" shoots and traps "Harry Powell" in her barn and calls the police. The police have also become aware of "Willa's" body, arrive and arrest "Powell". "John" breaks down as "Powell" is arrested, thinking of his own father's arrest, shatters the doll against the handcuffs on the "Reverend Harry Powell's" hands and the ten thousand dollars falls out.
"John" is a witness in "Harry's" trial and "Powell" is again sentenced to prison. As "Rachel Cooper" takes the children away from the court house, a lynch mob appears, but the police take "Harry Powell" to safety. As the professional executioner tells him they'll be seeing each other soon.
The story ends with "Pearl" and 'John" joining "Rachel" and the other children for their first Christmas together.
About Robert Mitchum's singing. Every time "Reverend Harry Powell" approaches different groups of people. He is singing the traditional hymn, from 1887, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms", to the point that it becomes very creepy.
Robert Mitchum went from a psycho serial killer to a United States Marine Corps Corporal during the Second World War.
HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON released March 13, 1957
Director John Huston had just released his excellent, 1956, version of Herman Melville's "Moby Dick", starring Gregory Peck and would follow this feature with his mutilated with major editing, by 20th Century Fox executives, 1958, "The Barbarian and the Geisha", starring John Wayne.
My article on John Huston, that looks at both motion pictures and two others, "JOHN HUSTON: 'Moby Dick' 1956, 'The Barbarian and the Geisha' 1958, 'Freud: The Secret Passion' 1962 and 'The List of Adrian Messenger' 1963" will be found at:
Deborah Kerr portrayed "Sister Angela". She had just been seen in the controversial, for the time, 1956, "Tea and Sympathy". Which is about a troubled youth, played by John Kerr, no relation to Deborah, with overtones that he's homosexual, a taboo word at the time. Kerr would follow this feature with the "tear jerker" love story, 1957's, "An Affair to Remember", co-starring with Cary Grant.
Robert Mitchum portrayed "Marine Corporal Allison". Mitchum had been seen with Gilbert Roland in, 1956's, "Bandido!" and would follow this picture with the Adventure Drama, 1957's, "Fire Down Below", co-starring with Rita Hayworth and Jack Lemmon.
The setting is the South Pacific in 1944, a submarine surfaces, a Marine reconnaissance party is on deck and a Japanese plane attacks. The submarine commander is forced to crash dive leaving the party to drown, but "Corporal Allison" makes it to a floating rubber raft and drifts away for days. The raft finally comes to land on an island.
There he is discovered by novice Nun, "Sister Angela", who has not taken her final and attends to him. Four days prior to "Allison's" arrival, the Sister and a Priest had arrived to evacuate other members of the clergy, but find they're all dead. The Japanese Army had been to the island, but now are gone. Out of fear of the Japanese soldiers returning, the natives that brought the two to the island, abandon them. The priest died shortly thereafter and "Sister Angela" was left alone.
As time starts to pass, "Sister Angela" must deal with her unexpected emotions toward "Corporal Allison" versus taking her vows to the Church. While, "Allison" is conflicted by the fact that "Angela" is a novice Nun and his growing love for her. Then the story takes a turn as the Japanese return and it becomes one of survival and outsmarting them.
The Japanese leave the island once more and "Allison" confronts "Angela" with his love for her. She is still in conflict within herself and shows him the engagement ring of her faith that all novices wear. Turning way from "Corporal Allison", "Sister Angela" runs out of the cave their living in and into a tropical storm. This results in her becoming deathly ill and "Corporal Allison" must help her, but at the same time, the Japanese return.
A Japanese soldier finds them! "Allison" kills the soldier, but the death alerts the Japanese that there are others on the island. The Japanese find the cave and a hand grenade is tossed inside, but overriding the noise of the grenade going off, is the sound of a bomb exploding. The American's have arrived and are shelling the island in preparation of a landing.
Now, "Allison" leaves "Sister Angela", and goes down to the Japanese encampment that includes four large artillery pieces. In what he considers a message from God, "Allison" is able to disable the artillery pieces, but is wounded.
In the end, the American's land and "Sister Angela" and "Marine Corporal Allison" will go their separate ways.
While the song that Robert Mitchum sings in the film is only, "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else, but Me)". It is what happened in the evenings and non-shooting days during the making of "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" that is of interest to this article.
"Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" was filmed on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. Robert Mitchum had been listening to traditional "Calypso music", that had originated during the 18th Century on these two islands, as performed by two of the major stars of the genre at the time, Slinger Francisco known as "The Mighty Sparrow" and Rupert Westmore Grant known as "Lord Invader". As a result, he decided to record his own Calypso song.
Mitchum went to his label, Capitol Records, and recorded the album, "Calypso---is like so".
Above the cover of the original album that only contained six tracks as seen on the Long Playing Record below.
Mitchum Produced the motion picture from an original story by him.. He also wrote the lyrics for both "The Ballad of Thunder Road" and "Whippoorwill".
Robert Mitchum portrayed "Lucas Doolin". The actor had just been seen with German actor Curt Jurgens, in the taut World War 2 submarine drama, 1957's, "The Enemy Below". He would follow this feature with the Korean War Air Force drama, 1958's, "The Hunters", co-starring with Robert Wagner and Richard Egan.
Gene Barry portrayed "Troy Barrett". Later, in October, 1958, Barry would appear in the first of the 108 episodes of his television series, "Bat Masterson".
Keely Smith portrayed "Francie Wymore". Irish-Cherokee Smith was an iconic Jazz and Pop singer at the time and admired by Robert Mitchum. This was the first of only ten, either motion picture, or television appearances for her. Smith was known for appearing with her then husband, Italian American, Louie Prima's band since 1953. That music relationship would last through their divorce in 1961.
Back in 1952 there was an incident involving a crash and death of a moonshine driver on the Kingston Pike Road, in Knoxville, Tennessee. It is believed that Mitchum's screenwriter, James Agee, was either a witness, or knew the story and had mentioned it to Robert Mitchum.
Mitchum's lyrics for "The Ballad of Thunder Road", include the following section:
Blazing' right through Knoxville, out on kingston pike
Then right outside of Beardon, there they made the fatal strike
He left the road at ninety, that's all there is to say
The devil got the moonshine and the mountain boy that day
"Lucas Doolin" has been discharged from the Army, at the end of the Korean War, and returns to his Knoxville, Tennessee, family and their moonshine business. His father makes the shine and "Lucas" makes the runs. There is a new Treasury Agent., named "Troy Barrett", out to make a name for himself. While, "Lucas" is worried his brother "Robin", his mechanic, wants to start running shine. Add in a well-funded gangster, "Carl Logan", played by Jacques Aubuchon, from out of State, that is moving in on the operations of the local moonshiners and the problems for "Lucas Doolin" increase.
"Lucas" is able to escape all the pressure he's under by being with his girlfriend, local nightclub singer, "Francie Wymore". However, things start to go wrong, when "Carl Logan" causes the deaths of decoy driver "Jed Moultrie", played by Mitchell Ryan, and worse, a Treasury Agent. Resulting in "Troy Barrett" stepping up raids on the moonshiners and bringing in more agents.
This leads to "Lucas" having a major run-in with "Carl Logan" and almost killed by his goons. "Francie" attempts to get "Lucas" to stop his runs and leave with her, but he won't leave his family.
"Lucas" is unaware that one of the neighboring moonshiner's daughter, "Roxanna Ledbetter". played by Sandra Knight, has a crush on him and is also afraid for his life. While, "Robin" makes a run for another moonshiner upsetting "Lucas" for two reasons. First, making the run at all, Second, because the shiner is one of "Carl Logan's".
Meanwhile, all the local moonshiners decide to shut down operations for a short time to let "Barrett" get "Logan" for the murder of the Treasury Agent. The problem for "Lucas" is that "Robin's" talked into making another run for one of "Carl Logan's" moonshiners. "Lucas" is able to stop his brother's run and threatens to kill the gangster, if he uses "Robin" again. Instead, of "Robin" taking the moonshine load, it is "Lucas". His family gets to "Troy Barrett" with the information needed to arrest "Logan" for the murder of the Treasury Agent, which he does. However, there's a road block ahead of "Lucas" and he attempts to outrun it and the Treasury men and is killed on "Thunder Road".
In the film, Mitchum doesn't sing either his "Whippoorwil", Keely Smith does, or "The Ballad of Thunder Road", it was Randy Sparks. However, when Robert Mitchum recorded "The Ballad of Thunder Road", it made the "Billboard Hot 100" charts twice, in 1958 and 1962, reaching #69. The song was on "Billboard's Country Chart", at #62. "The Ballad of Thunder Road" remained on "Billboard's" charts for a total of 21 weeks. Along with reaching #69, on "Billboard's Top Singles List".
At the time of writing this article, the following link takes my reader to Robert Mithum's original version of "The Ballad of Thunder Road" with video outtakes from the feature film.
Robert Mitchum practice Irish accents first for 1960's "The Night Fighters", about the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1941. The film co-starred Richard Harris, Anne Heywood and Dan O'Herlihy. Then again for---
THE SUNDOWNERS released December 8, 1960
Marketing can make, or kill a motion picture. In the United States, only because Director Fred Zinnemann had won the "Best Director Oscar" for, 1953's "From Here to Eternity", set at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Did some idiot in the Warner Brothers publicity department, market in the United States, "The Sundowners", as the "New From Here to Eternity". The picture bombed Box Office.
The movie did great International Box Office and the "Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences" nominated the film for five "Oscars" including "Best Picture".
Deborah Kerr portrayed "Ida Carmody". Kerr had just portrayed real life gossip columnist, "Sheilah Graham", in 1959's, "Beloved Infidel", co-starring Gregory Peck as writer "F. Scott Fitzgerald". She would follow this picture with the 1960 Comedy, "The Grass Is Greener", co-starring with Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum.
Deborah Kerr would be nominated for her role as "Best Actress".
Robert Mitchum portrayed "Paddy Carmody". Mitchum followed "The Sundowners" with "The Grass is Greener".
Peter Ustinov portrayed "Rupert Venneker". Ustinov had just be seen as the owner of the gladiator school in 1960's, "Spartacus". He would follow this picture with the 1961 Comedy, "Romanoff and Juliet", co-starring with Sandra Dee and John Gavin.
Glynnis Johns portrayed "Mrs. Firth". Johns had just starred in the British mystery, 1960's, "The Spider's Web", but in four years would portray, "Mrs. Winifred Banks", in Walt Disney's, "Mary Poppins".
Glynnis Johns would be nominated for "Best Supporting Actress".
The story that confused the Warner Brothers publicity department and executives was a simple tale of a Australian family. The husband is a "Sundowner", an Australian term for a transient laborer who moved from town to town during the 1930's of "The Great Depression". (Definitely not a Western in either the United States, or Australia,) "Paddy" is a sheep drover and shearer, who loves his way of life, but his wife, "Ida", and son, "Sean", played by Michael Anderson, Jr., want to settle down in one place.
Heading toward the town of Cawndilla, they meet refined Englishman "Rupert Venneker", and he is hired to help drive a heard of sheep to the town. On the way they must deal with an out of control brush fire in the Australian Bush. Once in town, "Paddy" goes to the local pub run by "Mrs. Firth" and indulges in his favorite pass time, gambling at "Two-up". Which is an Australian gambling game consisting of throwing two coins in the air and if both land heads up, that's a "Obverse", both tails up is a "Reverse" and one of each is a "Ewan".
In the end, "Paddy's" days of wandering are over. As the family settles down on a farm "Paddy" is able to purchase from winnings of a race horse he won in a game of "Two-up".
During the story, Robert Mitchum sang three Australian songs:
"The Wild Colonial Boy", "Moreton Bay" and "Botany Bay".
I now come to the last motion picture in which Robert Mitchum sang and like with "River of No Return". The song was over the opening credits.
YOUNG BILL YOUNG released September 17, 1969
This was a coming-of-age Western Directed by Burt Kennedy. Among Kennedy's directing work prior to this picture are, 1966's, "Return of the Seven" starring Yul Brynner, 1967's, "Welcome to Hard Times", starring Henry Fonda, 1967s', "The War Wagon", starring John Wayne and Kirk Douglas, and the Comedy Western, 1969's, "Support Your Local Sheriff", starring James Gardner, Joan Hackett and Walter Brennan.
Burt Kennedy also wrote the screenplay and had started out as a Western writer for Randolph Scott features until 1961. When he both wrote and Directed "The Canadians", starring Robert Ryan.
Robert Mitchum portrayed "Deputy Ben Kane". Mitchum had just been seen in the 1968 thriller, "The Secret Ceremony", co-starring with Elizabeth Taylor and Mia Farrow. He would follow this picture with Burt Kennedy's Comedy Western, 1969's, "The Good Guys and the Bad Guys". He was a "Good Guy" and George Kennedy, a "Bad Guy".
You could tell the actors were having a good time with the story, their characters and some typical Burt Kennedy comic relief.
"Billy" and "Jesse" get mixed-up with the killing of a Mexican general and are being chased by Mexican soldiers. After the two cross into New Mexico, they loose the soldiers, but are down to one horse. "Jesse" dumps 'Billy" and takes the horse. Along comes "Ben Kane", an ex-Dodge City lawman, looking for his son's murderer and rescues "Billy".
What follows, is "Kane" becoming a "Deputy Sheriff", and attempting to reform "Billy". "Kane" falls for dance hall girl, "Lily". "Jesse" is accused of killing the local Doctor and is arrested. "Jesse" fast talks "Billy", who lets his friend out of jail and then learns, from "Lily", about "Ben's" son's murder and that it was "Jesse's" father that killed him. "Billy" goes after "Jesse" and in the end, after "Kane" gets "Frank Boone", played by John Anderson, "Billy" gets "Jesse" and relocks him in jail and---
On August 19, 1972, Robert Mitchum appeared on the British Interview and Comedy program "Parkinson", hosted by Michael Parkinson. "Mitchum" performed a "trade mark" song he had written, "Little Old Wine Drinker Me". This was the last time Robert Mitchum performed a song live. Below, as of this writing, is a link to that performance.
Robert Mitchum passed away on July 1, 1997 and we lost a multitalented performer.