Robert Mitchum Retrospective
March 21 - May 5
Perennially underrated during his career, in retrospect Robert Mitchum stands out as one of Hollywood's greatest leading men. Ruggedly built and handsome in an unconventional, though undeniable, way, the sleepy-eyed Mitchum possessed an easy authority, along with an air of defiance towards, and an effortless disdain for, anyone else's. It made him perfect for tough guy roles in westerns and crime films, but he wasn't simply some musclebound action hero.
His laconic delivery and unshowy instincts gave his performances a jazzy, offbeat vibe, allowing his wit, soul, and a kind of existential weariness to come through. No careerist, he could be dismissive of his work and Hollywood in general, but ironically, he never went wanted for projects during his 50 years in show business. Perhaps as a result of this ambivalence, he gravitated towards anti-heroes and subversive fare, resulting in a filmography packed with quirky cult classics: OUT OF THE PAST, Mitchum blase as the doomed hero in the definitive film noir; NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, Charles Laughton's terrifyingly beautiful fairy tale, with Mitchum's deranged preacher a kind of big bad wolf; the anarchic and pro-outlaw THUNDER ROAD, which Mitchum wrote, produced and starred in; CAPE FEAR, Mitchum murderously seductive as the vengeful Max Cady; and his late-career valedictory, THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, with Mitchum movingly mortal as the aging, two-bit gangster, one of his subtlest and best performances.
Iconoclastic and one-of-a-kind, Mitchum is still the essence of cool 60 years after his screen debut. His best films, 12 of which are presented here, remain fresh and vital, while his screen persona still comes across as relevant where so many other stars' now seem passé.
AFI member passes will be accepted at all screenings in the Robert Mitchum Retrospective Series.
OUT OF THE PAST
Arguably the ultimate film noir. Ex-private eye Mitchum tries to make a new life in the country, but his past catches up with him: his mob-boss former employer, Kirk Douglas, and bad girl Jane Greer — with whom Mitchum's earlier romantic idyll had ended on a murderous note. Dizzyingly told in flashback, blending dreamy romanticism with doomful cynicism, this is, a vicious love triangle: Mitchum, a paragon with his trenchcoat and laconic cool; Greer, la femme la plus fatale, a serial man-jilter whose duplicity and murderousness know no bounds; and Douglas, blending charm and menace in one of his best performances.
DIR Jacques Tourneur; SCR Daniel Mainwaring based on his novel Build My Gallows High; PROD Warren Duff. US, 1947, b&w, 97 min. RATED PG
Friday, March 21, 9:30; Saturday, March 22, 9:00; Sunday, March 23, 1:00; Tuesday, March 25, 9:00; Thursday, March 27, 7:00
Film Noir Double Feature!
"The one lyrical nightmare in the cinema"
—Ian Cameron, National Film Theatre (UK)
Obsessed with her father, unbalanced teenager Jean Simmons holds a grudge against her stepmother and embroils her infatuated suitor Robert Mitchum in a series of manipulative and deadly plots.
DIR/PROD Otto Preminger; SCR Ben Hecht, based on the novel by William L. Stuart. US, 1950, b&w, 95 min.
ANGEL FACE replaces WHEN STRANGERS MARRY, which has been cancelled due to problems with the aging film print. We apologize for any inconvenience. CROSSFIRE will play first; ANGEL FACE, presented digitally, will follow after a brief intermission.
Just back from WWII, a troop of Army soldiers kills time in Washington, DC, but one of their number is suspected of the racially motivated killing of a Jewish man after a chance encounter. Robert Montgomery is the seen-it-all police detective; Mitchum, at his reserved best, plays a cool-headed sergeant conducting his own investigation in parallel — and at times in conflict — with the cops. Robert Ryan's portrayal of the bigoted, cracked-up killer earned him his only Oscar nomination.
DIR Edward Dmytryk; SCR John Paxton, based on the novel by Richard Brooks; PROD Adrian Scott. US, 1947, b&w, 86 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, March 22, 3:45; Sunday, March 23, 7:00; Monday, March 24, 7:00
THE LUSTY MEN
Director Nicholas Ray combines action-packed rodeo riding with affecting melodrama in one of his best films, and Mitchum gives one of his legend-making performances as the hard-living rodeo lifer. Rodeo veteran Mitchum, off the bulls since taking a bad spill, tries his hand at mentoring and managing the career of eager Arthur Kennedy, who quickly rises through the ranks. Kennedy's wife Susan Hayward wants him to quit while he's ahead and settle down, but he's drawn to the rowdy rodeo lifestyle — and despite her anger, she's drawn to Mitchum.
DIR Nicholas Ray; SCR David Dortort and Horace McCoy, based on the novel by Claude Stanush; PROD Jerry Wald. US, 1952, b&w, 113 min. NOT RATED
Friday, March 28, 7:00; Saturday, March 29, 7:00; Sunday, March 30, 3:10; Wednesday, April 2, 6:30; Thursday, April 3, 7:00
We will be screening a rare 35mm print of THE LUSTY MEN. The 35mm print is from an international archive, and has both French and German subtitles on it. We hope this is only a minor distraction as you enjoy this rare opportunity to see THE LUSTY MEN-- it's not available on DVD!
This psychologically skewed Western features jaded Civil War vet Mitchum marrying his stepsister (!) Teresa Wright after killing her brother in a gunfight - with the duplicitous Wright bent on revenge on their wedding night. Written by Niven Busch (DUEL IN THE SUN), directed by Raoul Walsh (THE BIG TRAIL) and shot by the great James Wong Howe (SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS), PURSUED brings to the Western the mood and atmosphere of a great film noir.
DIR Raoul Walsh; SCR Niven Busch; PROD Milton Sperling. US, 1947, b&w, 101 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, March 29, 1:00; Sunday, March 30, 1:00; Monday, March 31, 7:00
BLOOD ON THE MOON
Drifter Mitchum goes to work as a hired gun for old friend Robert Preston, the leader of a coalition of homesteaders embroiled in a heated range war against Tom Tully's ranching operation. But Mitchum's loyalty is shaken when discovers Preston is working an angle to shakedown Tully on a crooked land deal. Double-crosses, knockdown barroom fights and a climactic shootout pace director Robert Wise's action-packed western, notable too for its shadowy atmosphere, lensed by noir specialist Nicholas Musuraca.
DIR Robert Wise; SCR Lillie Hayward, Luke Short and Harold Shumate, based on Gunman's Chance by Luke Short; PROD Theron Warth. US, 1948, b&w, 88 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, March 29, 5:05; Sunday, March 30, 7:25; Monday, March 31, 9:10
HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON
Salty Marine Mitchum and nun Deborah Kerr are marooned on a small Pacific island during WWII, battling the elements and each other until they have to put their heads together to outwit an expedition of Japanese soldiers. The pairing of Kerr with Mitchum - the Scottish beauty's favorite leading man - produced terrific screen chemistry, and an Oscar nomination for Kerr.
DIR/SCR John Huston; SCR John Lee Mahin, based on the novel by Charles Shaw; PROD Buddy Alder and Eugene Frenke. US, 1957, color, 108 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, April 5, 1:00; Sunday, Monday, April 7, 7:00
Mitchum and Deborah Kerr play husband-and-wife nomadic sheepherders in 1920s Australia, a couple who've led and loved a footloose life but who now want to settle down on their own homestead - assuming Mitchum can leave behind his rambunctious ways. Mitchum and Kerr's natural, knowing way with one another, not to mention their earthy sexual chemistry, make them one of the movies' more believable screen couples. Peter Ustinov - former sea captain, current gentleman tramp - is along for the ride.
DIR Fred Zinnemann; SCR Isobel Lennart, based on the novel by Jon Cleary; PROD Gerry Blatner. UK, 1960, color, 133 min. NOT RATED
Sunday, April 6, 3:45; Wednesday, April 9, 7:00
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER
The only film directed by the great actor Charles Laughton, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER has enjoyed cult status across five decades. Blending the frightening mythological power of the Brothers Grimm fable with Southern Gothic Creepiness, it's the story of two children guarding their dead father's stash of stolen money from a seemingly benevolent but secretly malicious preacher; played with unhinged gusto by Mitchum. With expressionistic lighting effects and memorably stylized, even psychedelic art design, it's marvel to look at, and Mitchum, usually the paragon of cool, here gives a flamboyantly over-the-top performance as the psychotic villain.
DIR Charles Laughton; SCR James Agee, based on the novel by Davis Grubb; PROD Paul Gregory. US, 1955, b&w, 93 min. NOT RATED
Friday, April 11, 7:00, Saturday, April 12, 2:00, 7:05; Sunday, April 13, 4:45, 9:15; Monday, April 14, 9:30; Tuesday, April 15, 9:30, Wednesday, April 16, 6:30; Thursday, April 17, 7:00
A personal project for Mitchum, who - in addition to starring, writing and producing the picture - even composed and sang the title song, which became a radio hit. Proud Tennessee bootlegger Mitchum must contend with both the feds and the mobsters who want a piece of his action. Full of thrilling car chases, memorable characters and plenty of local color, THUNDER ROAD enjoyed enormous and enduring popularity throughout the South, becoming a drive-in classic.
DIR Arthur Ripley; SCR James Atlee Phillips and Walter Wise, based on the story by Robert Mitchum; PROD Robert Mitchum. US, 1958, b&w, 92 min. RATED PG
Friday, April 18, 7:00; Saturday, April 19, 9:15; Sunday, April 20, 9:15; Monday, April 21, 9:00; Thursday, April 24, 7:00
Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake of CAPE FEAR may have improved on some aspects of J. Lee Thompson's 1962 original, but, with all due respect to De Niro, not Robert Mitchum's performance as the ex-con Max Cady. Mitchum uses his natural cool and subtle insolence to create a unique screen villain, one possessing a laid-back menace. His unhurried, I-don't-give-a-damn attitude makes him the perfect foil to upright — and uptight — Gregory Peck, the DA who sent him to jail. When Cady finally makes his move for revenge it's violent in the extreme, but until then he makes rooting for the bad guy fun.
DIR J. Lee Thompson; SCR James R. Webb, based on The Executioners by John D. MacDonald; PROD Sy Bartlett. US, 1962, b&w, 105 min. NOT RATED
Friday, April 25, 9:45; Saturday, April 26, 10:00; Sunday, April 27, 9:45; Wednesday, April 30, 9:30; Thursday, May 1, 9:00
THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE
World-weary Mitchum, a career criminal with a wife and two kids struggling to make ends meet in the suburbs, contemplates ratting to the cops after getting pinched for driving a truck full of stolen whiskey. Director Peter Yates (BULLIT, BREAKING AWAY) displays great command for the details. Whether it's the taut procedural of a bank heist or fly-on-the-wall observations of criminals in their milieu, with the local color of 1970s Boston providing a particularly piquant backdrop. And Mitchum — struggling with his dilemma, defeated but sardonic to the end — gives perhaps the most affecting performance of his brilliant career.
DIR Peter Yates; SCR/PROD Paul Monash, based on the novel by George V. Higgins. US, 1973, color, 102 min. RATED R
Friday, May 2, 7:10; Saturday, May 3, 1:00, 7:10; Sunday, May 4, 1:00, 7:10; Monday, May 5, 9:45