Robert Charles Duran Mitchum (August 6, 1917 - July 1, 1997) was an American film actor and native of Bridgeport, Connecticut who is largely remembered for his starring roles in several major works of the film noir genre. Mitchum is considered a forerunner of the antiheroes prevalent in film in the 1950s and 60s.
Mitchum was expelled from Haaren High School in New York City as a teen and wandered the country during the early years of the Great Depression, taking on such roles as a workman and professional boxer. He finally settled down in Long Beach, California in 1936 with his sister, Julie, who convinced him to join her in the local theater guild. His first major role was a bit part in the Hopalong Cassidy western Hoppy Serves a Writ (1943). After several more minor parts, he was signed to a contract by RKO Radio Pictures.
Though Mitchum had his first breakthrough for his supporting performance in Story of G.I. Joe (1945), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor, he achieved his greatest success in the gritty, low-budget crime dramas that would become known as film noirs. He was best known for playing characters whose poor decisions caused them to engage in endeavors that skirted the line between right and wrong, such as the cynical, hard-edged private eye in Out of the Past (1947), a disturbed artist in The Locket (1946), and a shady gambler in His Kind of Woman (1951). With his imposing physical presence and rumbling voice, he was particularly well-suited to play menacing figures, but he was quite successful in tempering this with an underlying aspect of raw intelligence.
A 1948 drug conviction and short prison sentence for marijuana possession sidetracked his career for a few years in the early 1950s, but he survived the scandal, in part because of his image among his fans as a rebel and an outsider. He continued to receive praise in his later career for roles such as the murderous preacher in The Night of the Hunter (1955), a sympathetic marine in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), an Australian sheep drover in The Sundowners (1960), a vengeful convict in Cape Fear (1962), an aging petty hood in The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), and detective Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely (1975).
Robert Mitchum died in his sleep on July 1 1997 of lung cancer and emphysema, at the age of seventy-nine.