best film:  Out of the Past. Most would say Night of the Hunter but I still find some weaknesses in Charles Laughton’s only film as director that I can’t find in Out of the Past. Mitchum maybe be slightly stronger (or at least louder in his brilliance) in Night of the Hunter but Out of the Past is narrative precision at its finest, features a talented ensemble, and the outcome is a hallmark film of the noir genre. Mitchum does the heavy lifting in front of the camera and I’m not sure that script sounds as good if there’s any other actor on the planet (living or dead) doing the voice over.

best performance: Night of the Hunter has a fair amount of time with no Mitchum on screen and for that period of time it’s a fine film- some flaws- entertaining but not exceptional.  It’s when Mitchum comes on the screen that the film takes off. His Harry Powell is an all-time hypocrite, charlatan and all around villain. It’s a haunting portrayal and the hymns (sung beautifully by Mitchum’s booming baritone) and love/hate monologue are justifiably legendary at this point.

stylistic innovations/traits: Mitchum is a bit of an anomaly as he’s largely done this without the backing of a singular collaborative auteur (he doesn’t have a Fincher, PT Anderson, Ford, Kurosawa) and he was ignored by the Academy (one supporting nom- non-win- in a film that isn’t in the archives (The Story of GI Joe– 1945)).  He’s here because of two reasons: 1. Villains and 2. Noir.  His trio of films at the top of his 10 best performances feature two turns as villains (Cape Fear, Night of the Hunter) and one noir. It’s one of the best 5 noirs of all-time (and Mitchum here is the greatest male lead in a film noir) and as far as villains if you’re making a short list of best performances by an actor in a villainous role I don’t think you could get past the top 6 or so (Health Ledger in Dark Knight, Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs and a few others)—but you’d have two Mitchum performances). It also doesn’t hurt that in Cape Fear  you have De Niro (spoiler alert but he’s a top 5 actor of all-time at least) who remakes and takes on the same role as Mitchum and Mitchum wins in that square off battle. Mitchum isn’t about versatility or range. He plays himself (or the screen version of himself) largely—an existential loner, an outsider who doesn’t give a rip. Mitchum called the dialogue “lyrics” and there’s a rhythm to his way of speaking. I don’t really believe as the actor as auteur but he makes a case here—his character is always in the know, brooding, with his destiny always set.

directors worked with:   Preminger (2) and then once a piece with Nichloas Ray, Hawks, Lean, Kazan and then small roles with Scorsese and Jarmusch in the 90’s.

Top 10 Performances:

  1. Night of the Hunter
  2. Out of the Past
  3. Cape Fear
  4. The Friends of Eddie Coyle
  5. The Lusty Men
  6. The Big Steal
  7. El Dorado
  8. Crossfire
  9. Angel Face
  10. River of No Return

Archiveable films

1944- Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
1947- Crossfire
1947- Out of the Past
1947- Pursued
1948- Blood on the Moon
1949- The Big Steal
1951- His Kind of Woman
1952- The Lusty Men
1953- Angel Face
1954- River of No Return
1954- Track of the Cat
1955- Night of the Hunter
1962- Cape Fear
1962- The Longest Day
1967- El Dorado
1970- Ryan’s Daughter
1973- The Friends of Eddie Coyle
1976- The Last Tycoon
1991- Cape Fear
1995- Dead Man