The author obviously dug deep in his research because he offers much information I don't think was generally known about Mitchum. His long marriage, which had to be a great trial to his long-suffering wife Dorothy, was exposed in a different tenor then anything else I've read on the couple. He brings out a soft, compassionate side to the crusty, vulgar macho man one generally hasn't been exposed to. Mitchum have been one of the few actors who worked with Marilyn Monroe that was understanding of her tardiness and outward vanity that covered a very vunerable woman with low self-esteem. Yet, he wasn't afraid to take on the "big guys"....the directors and producers while endeavoring to protect those that were intimidated by the "fat cats". He stood up for his convictions and remained honorable to those he cared about. To the end he was his image...Robert Mitchum; tough guy. He probably never had a clue how highly he was thought of because to him, he was just doing a job that as he put it, a dog, "Rin Tin Tin" was in the same profession! He tossed out one-liners that years from now will probably be well known cliches. I always respected him as an actor....now, I also respect him as a man. Hollywood lost their last great actor from the glory days.
The book is severely limited by the lack of access to the principal players in Mitchum's life: his wife, sons, and many of his closest relationships. There are disadvantages to an "authorized" biography if the family wishes only the positive virtues of the subject to be included. However, without their input or cooperation, it is almost impossible to get any realistic picture of the man. Before I read this book, I knew Mitchum was a drinker, a brawler, a womanizer and a bad boy. When I finished the book, I didn't have much to add to that impression. His early life though sketchy, was interesting. His famous detachment is easily understood when you read about his childhood. His mother, though a hard worker, was a drifter and her children more or less raised themselves.
The direct sources are questionable. His sister is an unusual woman who claims "ESP" with Robert; though her view of him is so laudatory I sometimes wondered if she was speaking of an entirely different person. The tales from "barroom buddies" are just that - highly questionable. He seems to have been aloof toward his children and slightly skeptical. Mrs. Mitchum is a mysterious character throughout the book. Why did he stay with him? Why did he keep coming back? We never find out. According to the book, he had a long relationship with Shirley MacLaine, yet the author did not have one conversation with her.
Robert Mitchum remains an enigma. The definitive biography remains to be written.
The Mitchum book is written in the same style. It's full of great stories and details, particularly about his early life on the road, his infamous Reefer Bust, and how many of his movies were developed. There are numerous and lively anecdotes about many well-known directors and actors (John Huston, Charles Laughton, Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe) and some others who should be better known (Jane Greer, Edward Dmytryk, Anthony Caruso, Jacques Tourneur) The blend of Mitchum's actual life and his film life is shown seamlessly and there are no phony explanations about any of his actions. He is shown in many aspects: poet, partyer, brawler, and father. Warts and all. The book is a long one with many details but it is written in a crisp and fast-moving style. A very enjoyable read. Anyone who wants to learn more about: Mitchum, Film Noir, Hollywood, and a fascinating slice of 20th Century history should pick it up. This one's a keeper!