Robert Mitchum was a classic Hollywood actor that made a name for himself with his tough-guy persona. As fate would have it, that tough-guy persona wasn’t an act, but the product of Robert’s own rocky life. Join Facts Verse as we look inside Robert Mitchum’s deeply troubled childhood.
Robert Mitchum was an actor whose incredibly unique persona was often utilized to provide some authentic grit to on-screen heroes and villains. In addition to Robert’s ability to play characters landing on both sides of the moral compass, he also had the ability to branch out into other areas of filmmaking. For example, 1958’s Thunder Road had Robert not only taking on the starring role, but also writing and directing the film, as well as singing it’s title song.
Beneath the actor’s rugged good looks and innate charm, Robert had a dark edge that allowed him to stand out from the competition. Part of this dark edge came from a droopy eye that the actor had received during his early days as a boxer. When Robert took on the role of a tough guy, he wasn’t acting so much as being himself. In fact, many people, including Robert himself, have expressed that he wasn’t much of an actor at all. Despite this, the actor’s unique visage and demeanor helped him rise to the upper echelon of Hollywood’s elite during his career.
Besides the droopy eye that Robert received during his early days as a boxer, his character was also hardened as a result of his troubled upbringing. Robert was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1917. His father was a railroad worker of Irish descent, and his mother was a Norwegian immigrant. Robert’s father worked hard for his wife and children, but tragedy struck when newborn Robert was still in his infancy.
When Robert was only 18 months old, his father died in an unfortunate incident that occurred while he was working at a rail yard in Charleston, South Carolina. Two boxcars got out of control and Robert’s father ended up wedged between them. Tragically, Robert’s father was crushed to death in the incident. This event left Robert’s mother to raise him and his siblings all by herself for a period of several years.
Robert’s mother raised him and his siblings singlehandedly for many years before eventually remarrying. She met a man by the name of Hugh Cunningham, who was a former officer in the Royal Naval Reserve. The man became Robert’s new stepfather, and did his best to help Robert’s mother raise her children. However, this proved to be a challenge in Robert’s case, as the boy had taken to misbehaving early on.
Many have speculated that it was the early loss of his father and the lack of a consistent fatherly influence that caused Robert to act out at an early age. However, Robert would’ve never hardened into the iconic screen persona that he became if he hadn’t further cut his teeth by being a wild child growing up. Young Robert had such a proclivity for misbehaving that his mother and new stepfather ended up sending the boy away to live with his grandparents when he was only 12 years old. His grandparents lived in Felton, Delaware, and Robert continued lashing out while there.
Upon arriving in Felton, Delaware, to live with his grandparents, Robert began misbehaving more than ever. He got himself expelled from a handful of high schools, and the police often had to be brought in to remedy the situation. It has even been said that, on one occasion, young Robert got into an all-out fistfight with one of his principals. After a while, Robert’s grandparents decided that they didn’t want him, either. From there, Robert ended up being sent around to a variety of places, including to live with his older sister, who had a place for herself in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.
Robert didn’t take any more kindly to New York than he had to Delaware, and he decided that he’d rather be off on his own. He wound up down in Savannah, Georgia, where the local authorities took him in under the charge of vagrancy. This arrest led to Robert being forced to spend some time working in a chain gang. After a time, Robert somehow managed to escape the chain gang, and made the decision to hitchhike back to his grandparents’ house in Delaware.
After all that Robert had put himself through, he was ready to submit to the will of his grandparents and try to make a more honest living for himself. It was during this time period that Robert met the woman that was going to become his first and only wife. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
After all of the horrible things that Robert Mitchum had been through during his childhood, he was finally ready to settle down after hitchhiking back to his grandparents’ house in Delaware. While there, Robert met a woman by the name of Dorothy. The two hit it off, and they ended up getting married in 1940. Robert and Dorothy would end up staying married until Robert’s death many, many years later. As well, they would go on to have a handful of children together.
Dorothy lived in the house next to Robert’s grandparents. Robert was living with his grandparents when the two met, and was paying the bills by working as a coal miner. In addition to his work as a coal miner, Robert could also be found moonlighting as a semi-professional boxer. It was during Robert’s time as a boxer that he received the punch that led to his famously droopy eye.
After Robert and Dorothy got married, they made the decision to move out to California. With some connections that Robert had made in the boxing industry, he felt that he might be able to make a name for himself in Hollywood. Thankfully, Robert’s intuition paid off for him and his new wife. However, Robert’s Hollywood success didn’t come overnight, and he found himself in need of a day job after the birth of his and Dorothy’s first son.
Robert and Dorothy’s first son was named James, and Robert found that he wasn’t getting steady enough employment in the entertainment industry to provide for him. Because of this, he was forced to take a job working as a machine operator for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Robert worked for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation during World War II, a period during which they certainly had their work cut out for them making planes.
Although working for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation allowed Robert to provide for his wife and newborn son, he truly hated the job. The job caused permanent damage to his hearing due to the insanely loud noise of the machinery, and the job was also so stressful that it resulted in Robert having a nervous breakdown so severe that it caused a temporary period of blindness. For those reasons and more, Robert was anxious to get back out into Hollywood.
After years of working as an extra and a supporting actor in the entertainment industry, Robert Mitchum’s big break came when he was offered the starring role as an American soldier in the war film The Story of G.I. Joe. The film released in 1945, and proved a major success. From there, Robert began receiving more and more roles, with some of his most iconic roles coming in the form of classic film noirs.
The success of The Story of G.I. Joe ushered in a decade of hits for Robert Mitchum that culminated in the actor’s iconic turn in the classic 1955 film The Night of the Hunter. The thriller saw Robert tasked with playing an evil preacher, and it has gone down in history as one of the most highly regarded films of the time period. While The Story of G.I. Joe took advantage of Robert’s tough guy demeanor by casting him in the role of a hero, the actor’s work in The Night of the Hunter a decade later proved that Robert could also harness this dark edge into something scary. Audiences ate up both sides of Robert Mitchum, though few were aware of the dark truth behind the edge that Robert displayed while acting.
Although Robert’s adulthood was much less tragic than his childhood had been, it still wasn’t without it’s turbulent periods. Robert continued having run-ins with the authorities into his adulthood, and found himself on the receiving end up some negative public attention when he was arrested for marijuana possession in 1948. Although the incident caused the actor to have to spend some time in jail, it ended up only boosting the actor’s popularity as a Hollywood bad boy.
According to Robert, marijuana use helped him keep his cool during long days on the set of his films. The actor had reason for wanting something to help him keep his cool, as he often had trouble doing so while working. Robert often got into quarrels with those that he was working with on the set of his films, whether the person on the receiving end of his rage was a member of the cast or the crew. One of the most notorious incidents involving Robert’s on-set rage occurred during the filming of the 1955 film Bloody Alley.
During one day of Bloody Alley’s filming, Robert had shown up on set incredibly agitated from a night of partying a little bit too hard. In his agitated state, the actor apparently got mad about there not being a car provided for him on the set of the film, which caused him to throw the film’s transportation manager into the San Francisco Bay. Robert was a heavy drinker, and his years of hard living took their toll on him. He passed away in 1997, at the age of 79.
Despite the fact that Robert Mitchum had an incredibly difficult upbringing, he was able to turn things around and use his hardened character to his advantage when performing roles on the big screen. Comment down below to share what your favorite role from Robert’s filmography is, or if you were surprised to learn about the numerous hardships that befell the actor during his childhood. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!