cover image Robert Mitchum

Robert Mitchum

Lee Server. St. Martin's Press, $32.5 (608pp) ISBN 978-0-312-26206-8

""Never forget that one of the biggest stars in the world was Rin Tin Tin, and she was a four-legged bitch,"" was tough guy Robert Mitchum's stock response when asked what it felt like to be a movie star. While many Hollywood personalities and stars now attempt to maintain their personal privacy, Mitchum gloried in the seamless meld between his lives on and off screen. Born in 1917 to a railroad worker and a mother with intellectual, even bohemian, inclinations, Mitchum lost his father early, and ran off when he was 14 to hop freight cars during the Depression. After gigs as a boxer, stevedore and union worker (perhaps even joining the Communist Party), he tried acting and finally got a break in Hollywood. After playing a cowboy in a 1943 Hopalong Cassidy serial, he made another 18 film appearances that year. In 1945, his performance in G.I. Joe made him a star. He perfected his tough guy image by the late 1940s, playing variations on this part (often comic as his career waned) until his last film, in 1995. In his heyday, Mitchum made headlines by suing Confidential magazine for libel, getting arrested on a marijuana drug change and generally acting rowdy. Server (Danger Is My Business) is at his best describing Mitchum's fine acting--especially in the 1955 Night of the Hunter--and his struggles to remain independent in an industry that demanded conformity. This is a well-researched, highly entertaining and revealing biography that contextualizes Mitchum in the broader world of industry and national economics, business and politics. (Mar.)