Robert Mitchum’s Life of Crime

The following article is presented for entertainment puproses. It is not intended as scholarly research or as a final authority on the subject.

My last blog entry was about Cape Fear, one of Robert Mitchum’s best known films.  Since today’s Freaky Friday calls for a true crime topic, we’ll talk about Robert Mitchum’s true crimes.

I will admit the title of this blog post is a little dramatic.  Robert Mitchum was far from a career criminal.  He did, however, have a few interesting brushes with the law.

Robert Mitchum was born in 1917 in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Robert’s father died when he was very young.  Robert’s mother remarried to a former British Army Major.

Young Robert Mitchum was a prankster–a trait he would never outgrow.  His love of mischief got him expelled from more than one school.

In 1930, Robert went to live with his older sister in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.  He was soon expelled from the school he was attending. Robert took off on his own, traveling the country on railcars.

At the age of 14, Mitchum was arrested in Savannah, Georgia for vagrancy.  He was sent to work on a chain gang.  Robert escaped the chain gang with an injury to his leg and returned home to Connecticut.

This experience made an impression on Robert.  During the filming of Cape Fear in 1962, many of the outdoor scenes were filmed on location in Savannah, Georgia. Robert had such a deep aversion to Savannah, Georgia that some of his outdoor scenes had to be filmed at  a marina in Stockton, California.

Cut to the night of August 31, 1948.  Robert was a working actor in California.  His wife Dorothy had taken a two month trip back East after the couple received some bad financial news.

Robert–with his friend Robin Ford in tow–went to a party at 8443 Ridpath Drive.  This was the home of young actress named Lila Leeds.  Robert and his friend arrived at Ms. Leeds’ home around midnight.

Unbeknownst to Robert, the house was under police surveillance.  They were looking for illegal drug use.  Robert blazed up a doobie, and the police busted in and nabbed them all.  Some reports claim Robert had fifteen joints in his cigarette pack.

Robert must have been fairly sure his acting career was over because he listed his occupation as “former actor” when he was booked.  However, RKO studios had too much invested in Robert Mitchum to just dump him.

Robert’s next film appearance–Rachel and the Stranger–was released on September 20, 1948.  Audiences cheered when Robert appeared onscreen.

Robert was eventually convicted of conspiracy to possess marijuana.  He was given 2 years probation and sentenced to two months in county jail.

Life magazine famously photographed Robert’s jail stint.

On the set of Mitchum’s next film, The Big Steal, his co-star Jane Greer said fans were constantly trying to foist joints on Robert Mitchum.

Robert Mitchum’s final arrest came in 1953.  He was stopped for speeding–doing something like 74 MPH in a 35 MPH zone.  Rather than accepting the ticket, Mitchum drove away from the scene.  He was later arrested and fined.

Robert Mitchum exuded “don’t give a damn” from every pore of his body.  It enhanced his performance on screen, made him an actor people loved to watch.  In real life, it seems he was just as interesting as he was on screen.

Sources:

Very Important Potheads: Robert Mitchum

Robert Mitchum: Bad Boy

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Robert Mitchum, Smokin’ the Dope

Robert Mitchum’s Canyon Drug Bust (this article has apparently been removed)