The Lusty Men (1952) starring Robert Mitchum

The Lusty Men_poster

One ‘o the things that’s wrong is all the books and rules on success is written by successful men.  Now that’s wrong.  Fellers like you and me’d get a lot more help if the books and rules on success was written by a failure. That’d make sense.  -Jeremiah, the humble, old, bachelor farmer who lives in Jeff’s former family house explains (in a sort of epilogue to the main story)

This is a film that seems tailor-made for Robert Mitchum; it has drama, GREAT dialogue, a love triangle, and plenty of action/thrills (involving the rodeo)!  I just learned that it was directed by the prolific Nicholas Ray (In a Lonely Place, Rebel Without a Cause, King of Kings, etc.)  After he sustains a rodeo injury, star rider Jeff McCloud (Mitchum), returns to his hometown after many years of absence. He signs on as a ranch hand, where he is befriended by fellow ranch hand Wes Merritt (Arthur Kennedy, a strong supporting man, esp. of the Western genre) and his wife Louise (Susan Hayward in a strong/engaging performance).

The Lusty Men_meeting

Louise: Wes tells me you once made three thousand dollars in one day, rodeoin’.

Jeff: That’s right.

Louise: And threw it all away.

Jeff: Oh, I didn’t throw it away. It just sorta’… floated.

The Merritts seem like a solid, happy couple, though they also have ambitions for their own little farm.  Wes thinks that rodeo winnings (fast money) could help finance it.  Wes convinces Jeff (who is a BIT reluctant) to coach him, but Louise has strong doubts.  She thinks that the couple should just keep saving slowly.  But, despite his easygoing/humble demeanor, Wes has a lust for adventure!

The Lusty Men_truceThere never was a bronc that couldn’t be rode, there never a cowboy that couldn’t be throwed. Guys like me last forever.  -Jeff says to Louise

It turns out that Wes is QUITE good in the events he signs up for in his first rodeo, impressing his new peers on the circuit.  Of course, the money is GREAT, so he decides to go on the road (BEFORE checking w/ Louise).  She is surprised by this hasty decision, BUT goes on the road w/ her husband and Jeff.  How will Wes and Louise deal w/ their new success/lifestyle?  What will become of Jeff… and his burgeoning feelings for Louise?  Watch this film to find out!    

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Home from the Hill (1960) starring Robert Mitchum

home from hill_posterKind of man that walks around with nothing in his pockets, no identification because everyone knows who you are. No cash because anyone in town would be happy to lend you anything you need. No keys ’cause you don’t keep a lock on a single thing you own. And no watch because time waits on you. Wade (Robert Mitchum) explains to his 18 y.o. son Theron (George Hamilton) about the kind of man he should aim to be

“Wow, what a speech!”  My dad commented.  Plus, who doesn’t LOVE Robert Mitchum!?  He was the quintessential “man’s man” (NOT unlike George Clooney is today).  If you read this blog, you know that I’m a BIG fan of Mitchum’s acting!  In this (dysfunctional) family drama set, he plays wealthy, womanizing, and hard-drinking Texan- Capt. Wade Hunnicutt.  (Warning: It’s a LONG film, but has some VERY fine moments!)  I saw it on TCM last month; you can check it out for $2.99 on Amazon Instant Video.  This film, b/c it came out in 1960, could pull the cover off topics which were hidden/NOT directly mentioned in previous decades.

home from hill_denHe’s got a mind of his own. I gave him that. Don’t think he’s gonna come to heel like one of your hunting dogs at the snap of your fingers.  -Hannah (Eleanor Parker) explains to Wade about Theron

Mitchum suits his role VERY well, BUT he’s well-matched by onscreen wife Eleanor Parker.  (The actress, best known for the playing curvy/glam/ independent baroness in The Sound of Music, passed away almost 2 yrs. ago at age 91.)  But unlike that iconic role, Parker has a VERY different look in this film- she’s thin, dressed prim/proper, yet also a fighter (in her own way). 

home from hill_dateTheron (a bright, kind, sensitive, yet sheltered young man) has to navigate his parents, falling in love (first time), and more.  For most of her son’s life, Hannah has kept him away from his father and his bad influences.  One Summer, Wade decides that he must teach the boy “how to be a man.”  In time, Theron discovers a BIG secret about his family!

Not as a Stranger (1955) starring Robert Mitchum & Olivia de Havilland

At the opening, Lucas Marsh (Robert Mitchum, one of my favorite actors) is an idealistic intern at a private hospital.  Luke has dreamed of being a doctor since childhood, though he comes from very humble roots (his mother is dead and his father is a drunkard).  His best friend is Alfred Boone (Frank Sinatra in a fine supporting role), the jovial son of a comfortable family who loves chasing women.  Al comments to a classmate that though they all want to be doctors, Luke “wants it more- he has to.”  Luke works as a lab researcher, usually late into the night.

While working, Luke strikes up a friendship with a 1st gen. Swedish-American nurse from Minnesota, Kristen (Olivia de Havilland).  She even arranges it so that he and Al can watch an important surgery.  When Luke’s father spends the money his mother saved for his education, he’s desperate (though he conceals it well).  He gets some help from Al and his teacher, Dr. Aarons (Broderick Crawford), but it’s not enough.  Dr. Aarons, who is Jewish, went through a lot of trouble to become a doctor, and sees great potential in Luke.   

When Kris invites Luke and Al to dine with her friends Bruni and Oley (Harry Morgan from M.A.S.H.), Luke learns that Kris has saved quite a bit of money.   It’s obvious that Kris likes Luke more than a friend, so he asks her out.  (After all, she’s a fine nurse with a “pretty face” and “nice figure.”)  After a few dates, he decides to propose, though Al reminds him that he doesn’t love her.  They nearly come to blows (Luke has a hot temper).  “It’s not like that.  Things are not always black and white,” Luke replies.

They marry and move into her little apartment.  They continue with their respective work; Kris helps Luke prepare for his exams and with his people skills.  (Since he has such high standards, it’s difficult for him to tolerate weakness in others.) 

Marsh, you’re one of the most brilliant students we’ve ever had here.  You’ll be a great physician.  Stop living your life like a Greek tragedy, or you’ll muff it!  -Dr. Aarons
After graduation, the couple move to a small town, where Luke shares a practice with Dr. Runkleman (Charles Bickford), the most experienced doctor in the area.  Dr. Marsh is pleasantly surprised to learn that the older man keeps up with the latest research.  The life of a country doctor is tougher and more tiring than anticipated.  

There is also temptation- a wealthy young widow, Mrs. Lange (Gloria Grahame), summons Dr. Marsh to her home late one night (to check him out).  He’s taken aback by her looks and boldness.  At home, Kris wants to start a family. 

The secret of Robert Mitchum’s success(ful) appeal as an actor was his ability to easily combine tough masculinity and tender vulnerability in one persona, unlike any of his peers (John Wayne, William Holden, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston).  One felt that Mitchum concentrated more on fully and honestly showing all sides of whatever character that he was playing, even the weak and not-so-tough moments… 

A commentor on YouTube

This film is a must-see for any fan of cinema!  It has well-developed characters, great dialogue, and takes the viewer on a journey.  The editing and pacing are also well done; this is important since the film clocks in at 2 hours and 15 minutes.  (The director is a groundbreaker in the field, Stanley Kramer; he also directed Inherit the Wind, The Defiant Ones, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and many others.)  The ending is fitting and very fulfilling- I got a bit teary-eyed.