The Night of the Hunter (1955) starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, & Lillian Gish

 

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A poster of the film

[1] Great art transcends time, but The Night of the Hunter has not lost an iota of relevance (or quality).

[2] Whoa. Lighting, framing, performances, all so unsettling…

[3] Robert Mitchum is fantastic, but Lilian Gish steals it for me.

#TCMParty (from recent live-tweeting session)

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Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum)

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits, ye shall know them. -Rachel Cooper (in the prologue to the film)

I saw this VERY effective (and a BIT scary, even for adults) film for the first time recently on TCM. It was directed by actor Charles Laughton, who hit it out of the ballpark on his first (and only) try. It was a box office failure, perhaps b/c it seems way ahead of its time (as several critics/viewers have written). 

Spike Lee paid homage to this film, which is one of his faves, in Do The Right Thing; Radio Raheem wears love-hate on his knuckles. 

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Radio Raheem (Do The Right Thing)

[1] Mitchum is tremendous in the title role, his role is larger than life and was also slightly playing with fire in it’s portrayal as a reverend as corrupt or evil. Chapin is really wonderful as young John and has a much better character than some of the others in the cast. Winters is good in her performance.

Lillian Gish is another luminous presence in the film because she projects no-nonsense kindness and sweetness toward the children she takes into her home.

-Excerpt from IMDB review

Later on in life, Mitchum said that Laughton was his favorite director and this was his favorite role. Laughton originally offered the role of Harry Powell to Gary Cooper, who turned it down as being possibly detrimental to his career.

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Harry (Mitchum) talks with Willa (Shelley Winters)

In this parable of good and evil, Harry Powell is the ultimate boogeyman – a relentless, nightmarish force who preys on children and it is even suggested by John that he doesn’t even sleep. …he often casts imposing shadows and is sometimes seen as a lone figure in the fog, almost a mythical force of terror.

-Excerpt from blog post (Plain, Simple Tom Reviews) 

It’s the time of the Great Depression somewhere in the Midwestern U.S. In the process of robbing a bank of $10,000, Ben Harper (Peter Graves) kills two people. Before he is captured, he is able to convince his son, John, and very young daughter, Pearl, not to tell anyone, including their mother, Willa (Shelley Winters), where he hid the money (inside Pearl’s cloth doll). Ben is captured, tried and convicted. Before he is executed, Ben is put in the state penitentiary with a cellmate, Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), who calls himself a preacher (and dresses as such). However, he is really a con man and murderer, swindling rich/lonely widows before he killing them. Harry does whatever he can to find out the location of the $10,000 from Ben, but is unsuccessful. After Ben’s execution, Harry decides that Willa will be his next mark, figuring that someone in the family knows where the money is hidden. Despite vowing not to remarry, Willa ends up being easy prey for Harry’s outward charms. Her gullible older friends/neighbors (The Spoons) help convince her that a husband is a MUST to help raise kids.

 

 

 

 

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The Lusty Men (1952) starring Robert Mitchum

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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).

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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!    

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!