Robert Mitchum was born Robert Charles Durman Mitchum in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1917. His father, a shipyard and railroad worker, was crushed to death in a rail yard accident when Mitchum was a toddler. His mother remarried a former British Army major.
Mitchum was a difficult child and at the age of 12 his exasperated mother sent him to live with his grandparents in Delaware where he was soon expelled from junior high school after scuffling with the school principal. A year later, in 1930, he moved in with his older sister, a waitress and stage actress, in New York City. After getting expelled from high school, he traveled throughout the country on railroad cars. In Georgia, Mitchum was put on chain gang after getting arrested for vagrancy.
He arrived in Long Beach, California in 1936, staying again with his sister, who convinced him to join the local theater guild with her. He worked nights as a stagehand and occasional bit player. In 1940, Mitchum got a steady job as a machine operator with the Lockheed, but a nervous breakdown left him with few options and he turned to acting.
His film debut was a bit part in 1942, at the age of 25, for Frank Lloyd Productions. Several years later, Mitchum received an Academy Award nomination for his performance in Story of G.I. Joe (1945).
Mitchum appeared in more than 110 feature films. His last film role was in 1995.
He also began appearing in television roles in the 1980s and co-starred in the short-lived series African Skies (1992).
A composer and singer, Mitchum recorded two songs that charted on Billboard’s Pop and Country Music charts in 1958 and 1968.
Mitchum had a long history of substance abuse. In 1948, he was arrested for possession of marijuana and spent 60 days at a California prison farm. The conviction was later overturned. He was also a long-time alcoholic.
He died of complications from lung cancer and emphysema in Santa Barbara, California, in 1997. Mitchum was 79 years old.