All hail Robert Mitchum! With all due love and respect to Bogart, Ryan, Hayden, and McGraw there really can only be one King Of Noir--that sleepy-eyed devil with the I-Don't-Care attitude.
I argue my case for King Bob over at Criminal Element. In the first of two parts, I track his early years as a teenage drifter to his rise as a Hollywood leading man. In the second part, I follow his later years, his work in neo-noir, and the end of his life.
An observation that I didn't make in the essay but that I wanted to make here: one of the main reasons that Mitchum starred in so many good noirs is that he was the biggest star at RKO, which was the leading producer of noirs during the classic era of the genre (film historian Eddie Muller calls RKO "the house of noir"). While there, he was a personal favorite of RKO president Howard Hughes, who not only excused the actor after his potentially career-ending drug bust (had he been another studio he might well have been fired) but also cast him in some of his best noirs (WHERE DANGER LIVES and ANGEL FACE). Hughes singlehandedly destroyed RKO through bizarre mismanagement, but in at least in this one instance his obsessions paid off.
To read The King Of Noir: Part I click here.
To read The King of Noir: Part II click here.