Robert Mitchum on Caviar Geeks (1949) 🇺🇸
Now I’ll talk
by Robert Mitchum
Robert Mitchum, who wrote this story without a ghost writer’s help, chose Modern Screen as best-fitted to present the only authentic revelation of his current plans. Here — and here alone is Bob’s own story!
In 1947, after two years during which David O. Selznick vainly cajoled my cooperation, I was escorted to that gentleman’s studio to report for a publicity conference. The enterprising Mister Selznick, traditionally thorough and lavish in every phase of the preparation of his product, was faithful to his reputation, and I was accorded the full treatment.
Ushered into a handsomely appointed office, I was seated behind a polished desk, and a parade of publicists (presumably in order of importance) marched into the room to be introduced, each reciting briefly the exact function of his duties, and the advantages of the service he rendered.
The idea behind this little ceremony was that I should express my attitude and opinions on the method of “presentation” I desired.
Should the subject be palmed off on the public as a “distinguished young actor,” with a dignified cover portrait on a news magazine and a list of his professional credits? Should he be photographed with his biceps flexed and his stomach sucked in, whiling away his happy leisure with a yo-yo? Or should we picture him a moody rumpled clown who, like Topsy, “jes’ grew”?
This, my children, is planning; the process through which the mighty shape the flesh of some stumbling soul who regards honest toil with such shuddering horror that he becomes that caviar geek, a movie actor.
Having myself planned my career as a character actor, wrestling with beards and dialects, with time out to do a little fiction-writing, and having watched those plans collapse with the war-born scarcity of leading men. I knew the folly of this whole arrangement... After a while, being weary from jumping up and down to acknowledge each introduction, I went over to a convenient couch in the room, kicked off my shoes and lay down, trying to think of some way to tell these nice people I wouldn’t be needing them. Then one of them came over, sat on the couch beside me and touched my limp brow with a cool hand.
Looking up, I was overjoyed to regard Anita Colby, on the Selznick roster at the time, and the sight of that enchanted face simply changed the subject.
I did, however, manage to thank the assembly, and tell them that it would be safer not to plan, but to just stick around a few years and see what happened, a suggestion which surely spared them all a good deal of later embarrassment.
Some time afterward, I again wrestled with a plan in attempting to set my economic house in order. I entrusted my fate to a highly-recommended “expert” on those affairs. But this gentleman apparently was doing a bit of quiet planning of his own, with the result that my little program met with disaster. I believe the state of California has some plans for him.
Now the question of plan arises once more, arousing in me the same caution and thrift of promise, for it begins to appear that no plan at all is better than a plan which fails, so rather than define the course of the future, I shall hark on the lessons of the past and practice a program of “don’ts.”
One would think that a background such as mine has been, should be a source of constant enlightenment. Yet, it appears that I have repeatedly gambled my very future and solvency — certainly my comfort and privacy — on a foolish and naive belief in everyone.
That silly impulse shall be most definitely controlled. I’ve been offering my chin so long that I’m punch drunk, but I must finally admit to having a glass jaw.
There shall be no more stories or statements credited or attributed to me unless actually made or written by me.
During my sojourn at Sheriff Biscailuz’s home for wayward boys, numerous accounts of my past and present activities found their way into print. Several writers did stories on me using material copied from my probation application. These were published and howled through the streets of the world as “Robert Mitchum’s Life Story.”
Things such as these are unfair and distasteful and it makes me appear a bit silly to have stolen my own material. Besides that, I can use the money myself.
As to domestic plans, these are surely of no interest to anyone other than my wife, my children and myself. We must find ourselves a suitable house and the means to acquire it, and I do plan to take the kids fishing. Dorothy and I have never been nightclub-goers, we are the couple least seen at parties, and it surprised no one that Atwater Kent ignored us in his will — so there is no necessity for planning to “slow down” our lives.
My motion picture plans are the concern of my employer, and my most excellent agents, although I shall be more definite in my opinions and suggestions in the future.
I plan to improve my golf game so that Pat Knowles won’t jeer at me, and to spend more time with people. People are more fun than almost anyone, and it recently occurred to me when I cast about for friends, that most of these friends turned out to be people.
My recent chastisement by the staunch burghers of society illustrated to me that even in jail there are people.
As a matter of fact, recalling their missteps at treading on the tight wire of propriety, I am amazed that almost all people aren’t in jail.
Being strictly a “hard-way” guy all my life, I have come to relish the hard way as a worthy challenge. Not that I advocate the road of total experience — if you can learn the lessons of “don’ts” at mammy’s knee, then by all means attend that school. But before I should become an “I-told-you-so-er,” it behooves me to suggest that youngsters take note of each deliberate misstep, and see how clearly retribution defines it as a mistake!
The (a) “I-told-you-so-ers” were the first ones to go from my book, and the (b) “too bad, kid, you got a rotten dealers” are the next.
These are not people, they are (a) moralists and (b) moral opportunists, both of whom feed on people as fair game.
I plan to be mighty elusive game. I plan to discover for myself whether I am worth my salt as an actor and, if so, plan to be paid for it. Not in box-car salaries, but in responsibilities, opportunities and authority.
If my abilities are truly mediocre, then I plan to afford a way out, that I might preserve my honesty.
In truth, I plan to live my own life, as progressively, as productively as possible, allowing enough time to appreciate what already has befallen me, and to hope for what the future may bring.
Bob and Dorothy Mitchum just after his release from jail, take off for Mexico, where Bob resumed his work on “The Big Steal”.
Source: Modern Screen, July 1949