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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Go South To Bury A Past

Mexico Madness With Mitchum and Mel

A Title Appended When They Thought Get The Gringo Would Play In Theatres

A Hot Mitchum Show For Hot Summer Dates
Is Mexico preferred place for disgraced leading men to book apology tours? Two seemed to have thought so, or had others think so for them. I drew parallels between crossroads of both Robert Mitchum and Mel Gibson after parlay of The Big Steal and Get The Gringo, flip sides of a same coin made years apart, but reflecting troubled if similar circumstance for both stars. Mitchum headed south after pulling county time the consequence of his presence at a reefer party. Gibson did a same after driving drunk, then mouthing off, to Pacific Highway cops, capping that unwise deed with dire phone threats recorded by a fed-up mistress who had borne his child. What to do for either but penance of chase or jailbird yarns where Mitchum and Gibson serve all of run times square behind eight balls. Parallels are rife: Get The Gringo begins with authority in fast pursuit of Mel, while a same device makes up whole of The Big Steal for Bob. These two should have made a film together, their stars having been in align at least for a while. Enough though, to enjoy fruits of respective public embarrassment, pips that were The Big Steal and Get The Gringo less likely to be ours were it not for hard roads Mitchum/Gibson traveled getting there. Here then is a double bill I recommend heartily.

Get The Gringo skipped US theatres, but tens of millions saw it on elephant's graveyard that is Netflix, then at berth called Amazon Prime. In other words, free to membership, and there are many more members at these addresses than could possibly have been inveigled into buying a ticket to such a squalid vehicle. Get The Gringo was no mea culpa for Gibson misdeeds --- that may have been more the mission of that strange post-scandal thing where he spoke via a sock puppet (as in finally learning to keep his big mouth shut?). Get The Gringo was back to tawdry basics, only more so. It is Gibson in lowdown, because stripped of stardom and status, he can afford to be. If there is a better picture from 2012, I haven't seen it, this from a casual consumer of new-made movies who prefers them actionful and bereft of high-mindedness that seems a mission of most picture makers these days apart from the super hero crowd (and even they take their comics way too serious). Get The Gringo is Quentin Tarantino minus over-length and endless chit-chat. Most of movies I've enjoyed over a last forty years have been trash or at best "popcorn" driven, so spare me please "Best Picture" winners and various "You Better Like Its" that come out with numbing frequency. To my simple reckoning, the 80's was bookended by two masterworks: 48 Hours in 1982 and Die Hard in 1988. The rest from that decade can go fish (but wait, let's keep Road House with Patrick Swayze from 1989).

The Big Steal is Gringo's bad Dad or disreputable uncle from a time when noir spun more/less serious narrative, which Steal does not. Idea was to rush Mitchum through a starring part before jail bars went clink, but as nothing could be achieved so quick, he'd have to wrap the pic after time served on an "honor farm." The story behind The Big Steal is at least as entertaining as the movie, and the movie is mighty entertaining, being one you could revisit often as holidays. Howard Hughes had lately bought RKO, and this was an early project he applied gifts to. HH even visited Mitchum in stir, then loaned him money to pay off mouthpiece Jerry Giesler and have purchase price of a house besides. This would certainly have put Bob under obligation to Hughes, a ticket the billionaire  punched later when Mitch did oft-smarmy vehicles for RKO. The Big Steal was directed by Don Siegel, who Mitchum later said had "Thrifty drug store taste," but who could bring more energy to hurry job this was? Siegel talked in his book of Mitchum arriving drunk to the Mexican location (tequila). So much, then, for mended ways, though this may have been just blowing off of jail dust. Most of The Big Steal is chase, Mitch doubled where possible so they could shoot while awaiting his release. There is enough process work with the cars to make The Big Steal look at times like Laurel and Hardy toward the end of County Hospital.

How serious was the Mitchum drug bust? He had hoped for probation, which he got for most part, but the judge added stinger of months to be served active. That well could have finished his career, for who knew how a public might react? There was example of Errol Flynn surviving his statutory rape trial, but Flynn was acquitted, so did no time. And what of Ingrid Bergman, a star who could not have fallen farther and faster from grace. Mitchum too had a wife and two children at home. The situation needed help from wherever help could be got. Jane Greer wrote a piece for Modern Screen where she assured that Mitchum was taking his problem to heart. Columnist Jim Bacon did a jailhouse interview and recalled Bob crying real tears over fate of his family and career. He'd have been a fool to laugh this off, and Mitchum was no fool. Photos of his mopping county floors were by all accounts taken without his approval, as the star didn't want his sons seeing result in newspapers. Later years made it OK, even desirable, to mock the thing and be a drug culture icon, partly what made Mitch an essence of cool for youth not otherwise disposed to aging film names. By then, of course, the 40's verdict had been set aside and Mitchum's record expunged. All of what happened deepens interest in The Big Steal, which is besides a very good movie, and highly recommended on Warner DVD (part of a noir collection where it is doubled with Edward G. Robinson in Illegal). As for Get The Gringo, you can turn on any streaming service and fairly trip over it.


Blogger MikeD said...

The Big Steal is a great movie but that cartoon ad, which I assume ran in the Sunday funnies, gave away the whole plot! I remember some trailers also basically giving away the ending back in the day.

12:13 PM  
Blogger StevensScope said...

I DO wish for a ''ROBERT MITCHUM AT RKO'' box set! Wouldn't IT be nice to have all of those MITCHUM 'film noir' titles together? Some ARE out there but TOO FEW as a collective unit. Of all of them, NOT YET RELEASED--is "SECOND CHANCE(1952), CO-STARRING JACK PALANCE AND LINDA DARNELL; and here to note- IT'S the> ONLY ROBERT MITCHUM RKO TITLE- MADE IN TECHNICOLOR ...AND... 3-D!!< A terrific little thriller probably not 'real film noir' as it goes, being shot in color--but HEY? It's a good one, and ALSO one of his last at RKO; and Bob finally gets to wear something other than his usual attire in those RKO'S, WHICH WAS his standard 'suit and tie' -here he trades it in for a pair of BOXING gloves (and trunks, of course!)!

3:45 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

That "County Hospital" reference made me laugh out loud. As for Gibson... well, there are times when I can't separate the "art" from the "artist". He's example #1.

4:04 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

"Second Chance" is a good one, and a previous topic GPS topic:

4:07 PM  
Blogger iarla said...

You don't mention Columbia's "Lust for Gold" which seems to be double billed - beneath - "The Big Steal" - but is infinitely superior, I think.

4:10 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Had mentioned LUST FOR GOLD earlier at Greenbriar:

4:56 PM  

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