Sometimes, I think I ought to go back and do at least one thing really well. But again, indolence will probably cause me to hesitate about finding a place to start. Part of that indolence perhaps is due to shyness because I’m a natural hermit. I’ve been in constant motion of escape all my life. I never really found the right corner to hide in.
Robert Mitchum, overlooking his industrious side
Mitchum entered show business through the side door, via a job as a stagehand. This was during the “settling down” chapter of Mitchum’s life. Previous to that he was the drifter he later played on the big screen. At age 14, he was working on a chain gang in Georgia (great preparation for life in the studios). At age 29 he was nominated for an Oscar.
Here’s an excerpt from an interview where he discusses his creative involvement in The Lusty Men:
“(Producers) Jerry Wald and Norman Krasna — one or the other –would call me at the office and ask for ideas. So I gave them one — a modern Western. They reached into a drawer and came up with a title. They had titles to fit just about any type of movie. They were quite a team. One would walk up and down and cry while the other sat down to talk to you. Then they’d reverse. I always thought that the producer was The Producer. I didn’t know I was makin’ more money than they were and that if I sneak-talked to the boss (Howard Hughes), they’d be out. I didn’t know that, no shit. So Howard called me one day and said, ‘Bob, for God’s sake tell me you don’t want to do this picture so I can get this son-of-a-bitch Wald off my back.’ But I told him I wanted to do the picture. He asked, ‘Is the script that good?’ I told him we didn’t even have a script, but we’d whip one up. And I wanted Nick Ray to direct it.
“The next day Wald called me to tell me in hushed tones that ‘Howard’s OK’d the story and guess who we have as director? Nick Ray.’ Then he hired Niven Busch and the guy who wrote ‘They Shoot Horses,’ Horace McCoy, to do the writing. They were at opposite ends of the lot and they kept passing each other by. Finally they passed each other and went right out the gate. Nick and I , both stoned, worked out the script.
“So we get the picture finished and Wald had insisted on this ending that was impossible. We snuck into the editing room, made off with the end sequence and burned it. The production number was still active, so we went out and shot another ending, bang-bang-bang, like that. And Jerry Wald traveled to colleges around the county lecturing on the art of filmmaking.”