Mitchum and De Niro and Brando, oh my!

From Forum with No Name:

Don Seigel's The Big Steal's not bad--clean action sequences, sexy interaction between Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum. Felt a bit disposable, I thought, but very well done.

ted fontenot: The most pleasant thing about The Big Steal is the easy rapport Mitchum and Greer have. They exude more a feeling of camaraderie rather than one of sexual heat a la Out of the Past (which plays this evening). You can tell they genuinely like each other. The Big Steal is an early chase movie, and the stars seemed grateful for its being light, and ultimately lighthearted, for not having to take things with any great seriousness. The whole thing is an excuse for an exercise in sardonic repartee between the main characters that, while funny and integral to the characters and relationship, spoofs high seriousness of Out of the Past.

It was a Mitchum marathon last night and today. Night of the Hunter, Cape Fear, His Kind of Woman, Macao. I much prefer the Peck/Mitchum CF to Scorsese's. It's simpler, more direct, more concentrated, thus more forceful. Mitchum isn’t just evil; he’s a natural force. He's a calamity as pitiless as a hurricane. Humanity means nothing. John D. MacDonald, whose novel the movie was based on, is the creator of the legendary Travis McGee series. His depiction of society is Old Testament righteousness meets Darwinian ruthlessness in seeking out the main chance. The McGee novels are noted for Max Cady-type villains. CF's theme is that it's impossible to be decent—the veneer of civilization is mighty thin. Animals like Mitchum sense the niches in the liberal humanistic society they can take advantage of and thrive in. However civilized we may think we are, in dealing with them, at some point we're going to have to become like them, if we are to defend against them. I used to think the ending was kind of a copout, and emotionally I guess I still may feel a little like that. You want Peck to blow the mother away. But the movie subtly takes the point further. Bowden does become like Cady, and not just in that he sets him up to be killed, but he becomes Cady in his way—he stays within society's boundaries after all, and uses society’s institutions, not biological drives, to alpha Cady. In the natural world, when two males confront, often it is just ritual, a dangerous one, but ritual until one realizes he can’t take the other. However, sometimes there has to be a fight to a bloody end because they are too evenly matched or because one will not concede. That’s Cady. In the natural world, Bowden would have to kill him. But, in the end, in civilization, it's about transfusing Darwinian dominance and biological ruthlessness into socio-legal institutional acts of justice. It may not be much of a difference, and it may break down under great stress (see natural catastrophes, like Hurricane Katrina/Rita, or man-made ones, like the black market Germany immediately after the end of WWII),

His Kind of Woman was fun, too, in the same way as The Big Steal. Mitchum and Russell are more like sibling rivals than lovers in their movies, but, again, there's a rapport. Vincent Price is outrageously the ham, but when isn't he? Is there ever an instance on record of his "underacting". Nevertheless, in his self-parody, he's almost the best thing in the movie. But, then, there's Mitchum ironing his money when he feels stressful. Now, I laugh just saying that.

TonyaJ:  don't like the Scorsese Cape Fear either - DeNiro's Cady is just a gross guy and a sadist on top of it (note early scene where he takes a bite out of the hooker) - I don't remember Mitchum's Cady being a sadist - elements of sadistic maybe, as far as I can think back, but as you point out, he's more of an opportunist than just purely evil.

ted fontenot: By "understandable", I mean it can be understood, not that it is justified.

Agree on Scorsese's Cape Fear. More, De Niro's done impressive work--once--but he's not the sui generis presence that Mitchum is; he has to work out, and Scorsese has to show him at it. Nolte is arguably a more interesting actor than Peck, but Peck is perfectly cast here--a decent man forced step by step to become, as ted points out, what he beholds. You can even see the moment--he's not only outfought Cady, but as he trains the gun on Mitchum, the final piece clicks into place, and he begins to think like Cady--going under the radar of social convention and law to take his sweet, slow revenge on the man who has tormented him into this present shape.

Oh, I do think Mitchum's Cady is a sadist--he's just too smart not to leave any marks. His preferred method of torture--sophisticated for its setting, which isn't far from where I'm sitting right now (the Cape Fear Hospital is just thirty minutes away)--is of the mental kind.

ted fontenot: Yes, he's a terrorist.

DJ Joe: I perfer the Mitchum version of Cape Fear- he does a good job of conveying evil with a rogueish charm- another decent Mitchum flick is Tobacco Road

just finished Streetcar Named Desire- talk about rogueish charm- Brando is hot in this flick - great dialogue/acting-glad I finally saw this film

TonyaJ: The trouble with Brando's performance in the film version of Streetcar (and it's been said by film buffs and reviewers other than me) is that he dominates so much in his performance, that he tends to overshadow the other actors. While Stanley needs to be powerful, Brando's performance veers towards caricature simply by the sheer scope and size of what he brings as an actor. I much prefer him (not that I world every throw Stanley away) in more low-key, meticulous character studies like The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris.

DJ Joe: I think he is magnetic- but very much the primal man- I know guys like that - there is no mute button and no personal censor- they say what they believe when they want to how they want to

and I don't think he overshadowed Viven Leigh or Kim Hunter who did a good job as the straight person cuaght between 2 explosive personalities

for some reason the Karl Malden charcter reminded me of Bill Daughtries from King of The Hill

ChrisJ: Brando and Leigh were the show, though Hunter and Malden weren't wallflowers in the thing. It had to be changed from the stage to the screen for the censors. The reason to watch is Brando.. . he overpowers and changes the dynamics of what is the toned down play that Kazan and company got onto celluloid. It has become the definitive version of the play for most and that's a shame... it should be a interesting adaptation.

Oh, I didn't think Leigh was no wallflower.

Always thought of Streetcar as a domestic comedy--the heart of the film for me is Stanley and Blanche bickering away at each other, as the in-laws from hell.

His best performance for me is in Last Tango.

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