To Robert Mitchum (first letter)

Dear Bob,
I’m about to have people over to watch Night of the Hunter. It’s my favorite. I also think you made the best Marlowe.
“I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it.”
Your face caught light like the side of a rock quarry. I guess you’ve heard that before. To me you look like the drunkards waiting at a labor office. You look like some of the men in my family at two in the morning during the holiday parties of my childhood.
You look like the kind of people they don’t make movies about. You look and act both poor and white at the same time. You do this while never allowing your characters to devolve into derisive stereotypes. You look like a lot of people who want to look like something else. You have a face that winks to us about the lie of Hollywood, America and the Rights of Man — a face that acknowledges the genocides of the West.
Then again, maybe I’m giving you too much credit. I recently found out you didn’t take on Tony Curtis’ role in the “Defiant Ones” because you refused to be shackled to a black man. You vocally supported the Vietnam war. You wouldn’t apologize for anti-Semitic remarks throughout your public life. You had perpetual affairs and drank way too much. Your off-screen life seems to mirror the vicious cartoons you successfully problematized on film. Was this all part of a media persona, and if it was, does that make it alright?
You’ve managed to get to me and probably many, many others — a love/hate thing that’s quite disturbing when I think about it. I can’t stop watching your movies.
jeremy