My Kind of List

I can be shallow, and I think a great number of my posts is a testament to this. I only wish though, I could put it to some good like ReelzChannel as they present Famous Topless Thespians, From Clark Gable to Matthew McConaughey. The list is limited, and far too much post Lancaster shirtlessness. Still, they supply pictures and such enlightening analysis as the Real reason for shirtlessness (my favourite is for It Happened One Night, Real reason for shirtlessness: Claudette Colbert not allowed to take off her shirt.)

One notable exception in my books is Robert Mitchum, back in his noir hey days any excuse for him to prance around half naked was taken. A lot of this probably was due to the fact that the man was fit, and not only that he was enormous without looking like a series of over inflated balloons a la Arnold. He just had an incredible upper body… yes… let’s not get distracted, because this is very intellectual and important. Yes, so Mitchum shirtless. It also plays on his smouldering, often intimidating sexuality. Even as a hero Mitchum always seemed a threat, very few actresses could match his presence. The same could be said for Jane Russell, who was often too intimidating for men roles. Not only in terms of personality, but she was often bigger than her male co-stars. As much as I love Gentlemen Prefer Blondes I think her best role is probably in His Kind of Woman (1951). It certainly didn’t hurt that the script was hilarious, plus Vincent Price may very well give his best performance as a flamboyant action actor. Aside from those minor contributions, the chemistry between Russell and Mitchum is incredible. For once they both find themselves on equal ground, not only in terms of sheer sexual presence, but having similar ironic senses of humour, intelligence and are both similarly famous for their… upper bodies. I still haven’t seen their follow up to this Macao (I hear it’s not as good), but I am saddened they weren’t matched more often. Especially for Russell who had an ultimately disappointing career, especially considering her presence.

Back to Mitchum, outside of perhaps His Kind of Woman, more often than not he intimidated the presence of his female co-stars. Filmmakers took advantage of this and eventually played him more and more in the villainous roles. His best performance was probably in The Night of the Hunter (he is not shirtless in this film), which integrates this sexual presence in a strange way. In a very telling scene, his new wife (Shelley Winters) enters his room on their wedding night. In one of the earliest scenes in the film, he enters a burlesque club. There is no clear sense of arousal except the use of his switchblade as a non-so-subtle sexual metaphor, however this is contrasted with his desire to rid the world of women. His character uses women to gain wealth, he has an incredible disdain for women, especially their sexuality. His interest in sex is linked forever in violence, however outside a few scenes this isn’t quite played out. The human aspect of Mitchum in this film is only notable in the first half, in the second half he becomes little more than a biblical horror monster.

Right, shirtless Mitchum. I can’t get off track! On this trend, we come to Cape Fear. Less subtle than the sexual frustration exhibited in The Night of the Hunter, Mitchum actually is a sexual predator in this one. It’s an unsettling film, sometimes for all the wrong reasons. In a time when the word rape can’t be used because of remaining censorship laws, a few scenes are awkward… however it almost works to increase the uncomfortable energy. Of course Mitchum is shirtless in this film, and in more than one scene! His intimidating shirtless sexuality is used in a very literal way, but hey it works.

I think I’ve tried way too hard to justify talking about Mitchum’s chest by intellectualizing, I apologize for that. That’s why so many pictures. This one doesn’t feature Mitchum shirtless, but he is in the picture. I found it on my internetting, I thought I’d share.

9 responses to “My Kind of List

  1. Robert Mitchum was a tank.

    I don’t know who that girl in the last picture is, but she’s almost got enough to match Bob in terms of upper-body. 😆
    He looks like he is having a good time.

  2. A tank is good, I was looking for adjectives and metaphors but I think my mind wasn’t too focused on English… yes.

    Her name is Simone Sylva, she was a Hollywood starlet back in the day. If you google her name, more fun in the sun pics pop up.

  3. Oh right! I’ve seen the Notebook, that was my first encounter with him actually. I haven’t seen Half Nelson, but I will 😀


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