Happy 99th Birthday, Robert Mitchum!

The iconoclastic Robert Mitchum was born Robert Charles Durman Mitchum 99 years ago today in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Here are 10 RM Did-You-Knows:

  • His father, a railroad and shipyard worker, died in a train accident when Mitchum was two. He was raised by his mother and stepfather, a British army major.
  • Mitchum had issues with authority from an early age, and he spent much of his teens on the road. At 14, he was charged with vagrancy and spent time on a Georgia chain gang (he escaped).
  • While living with his older sister in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, he was expelled from Haaren High School, at which point he traveled the country by riding the rails, working for the Civilian Conservation Corps and earning money as a boxer.
  • He once worked as a ghostwriter for an astrologist (this delights us, by the way).
  • He recorded several record albums, including a Calypso record titled Calypso — Is Like So…, and generally was not dubbed when he sang in a movie.
  • Mitchum was arrested on September 1, 1948, for marijuana possession. He spent a week in the L.A. county jail and after being convicted, spent 43 days at a prison farm in Castaic, California. In 1951, the conviction was overturned, and many years later, Mitchum told TCM‘s Robert Osborne the arrest never happened, that it was all a publicity stunt. (What’s the truth? Your guess is as good as ours.)
  • Though he was true to her at times only in his fashion, Mitchum and his wife, Dorothy, remained married for more than 57 years until his death in 1997.
  • Mitchum was the voice of the “Beef…it’s what’s for dinner” television advertisements from 1992 until his death.
  • Mitchum was known for passing on roles that later proved to be iconic, among them Gen. George S. Patton, played by George C. Scott in Patton, and Det. Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry, portrayed by Clint Eastwood.
  • Mitchum was a big fan of Elvis Presley‘s early music and tried to sign him to appear in Thunder Road, but Col. Tom Parker‘s asking price was too steep for the independent production.

Happy birthday, Robert Mitchum, wherever you may be!

Robert Mitchum

You screened it for her, you can screen it for me…

Like most movie buffs, we occasionally are asked to name our favorite movie.

At first thought, it seems a difficult question. After all, there aren’t many genres of movies we don’t enjoy, and we happily watch pictures more than a century old and the latest releases. We have a list of favorite directors as long as our arm and a list of favorite actors and actresses as long as our leg.

But in the end, it’s really not that tough a call. For our money, Casablanca is the perfect movie—or the closest we’ve ever seen to it. Amazing performances from the whole cast, from Bogart and Bergman down to the tiniest bit roles. A witty, suspenseful, and moving script that deftly combines romance, drama, and humor and features some of the most celebrated dialogue and memorable scenes ever committed to celluloid.

We’ve seen Casablanca a dozen times or more, most of those on a big screen, surrounded by a collection of appreciative fellow movie buffs. It’s one of the benefits of living in a city like New York; we get to see an amazing range of movies from across a century-plus of cinema in theatres.

But there are plenty of burgs where a movie classic like Casablanca can be seen only on television, on a DVD or when Turner Classic Movies airs it. So I got excited—not for myself, but for the millions of Americans living somewhere other than NYC or Los Angeles or Chicago or San Francisco or half dozen other cities that have outlets for viewing classic movies in theatres—when I learned that on Wednesday, March 21, TCM is commemorating the movie’s 70th anniversary with a one-time digital screening of this classic in more than 335 theatres across the country. There will be an introductory short starring TCM host Robert Osborne, who will “take audiences behind the scenes of this epic love story.”

Every theatre is showing the movie at 7 p.m., so in each time zone, thousands of moviegoers will be watching it simultaneously. We love that.

There’s a good chance there’s a participating theatre near you. If you’ve never seen this wonderful movie on a big screen with an audience of fellow movie fans, you owe it to yourself to attend. Tickets went on sale today.

Z is for Zelda

We don’t kid ourselves that our listeners and readers can subsist on Cladrite Radio alone.

Heck, no—after all, each of us occasionally finds ourselves without internet access, and what to do then, when you’ve got a yen to do a little reading about life as it was once lived?

Well, we know what we do—we reach for a copy of Zelda magazine, and our vintage itch is immediately scratched.

As is explained on the publication’s web site, Zelda is “inspired by days gone by and our goal is to share glorious tidbits of yesteryear while bringing you features on the best of what’s happening in the vintage-style culture today.”

We’ve read Zelda (heck, we’ve contributed to it), and the above sentiments aptly sum up what this winning biannual is all about. Take it from us, from interviews with the likes of Golden Era actress Marsha Hunt, former Zeigfeld girl Doris Eaton Travis, and Turner Classic Movies on-air host Robert Osborne to recipes (culinary and cocktail), fashion history and advice, music reviews, and so much more, Zelda’s got vintage culture covered from stem to stern.

And just to show we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is, we’re going to offer the first giveaway we’ve ever undertaken at Cladrite Radio. The first six people to email us at zeldamag@cladriteradio.com will receive a copy of the current edition of Zelda (it’s issue #3, fyi), which boasts such fascinating features as a previously unpublished interview with the man once known as “America’s boyfriend,” actor, bandleader (and second husband to Mary Pickford) Charles “Buddy” Rogers; a profile of the once-best-selling (and not a little scandalous) but now largely forgotten author Ursula Parrott; an intoxicating drink recipe that updates the classic Manhattan cocktail while remaining true to the “spirit” of the original; a guide to the proper wearing of neckties; the sage advice of “Ask Mr. Burton”; and so much more (honestly, we’re just scratching the surface here).

So drop us a line, being sure to include your name and mailing address, and if yours is one of the first six entries we receive, we’ll get a copy of Zelda right off to you.

Such a deal!

Hollywood History 101

What more appropriate venue for a seven-hour history of Hollywood than Turner Classic Movies, the network that has devoted itself to celebrating and preserving classic motion pictures, from the silent era forward?

Moguls and Movies Stars: A History of Hollywood comprises a series of one-hour documentaries, covering seven key periods in the history of Hollywood, with a new chapter premiering each Monday at 8 p.m. ET and repeating the following Wednesday at the same time.

The chapter titles tell it all: Peepshow Pioneers, which airs on Monday night with a repeat on Wednesday evening, explores the origins of the motion picture and the earliest days of the movie industry, with a focus on Thomas Edison’s role in the rise of motion pictures. The Birth of Hollywood, which airs Monday and Wednesday of next week, explores how the American film industry, originally scattered across the country with a concentration of production companies in the New York City area, came to coalesce in Southern California, specifically a sleepy suburb to the north of Los Angeles called Hollywood.

We were fortunate enough to attend a screening of those first two chapters at NYC’s Film Forum, with TCM host Robert Osborne on hand to introduce the screening, and we can tell you that we can’t wait to see the remaining five chapters, so impressed were we with the first two.

Cinéastes familiar with the history of Hollywood probably won’t encounter a great deal of material in Moguls and Movie Stars with which they’re unfamiliar, but let’s face it—real movie buffs never tire of these stories, and the documentaries include a good deal of rarely seen footage and photographs and, yes, the occasional nugget of info that will come as news to even the most devoted movie fan. And more casual fans of classic movies with a desire to know more about the early days and Golden Age of Hollywood will find these documentaries compelling and informative.

Four-time Emmy nominee Jon Wilkman directed, wrote and produced the series, Christopher Plummer ably provides the narration, and an impressive array of film historians contribute on-camera insights and information.

But don’t take our word for it. Tune in at (or set those DVRs for) 8 p.m. ET tonight, and see for yourself. We suspect you’ll be hooked and will want to catch all seven chapters.

And TCM follows the debut of Peepshow Pioneers, with a collection of Edison films at 9 p.m., a re-airing of Peepshow Pioneers at 11 p.m., a collection of D.W. Griffith’s Biograph films at midnight, the films of Georges Melies at 2 a.m., seven silent shorts based on the plays of William Shakespeare at 4 a.m., and a Mary Pickford short drama, Ramona, at 5:30 a.m. (If any of those names are unfamiliar to you, they won’t be after watching Episode One.)

It’s a great chance to immerse yourself in the work of the very pioneers featured in the first episode of Moguls and Movie Stars.