March/April 2011
Michael Atkinson

The Gestures
of Robert Mitchum

A Compendium of the Coolest
American’s Minutiae

Angel Face (1952)
Untying a tie, Bob’s huge hands handle the fabric like a child’s hair, slowly, lazily. Cigarette dangling. Thinking of a woman, or maybe about how he should be thinking of something else.

The Big Steal (1949)
Trying to avoid getting ID’d in Mexico, Bob turns his back to us and leans on the bar in a perfect lazy-barfly’s arch, his butt stuck out (off camera), his elbows planted, blending in with the other drinkers, and then looking backward under his hat brim as obliquely and slyly as any human being ever could.

Cape Fear (1962)
Bob, a thousand kinds of low Georgia badass, comes at lawyer’s wife Polly Bergen shirtless, like the walking threat of demonic rape. He snaps an egg apart in his fingers, and the yolk flies.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Michael Atkinson is a critic for the Village Voice, Sight & Sound, and In These Times. His latest book is Hemingway Cutthroat (St. Martin’s Press).

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