Robert Mitchum on the Tonight Show, June of ‘ 78. Turns out he lived in Santa Barbara when I did. Oddly enough, we never ran into each other. He’s wearing shades indoors, I assume so we can’t see his dilated pupils. You hate being on TV, Johnny says. I hate being in Hollywood, Mitchum says. Even if Hollywood is Burbank. Johnny Carson is way coked out and edgy. Ann Margaret has been so high on something she was talking in a whisper, terrified, and walked off stage in the wrong direction. Weird bit with a guy in a kangaroo suit, from some completely forgotten waste of celluloid Mitchum did with Elliott Gould. The guy does an incredibly good kangaroo. Mitchum makes sure to mention the name of the guy in the suit, twice. Interview over, the ersatz kangaroo goes stage left, Bob Mitchum departs, stage right, and even after patting the fake kangaroo, he comes off an ineffably cool motherfucker.
A comic now, no idea who, talking incredibly fast. The last guest, incredibly, is a judge. A real judge. Imagine the band hiding the drugs. Johnny is talking carefully. The comic is completely silent. Damn, the seventies.
I give up. I saw that Man In the Middle was on again last night, so I watched it. My fourth attempt. It’s not the greatest flick, but it’s a Robert Mitchum movie, so it’s obligatory alpha male viewing. Trevor Howard just ups the ante. Mitchum plays an army lawyer defending American soldier Keenan Wynn (another manly man) who murdered a British officer, apparently a crime. It’s in India, far from the front, and everything is tropical and sticky and noir. Fraffly hot. At some point Mitchum winds up at France Nuyen’s pad in the middle of the night. She comes to the door in a negligee. (It’s opaque, settle down.) They talk in abstractions. Mitchum, torn between moral dilemma and tough guy not giving a fuck, smokes his eight hundredth cigarette of the film. France Nuyen wafts about in the hot night air, her accent oozing impropriety. If you want to rest your conscience on my pillow, she purrs, that is alright too. Her clipped francophone Vietnamese pronunciation hints at a zillion vowels and tones missing in English. Mitchum digs it and almost emotes. They are all over each other and the scene fades to morning. Or it does here, in our living room, since invariably about this time in the movie I fall asleep and wake up on the couch hours later with the sun peeking through the curtains. In four tries I have never gotten past the scene where Mitchum beds France Nuyen. This morning I woke up and instead of France Nuyen and Robert Mitchum or even Trevor Howard and Keenan Wynn there was George Peppard in a German uniform. I stared, bewildered. Frühstück im Tiffany’s? No, that’s not Holly Golightly, that’s Ursula Andress. George clicks his heels and salutes. The Blue Max. That one can put anyone to sleep. So I turned off the TV and went to bed.