Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Robert Mitchum's Sad Eyes: Two for the Seesaw (1962)



Certain die-hard Robert Mitchum fans, such as myself, hold a dear secret about one tiny particular aspect of his lengthy career. No, I'm not talking about his brief foray into the music industry with his Calypso album (::shudders::). I'm referring to the few select romantic films he made. Mitchum is more well-known as the tough, mean guy or the tough, nice guy in many a film noir, Western, war drama or thriller. However, he had a much softer side - one that twinkled through his sad eyes and escaped through his parted lips.

My first encounter with a Mitchum-romance, as I like to call it, was Holiday Affair (1949) (co-starring Janet Leigh). At first, I was surprised that Robert Mitchum was even in this film. Mitchum! He's the big, surly, manly-man in all those great film noirs. What is he doing in a nice, heart-warming Christmas movie? Then when I actually watched the film, I was even more shocked to see that it was also a romance! (And yes he was part of the romance!) Mitchum was not man-handling some woman telling her, "Baby, I don't care", he was opening his heart and showing he did care, while maintaining his domineering masculinity of course. It was all lovey-dovey and I just lovey-dovied this other side of Mitchum.

So, when Mitchum was saluted with his own Summer Under the Stars day on TCM recently, I was incredibly happy to see that they were showcasing another lesser-known Mitchum-romance. In this case, it was Two for the Seesaw (1962) and his love interest was Shirley MacLaine. In contrast to Holiday Affair (1949) , this is a much grittier, realistic film. Robert Mitchum plays a soon-to-be-divorced lawyer who finds himself nearly penniless and heart broken in New York City. Shirley MacLaine is a young, street-wise dancer who has health issues as well as men issues. They meet as she is trying to hock off an ice box at some strange beat party and he, unlike most men today who are just plain wimps!, actively pursues her.

There are a few interesting things about this film. Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine had a real life, 3-year, love affair as a result of working very closely on set. Might I add that they were both married at the time? (naughty!) The film is also a good example of Breaking the Code as it shows an openness to talk about sex in a romantic relationship - something that wouldn't have been discussed on-screen even a few years earlier. And finally, never have I seen a film that really shows the complexity in the minutiae of a romance. Oftentimes you get a taste of the dynamics but this film really dives in and stays there for long run.

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