The Soundtrack For The Baby Boomer Generation

Step back to a time when singers were as bright as the stars in the heavens
and the music they sang was really swingin'. Stacks of wax to fit every occasion!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Ballad Of Robert Mitchum

Artist: Robert Mitchum
Song: What Is This Generation Coming To? (a-side) (b-side is Mama Looka Boo Boo)
Label: Capitol Promotional Debut Record F3672
Number: 45-16598
Songwriters: Don Raye - Joseph Burke
Time: 2:41
Released: March 20th, 1957

Today's post is the first of two in a Hollywood-related theme. Both feature iconoclastic actors from Tinseltown's 1950's, when both performers took up recording for the first time. The first one features tough guy Robert Mitchum doing calypso. Calypso? Yes, you heard correctly! A little on the man himself first.
Robert Mitchum was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on August 6th, 1917. His father, James, was crushed to death in a railyard accident in Charleston, South Caroline, in February 1919, when Robert was less than 2 years old. Throughout his childhood, he was known as a prankster, often involved in fistfights and mischief. After being expelled from high school, he travelled throughout the country on railroad cars, taking a number of jobs including one as a ditch-digger for the Civilian Conservation Corps and as a professional boxer. He experienced numerous adventures during his years as one of the Depression era's "wild boys of the road." He arrived in Long Beach, California, in 1936, and during this time he worked as a ghostwriter for the astrologer Carroll Righter. It was sister Julie who convinced Robert to join the local theater guild with her. In his years with the Player's Guild of Long Beach, he made a living as a stagehand and occasional bit player in plays. He also wrote several short pieces which were performed by the guild. After securing work as an extra in movies, he found steady work in the Hopalong Cassidy series of B-westerns. From this humble beginning, he graduated into bigger and more important roles until finally landing onscreen during the height of the Film Noir era. Here, his star shown brightly and he came into his own. He rode this wave of popularity into the 1960's, where his career was marked by a number of lesser films and missed opportunities. Some of his more memorable motion pictures include The Locket (1946), Out Of The Past (1947), Rachel And The Stranger (1948), The Big Steal (1949), Where Danger Lives (1950), My Forbidden Past (1951), His Kind Of Woman (1951), The Racket (1951), Macao (1952), One Minute To Zero (1952), Angel Face (1952), River Of No Return (1954), The Night Of The Hunter (1955), Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), Thunder Road (1958), The Sundowners (1960), Cape Fear (1962), The Longest Day (1962), El Dorado (1966), 5 Card Stud (1968), The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973), Farewell, My Lovely (1975), Midway (1976), The Big Sleep (1978), and many, many others. I'm sure readers of this blog will have seen about as many of these as I have - I've always been such a big fan of his movies!
Which brings us to one of the lesser known aspects of Mitchum's career - and that was his forays into music, both as a singer and composer. After hearing traditional calypso music while filming Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison in the Caribbean island of Tobago, he recorded Calypso - Is Like So... in March 1957. On this album, which the song in today's post hails from, he emulates the calypso sound and style, even adopting the style's unique pronunciations and slang. In 1958, he wrote and recorded a song for his film Thunder Road, entitled The Ballad Of Thunder Road, and it reached a respectable #69 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart. He waited until 1967 to record another album, but the resulting follow-up, That Man, Robert Mitchum, Sings, produced a #9 Country hit called Little Old Wine Drinker Me. It's follow-up, You Deserve Each Other, also charted on the Billboard Country Singles Chart.
Robert Mitchum, the 20th Century Renaissance Man, died on July 1st, 1997, but not before being regarded by critics as one of the finest actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood. This post seems to have turned out a bit longer than normal, so I'll wind it all up by saying get Robert Mitchum doing calypso music as he sings about modern teenagers in What Is This Generation Coming To? I assure you, you won't be disappointed in it!

No comments: