By People Staff
Updated April 09, 2001 12:00 PM

“Baby, I Don’t Care”

by Lee Server

Meeting Robert Mitchum for the first time, George Peppard asked, “Have you studied the Stanislavsky Method?” “No,” replied Mitchum, “but I’ve studied the Smirnoff Method.”

That’s the gospel of acting according to the patron saint of B-movie tough guys. But for a man’s man who thought acting was for sissies, Mitchum sure did a lot of work in makeup, making more than 100 films. A deceptively subtle performer, he packed a lot of heat onscreen, both psychological and otherwise (seldom did a Mitchum character, whether detective, cowboy, psycho or soldier, ever go unarmed), yet he never won an Oscar or had a blockbuster. Offscreen Mitchum was a lot like onscreen Mitchum: He brawled, philandered throughout his 57-year marriage to teenage sweetheart Dorothy Spence, and inhaled, earning 60 days in jail for his infamous 1948 pot bust. He was particularly obnoxious when drunk, and such outré moments as the time he relieved himself on the floor of producer David Selznick’s hotel room are all cheerfully reported here. Still, he stuck by his method until the end: Before lung cancer killed him in 1997 at age 79, Mitchum was knocking back vodka for breakfast. (St. Martin’s $32.50)

Bottom Line: Hell-raising from A to Z