Whether he was playing a cowboy, a psychopath or a private detective, Robert Mitchum could say more with a raised eyebrow or a dark look than most actors could in a two-minute monologue. Yet in life, the star of films, including Night of the Hunter and The Longest Day, covered his true feelings with jokes, sarcasm and a world-weary toughness — even though he felt things deeply.

A native of the East Coast, Robert brought his bride, Dorothy Spence, to Los Angeles in 1940. The couple had known each other since they were teenagers but were used to long separations. From childhood, Robert had a habit of running away for weeks or months to explore life in other places.

“He always returned,” Dorothy wrote in Photoplay magazine in 1954. “My family hoped that I’d forget him, yet somehow I couldn’t.”

The bond between Robert and Dorothy allowed their marriage to survive fame, infidelity, scandal, and the ups and downs of a Hollywood career for 57 years.

Robert, who received his sole Academy Award nomination for 1945’s The Story of G.I. Joe, encouraged his reputation as a rebel, but he could be extremely charming, too.

“He was taciturn unless you got to know him,” says Jerry Roberts, author of Robert Mitchum: A Bio-Bibliography.

The actor punctuated his amusing stories with dead-on impressions of friends and Hollywood luminaries like director John Huston.

“Once, I almost fell off the couch from laughing,” Roberts says. “It was that the story was funny, but also told in such an original way.”

Inside the Life of Late Longest Day Actor Robert Mitchum
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Robert’s fame, wit and charisma attracted women like moths to a lighthouse.

“He had been a pinup favorite of mine when I was a teenager,” confessed Shirley MacLaine, who carried on a three-year affair with the star. “His angular face and protective arms made me swoon.”

But no woman — no matter how famous or beautiful — could replace Dorothy in Robert’s life.

“There’s not one of ’em — and I’ve met the best of ’em — worth lighting a candle for alongside her,” he said.

Dorothy, a writer and society hostess who founded a charitable organization to benefit the mentally challenged, really was quite formidable.

“She was a very nice lady, but very tough and had an independent streak,” says Roberts. “She was the glue that kept their family together.”

Dorothy admitted it wasn’t always easy.

“Sometimes the women would elbow me out of the way to get to Bob,” she said. “But … whatever he does, he always comes back.”

In his later years, Robert took pride and comfort in his family, admitting he had been a “poor husband” to Dorothy but a “good father” to his children, James, Christopher and Trini. The longtime smoker passed away in 1997, predeceasing Dorothy by 17 years. After her passing at age 94, Dorothy’s ashes were scattered in the same place at sea that Robert’s had been, in hope they would find each other again in eternity.