Maryland was home to tough-guy actor Farm: In 1959, Robert Mitchum bought a 280-acre waterfront estate in Talbot County. According to one report, he was born in Cecil County.

Remember When

July 20, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

When movie tough guy Robert Mitchum died July 2, news stories announcing his death listed his birthplace as Bridgeport, Conn.

However, according to a 1948 story in The Sun, Mitchum, the son of a railroader, was born in the Cecil County town of Rising Sun:

"Hollywood, Sept 1 (AP) -- Robert Mitchum, screen player, and two actresses left jail under $1,000 bond each today after their arrest earlier in a narcotic raid on a Laurel canyon home.

"Mitchum along with actress Lila Leeds, 20; dancer Vickie Evans, 25, and Robert Ford, a real estate man, were booked on suspicion of violating state and Federal narcotics laws after police said they broke in on a marijuana smoking party in the girls' home.

"Mitchum, born in Rising Sun, Md., started his movie career as a Western actor, but in the last years has been playing starring roles in high-budget productions."

Whether he was born in Maryland or not, his family settled in Bridgeport, where he attended school until dropping out at 14, hopping freight trains and working as a laborer, miner, boxer and aircraft assembly-line worker.

Eventually landing in Hollywood in the early 1940s, Mitchum married his high-school sweetheart, Dorothy Spence, and began his movie career as an extra in Westerns.

In 1959, Mitchum did become a full-fledged Marylander when he bought a 280-acre waterfront estate in Trappe, Talbot County.

He paid $140,000 for Belmont Farms, which included a Georgian Colonial residence of 12 rooms, built in 1850, and topped by an octagonal cupola.

"There are two 30-foot sun porches, one facing the water," reported The Sun. "The 27-foot living room is on two levels, and there is a large den. Two of the four master bedrooms on the second floor have marble fireplaces."

"I don't mind paying my taxes. The only thing I resent is having to do the blankety-blank bookkeeping," explained Mitchum in a 1960 Evening Sun interview.

"This was Robert Mitchum, refuting some false notions about his two-year absence from Hollywood. He has been making films in Australia, England and Ireland and no longer makes his residence there. Home for Mitchum is the far shore of Chesapeake Bay, a verdant stretch of Maryland coastline 75 miles from Baltimore. But it is no tax haven for the actor," said the newspaper.

"If anything, I'm paying more in taxes," said Mitchum. "I moved back to Maryland two years ago for reasons other than money," he told the newspaper.

After considering relocating to a remote South Carolina island, Mitchum and his wife decided on Maryland.

"Maryland isn't as remote. I can fly anywhere in no time at all," he said. "But when I'm there, it's like being in a different world. Living there means the burning of another bridge behind me.

"My unsocial nature is well known. In Maryland, I can be as unsocial as I want and nobody gives a damn."

Talbot countians thrilled at having the star in their midst and, protective of his privacy, often gave obscure directions to outlanders hoping to catch a glimpse of the star at work on his farm, where he raised quarter horses.

"The actor himself greets the rubberneckers cordially, saying, he doesn't mind visitors, 'but my children shoot at them,' " said the Evening Sun.

"Robert Mitchum added a touch of glamour to the opening day of the Timonium State Fair today when he appeared with three of his quarter horses ready for competition," reported the Evening Sun in 1961.

The newspaper said that Mitchum was "easy to distinguish among the surprisingly large crowd." He was dressed in a red shirt, cowboy hat, "and, of course, dark glasses."

"Leaning against the wooden fence cowboy fashion with other spectators, he was obliging to all who recognized him and free and easy with his autograph."

Fair-goers were excited when they learned that the actor had entered the cutting competition.

"To the city folk, this means Mitchum will mount his favorite quarter horse, race up to a herd of cattle and separate a calf from the group. The quarter horse actually does all the work, but the Trappe cowboy will give the orders from the saddle," said the newspaper.

In a 1968 news story, Mitchum explained his love of horses.

"Well, I had a farm in Maryland, and if you have a farm you should have a horse. Right? So I bought a horse. Before I knew it I had 22 and I was in business," he said.

"Then I sold the farm and moved back to California, so what was I going to do with the horses? Get them rooms in the Beverly Hills Hotel? So I had to buy a ranch up near San Francisco to house them."

Mitchum last visited Maryland in 1987, when he played the role of Victor "Pug" Henry in Herman Wouk's miniseries, "War and Remembrance," which was filming that summer at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Pub Date: 7/20/97

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