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John Mitchum

Updated on October 11, 2016
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I'm a fan of classic TV shows and films. My articles focus on the character actors and actress who usually played supporting roles.

Bio Stats

Born: 6 September 1919 (Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA)

Died: 29 November 2001 (Los Angeles, California, USA)

Cause of Death: Internal complications

Film and TV Appearances: 159+

Years Active: 1947 - 1990

Bonanza (1959-1973)

As Grimes in "Thanks for Everything, Friend" (Season 6)
As Grimes in "Thanks for Everything, Friend" (Season 6)

Early Life

John Newman Mitchum, the younger (by two years) brother of actor and Hollywood legend Robert Mitchum was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His father was killed in an accident before he was born and he grew up in Delaware and New York City. In the 1930s he and his brother Robert eventually moved to California to live with their sister. After graduating from Long Beach Polytechnic High School, he tried out a number of careers including working in an aircraft factory, singing in a choir and boxing before being drafted into the army in 1944.

El Dorado (1966)

as the bartender with his brother Robert Mitchum
as the bartender with his brother Robert Mitchum


About a year after being discharged from the army in 1946 he began acting in films. His acting career in film and TV lasted for 43 years. Some of the films he appeared in were The Prairie (1947); The Devil's Sleep (1949); Flying Leathernecks (1951); Stalag 17 (1953); Perils of the Wilderness (1956); Up in Smoke (1957); Cole Younger, Gunfighter (1958); Battle Flame (1959); Hitler (1962); Guns of Wyoming (1963); The Way West (1967); Paint Your Wagon (1969); Bigfoot (1970); High Plains Drifter (1973); Breakheart Pass (1975); The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976); Telefon (1977); and Where's Willie (1978).

Mitchum's most famous movie role was that of Frank di Georgio, the detective partner of San Francisco Police Inspector Harry Callahan (played by Clint Eastwood) in the movies Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973) and The Enforcer (1976).

Chisum (1970)

as Baker
as Baker

I feel very definitely that my forte is as a character actor.

— John Mitchum


The majority of Mitchum's acting roles were on TV shows, usually as a guest star. TV shows he guest starred on included Fireside Theater (10 episodes); Science Fiction Theater; Zane Grey Theater; The Restless Gun; Maverick; The Rebel; Peter Gunn; The Untouchables; Have Gun - Will Travel; Wagon Train; Rawhide; Perry Mason; Gunsmoke; The Twilight Zone; The Munsters; Batman; The Virginian; Bonanza; Bewitched; Little House on the Prairie; and Quincy M.E.

Television movies he appeared in were Cool and Lam (1958); Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate (1971); Savage (1973); The Hanged Man (1974); Escapes (1986); The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987); Jake Spanner, Private Eye (1989); and A Family for Joe (1990).

TV shows Mitchum had recurring roles in were Riverboat (as Pickalong) and F-Troop as Trooper Hoffenmueller.

Riverboat (1959-1961)

As well acting, Mitchum was also a singer, a songwriter and an author of patriotic USA poems. During his acting years, he sang with the Roger Wagner Chorale, a group which recorded many film and TV soundtracks. In 1964 he made a record album "Our Land, Our Heritage: Stories of America's Great Songs" with Dan Blocker (Hoss Cartwright, Bonanza). During the 1970s, he wrote a number of patriotic poems that were recorded by John Wayne for the album "America, Why I Love Her" (including the poem of the same name). This album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the best-spoken word category.

In 1988 he wrote the book "Them Ornery Mitchum Boys" - the story of his and Robert's life. He was married 4 times, had 1 son (John Mitchum II, who died on 5 March 2001) and two daughters.

John Mitchum died from internal complications (after having a stroke) in 2001.

Excerpt from "America, Why I Love Her"

You ask me why I love her?

Well, give me time. I'll explain.

Have you seen a Kansas sunset

Or an Arizona rain?

Have you drifted on a bayou

Down Louisiana way?

Have you watched a cold fog drifting

Over San Francisco Bay?

Have you heard a bobwhite calling

In the Carolina pines


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