Now Playing! Robert Mitchum at 100

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Robert Mitchum in 'Night of the Hunter.' (MGM)

One hundred years ago this week (Aug. 6), Robert Charles Durman Mitchum came into this world. He appeared in more than 25 movies between 1942, when he first stepped in front of a camera in a Hopalong Cassidy picture, and 1945, when he was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Story of G.I. Joe. The original progenitor of cool before cool was cool, Mitchum survived a marijuana bust in 1948—he liked weed, all right, but he was probably set up by a dodgy actress who needed to score points with the LAPD—and a slew of bad movies to make it into both the pantheon of American screen actors and the even more exclusive hall of 20th Century icons.

Mitchum could mesmerize an audience, seemingly without doing anything, as well as anyone who ever lived; he exuded the quiet confidence of a man with actual life experience who could handle himself in a fracas in an alley or a clinch in a phone booth. The Castro pays tribute this weekend with the two-fisted underdog crime flick Thunder Road (Aug. 11), the all-time-great noir Out of the Past (co-starring a living centenarian, Kirk Douglas) and the lesser-known '70s crime drama The Friends of Eddie Coyle (both on Aug. 12) and the darkly menacing The Night of the Hunter and Cape Fear (Aug. 13). The Smith Rafael Film Center picks up the torch with Mr. Mitchum: Celebrating the Centennial of Robert Mitchum, a three-week run beginning Sunday with Out of the Past. The series includes three of the Castro titles plus the largely forgotten western River of No Return with Marilyn Monroe (Aug. 17) and David Lean’s Dingle Peninsula-set epic Ryan’s Daughter (Sept. 3). There’s a risk in glamorizing the man, who loved looking for trouble particularly when he’d had had a few, but the actor could be sublime.