On September 30, 1948, actor Robert Mitchum (Story of G.I. Joe, Cape Fear) was released from prison following his charge of marijuana possession. Mitchum was an up-and-coming star in Hollywood. He had received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor two years earlier for his role in Story of G.I. Joe, and appeared in four feature films in 1947, including Pursued, Crossfire, Desire Me, and Out of the Past. He also worked with director Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, West Side Story) in a western film earlier in 1948 called Blood on the Moon. His recent string of success, however, only made his bust on September 1st that much worse.
Mitchum was found with actress Lila Leeds (Lady in the Lake, Wild Weed) and dancer Vicki Evans. With the 60s still more than a decade out, and public opinion towards marijuana still very much in the light of propaganda films like Reefer Madness (1936), the young actor feared the very public arrest would effectively end his acting career. It didn’t help that industry names like Howard Hughes (Scarface, The Outlaw), David O. Selznick (King Kong, Gone with the Wind), and the press constantly berated him during this period. But his famous bust that could have completely ended his career ended up doing just the opposite.
RKO had already completed an upcoming western featuring Mitchum in a supporting role called Rachel and the Stranger (1948). Despite public scrutiny towards Mitchum, audiences across the country hailed the film and the actor’s performance, putting the scandalous bust all but behind him and a still promising career in front of him. Mitchum, meanwhile, was sentenced to serve a 60-day sentence on a prison farm called Wayside Honor Farm. During his sentence, he was visited by Los Angeles Times reporters, and famously appeared in an iconic photograph taken by Scott Harrison and published February 10, 1949. After his release, Mitchum continued to have a successful career. He appeared in films like The Night of the Hunter, Cape Fear opposite Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Omen), Ryan’s Daughter, and a role in the epic D-Day drama The Longest Day. Mitchum died on July 1, 1997 in California. He left behind an extensive portfolio of films and a bad-boy reputation as the actor who only made movies to get laid, score pot, and make money, while caring nothing about art.