Robert Mitchum and Dick Cavett

It’s 1971. Dick Cavett is on the set of The Dick Cavett Show, standing and delivering his opening monologue. Wide tie, orange hues and anxious self-deprecating talk show wit at the ready.

Cavett promises we’ll be back with Mitchum after the break. Commercials play for Max Factor cosmetics, Coronet tissues and Electrolux vacuums.

Cavett is back, sitting on a lounge chair on set. Talks about Robert Mitchum, a movie star with more than a hundred movies to his name. Charles Laughton described Mitchum as a very tender man, a very great gentleman, one of his favorite people in the whole world.

Cavett admits Mitchum also has a reputation for terrifying interviewers before standing and welcoming him on set.

Mitchum saunters onto the set, small white disposable plastic drinking cup in his right hand, nodding to the applauding studio audience. Mitchum is 51 years old, dapper in a black three-piece suit and wide-collared white shirt. Black silk tie with white-edged diamond pattern. Black framed glasses with dark lenses.

Cavett and Mitchum both sit down as the applause fades down. Mitchum leans forward and pushes back the bridge of his glasses. Glances at a monitor off stage, checking his profile. Checking his demeanor.

Mitchum plays the cool, cynical loner on stage and off. Cavett seems more anxious than usual, fingers knitting together, thumbs flexing.

Mitchum slips an unlit cigarette between his lips.

I think if one more person had told me how many times you’ve terrified interviewers, I wouldn’t have been able to do this? Is that exaggerated at all?

I really don’t know. I don’t feel that I terrify interviewers.

Mitchum flames the tip of his cigarette with a lighter. Inhales then exhales a thread of thin smoke out the side of his mouth.

They more or less terrify me.

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