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Dorothy Mitchum, the widow of famed actor Robert Mitchum, her husband of 57 years, died peacefully at Serenity House hospice in Santa Barbara on Saturday, publicist Jane Ayer announced. She was 20 days shy of her 95th birthday.
The Mitchums were married in the kitchen of a Methodist parson in Dover, Del., on March 16, 1940, and were together until the actor’s death from lung cancer and emphysema on July 1, 1997. He was 79.
The rugged Robert Mitchum was known for his performances in such films as Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), Out of the Past (1947), The Night of the Hunter (1955), Not as a Stranger (1955), Cape Fear (1962), Ryan’s Daughter (1970) and Farewell, My Lovely (1975), to name just a few. He received an Oscar nomination for his supporting turn in The Story of G.I. Joe (1945).
The Mitchums had moved to Montecito in Santa Barbara in 1977.
The dark-haired Dorothy met Robert, two years her elder, when she was 14. She once had a courtship with his younger brother John, a fellow student at Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, Del.
Dorothy attended Peirce College in Philadelphia with the aim of becoming a secretary, but she abandoned that ambition to accompany her husband to Hollywood. Before his acting career got going, they worked as ghostwriters for astrologer Carroll Righter.
As legend has it, the Mitchums in the 1950s heard an unknown young singer in a small club in Biloxi, Miss. After they returned to their hotel in New Orleans, they recommended him to an acquaintance, Col. Tom Parker. That performer, of course, was Elvis Presley, who would become a family friend.
Later, Robert tried to persuade Presley to take the role of his brother in Thunder Road, the 1958 drama about running moonshine in Kentucky and Tennessee. The part was eventually played by the Mitchums’ oldest son, James.
In addition to James, survivors include their other son Christopher (also an actor) and daughter Petrine, Dorothy’s sister Bette, nieces Janeen and Judy, great nephews Weston and Trevor, her cousin Jean, eight grandchildren (one of them, Bentley Mitchum, is an actor as well), and eight great-grandchildren.
Dorothy’s ashes will be scattered at sea. A private celebration of her life will follow in May.
The family suggests that donations in her honor be made to The Salvation Army.
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