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Robert Mitchum as Reverend Harry Powell: 10 Quotes About Iconic Role

By    |   Thursday, 02 April 2015 07:00 PM

Described by director Charles Laughton as "a nightmarish sort of Mother Goose tale," the film "The Night of the Hunter" was a turning point for Robert Mitchum's career.  Mitchum starred as Rev. Harry Powell, a man of God who is far more sinister than he lets on.

Here are 10 quotes about the iconic role of Robert Mitchum as Rev. Harry Powell.

1. "His performance in Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955) – now on re-release — is startlingly stiff-necked and straight backed, with a mannered theatrical baritone, a change from Mitchum's usual rangy coolness. Perhaps it was this unfamiliarity that contributed to the film's failure on first release, a bruising experience that helped make it Charles Laughton's sole directorial credit."
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

2. "Robert Mitchum is one of the great icons of the second half-century of cinema. He is uncannily right for the role, with his long face, his gravel voice, and the silky tones of a snake-oil salesman."
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

3. "But Mitchum as the alarming preacher is a really daring bit of counterintuitive casting. For the previous ten years or so, he had been perhaps the coolest and toughest of film noir heroes. With his loose, lazy walk, his somnolent eyes, and his deep, buttery drawl, he always gave the impression of a man who could not be fazed, even in the direst circumstances. Harry Powell is not that sort of character. It isn’t just that Mitchum is playing a villain, or even that he’s using his indolent manner to convey a profoundly sinister kind of unctuousness. What’s truly startling about his performance is how buffoonish he allows himself to be, in between bouts of menace. His Harry Powell is a man whose composure masks the most unruly impulses — imperfectly capped wells of lust and greed and violence that tend to leak in moments of crisis, and not in attractive ways."
Terrence Rafferty, Criterion

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4. "Mitchum's performance prevents us from dispassionately engaging with Harry merely as an assemblage of diverting and revelatory signifiers, though, as he's too lively and uncontainable for that. The actor plays Harry not exactly as an evil deity, but as a self-entitled child who feels that he should have whatever he wants because he makes a pretense of being in the "God business" with the reverend shtick. Mitchum lets you see Harry's absurdity, and thus his humanity, which only allows him to grow larger in your thoughts as a figure of terror, an agent of unquantifiable reckoning who reveals that faith is only as noble, or as diseased, as its practitioner."
Chuck Bowen, Slant Magazine

5. "Many consider Robert Mitchum’s portrayal of Harry Powell (The Preacher) to be his finest. Based largely on the real-life murderer Harry Powers, AKA “the Bluebeard of Quiet Dell” who terrorized West Virginia back in the early 1930s."
Jon Patrick, The Selvidge Yard

6. "Right away I thought of Mitchum. He was a man who could project great charm, and yet there was a sense of evil lurking there under the surface."
Paul Gregory, "Night of the Hunter" producer

7. "In his greatest role, in 'Night of the Hunter,' Robert Mitchum played Harry Powell, a hymn-singing, widow-slaying psycho. A bogus preacher with the honeyed tones of a born charlatan, Harry is one of the screen's great villains — and one of the funniest."
Edward Guthman, San Francisco Chronicle

8. "Ignored for a long time, this film is now impossible to ignore. Mitchum is magnetic."
Adam Smith, Empire

9. "They worked on it for five months after I was finished and Charles [Laughton, the director] put in all those owls and pussycats. Said he thought I was too horrific. He didn't want people to drag their children off the streets every time I passed. The character was too strong for him, but that is what he asked me to begin with."
Robert Mitchum, on his "Night of the Hunter" performance

10. "Mitchum gives one of cinema's greatest performances as a demented man who's one part preacher, one part murderer, and totally determined to track down a stash of stolen loot in the possession of two kids."
David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor

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Described by director Charles Laughton as "a nightmarish sort of Mother Goose tale," the film "The Night of the Hunter" was a turning point for Robert Mitchum's career. Mitchum starred as Rev. Harry Powell, a man of God who is far more sinister than he lets on.
robert mitchum, reverend, harry powell, role, iconic
Thursday, 02 April 2015 07:00 PM
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