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No match for bad dad Robert Mitchum

“If I see you put your hand in the plate one more time, I’m gonna’ stab you with this knife. You hear me?”

Raging Bull: Fadder o’ the year Joey LaMotta!
  • Raging Bull: Fadder o’ the year Joey LaMotta!

Bad dads: there are no George Baileys or clownfish named Marlin in this reprobative grouping of sires.

Home from the Hill trailer

Home from the Hill (1960)

There were two venal Vincente Minnelli patriarchs to choose from, neither of whom had Liz Taylor as his on-screen daughter. Arthur Kennedy is pure scum in Some Came Running. On the surface he’s Parkman, Indiana’s #1 son, but his heart pumps silt. Still, revulsive though he may be (in a good way), he is no match for Robert Mitchum in Home From the Hill. Director Minnelli asks us to accept George Hamilton in the role of Mitchum’s son. (And I goof on Spielberg’s inability to suspend disbelief!) But wat delight awaits, watching Mitchum belittle the ever-tanned (and ever-fledgling) actor. But all roads lead to Bob’s heated moment of comeuppance: eighty-seven minutes in, Hamilton enters dad’s study/arsenal to make it known that he’s hip to the fact that one of the ranch hands is his half-brother. So what if pop sewed a few wild oats with a tramp who gave birth by the side of a ditch? Hamilton follows with the line of his career: “She must have been some pig to crawl into bed with you.” Thawing momentarily, Bob stammers, “We’ll just let that...We’ll just let that pass in the heat of the moment.” Flustered Mitchum. How often does that appear on the menu? When it does, savor it!

Written on the Wind trailer

Written on the Wind (1956)

“A great man! A giant of a man!” To hear his family speak, you’d half-expect Jonas Salk and Amazing Colossal Man Glenn Langan to enter hand-in-hand. Instead of a titan, director Douglas Sirk portrays oil tycoon Jasper Hadley (Robert Keith) as a pocket-sized but powerful house mouse. The inheritors to his throne are his impotent lush of a son (Robert Stack) and a doxy daughter (Dorothy Malone) who makes Mitchum’s “sand hill tacky” look like a Disney Princess. Halfway through the picture, Old Man Hadley’s ticker gives out, forcing him to take a fatal spill down the family’s grand staircase. (If a diminutive oil tycoon falls in the middle of a mansion, does anybody hear?) It doesn’t help that his daughter — Sirk’s framing reducing her to a calcitrating torso — is blasting a molten version of “Temptation” on her Victrola. Patroclinous trivia: milquetoast Robert Keith was the real life sire of strapping Brian Keith, movie dad to both Hayley Millses in The Parent Trap and TV’s “Uncle Bill” on Family Affair.

Raging Bull trailer

Raging Bull (1980)

Jake La Motta (Robert DeNiro) is by no means Judge Hardy, but the father of the year award goes to the younger LaMotta brother. Unfortunately there isn’t enough quality screen time devoted to Joey (Joe Pesci) and his kids, but the thirty seconds we do get to spend around the family dinner table is magic. Joey points a knife at his young son and threatens, “If I see you put your hand in the plate one more time, I’m gonna’ stab you with this knife. You hear me?” We never learn if Joey, Jr. got the message, for no sooner is his dad about to bludgeon the tot with a butter knife than Uncle Jake saves the day by bursting into the house and putting his brother’s head through a glass door. Every day is Father’s Day in the LaMotta household, ya’ son of a bitch! And while we’re on the subject of father figures, here’s a little mob movie trivia. Russell Bufalino, the character played by Joe Pesci in The Irishman, was the real-life godfather to Al Martino. Upon learning that Martino’s role as Johnny Fontaine in The Godfather had been taken from him and given to Vic Damone, the singer put in a call to Bufalino, who stepped in and smoothed things out.

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