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Stewart and Mitchum
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James Stewart, Robert Mitchum: The Two Faces of America

Sometimes a director has a theory and uses the tools of the cinema to test it. French filmmaker Gregory Monro had such a theory and it was this: Robert Mitchum and James Stewart represented the two faces of America and since both shared the screen in the 1978 remake of The Big Sleep and died in the same year, 1997, he would make a documentary playing the two actors' personalities off of each other as an examination of America. The movie, James Stewart, Robert Mitchum: The Two Faces of America (2017), stretches that theory pretty thin but when you have family and friends of the two actors being interviewed and the two legends themselves showing up in lots of great archival footage, who cares if the theory holds or not. In fact, one could probably argue that Monro didn't care so much either, it was just a great opportunity to examine the two actors, and who would turn down a chance like that?

The documentary, produced by Mitchum's daughter, Trina Mitchum, is a joy to watch, naturally. For any classic movie lover, seeing those close to Stewart and Mitchum discuss their careers and personalities will never be boring but Monro does a good job of keeping the movie working for those with little interest in the stars' careers at all. That's because of the theory.

Here it is in a nutshell: Stewart represents the naïve, kind and gentle America that succeeded in the face of adversity, helped others whenever it could and presented something to emulate. Mitchum represents the "bad boy" side of America, still kind and generous but the kind of guy you want with you when you want to have a good time or maybe do something a little shady. Again, the theory is pretty thin, but it works well enough to keep everything going while the viewer enjoys listening to critics like Leonard Maltin discuss why these two actors were so appealing and not just in the states but internationally.

It's great to see documentaries in which Hollywood legends are dissected for an audience in good faith by family, friends and critics not looking to tear them down or build them up but simply share what the world has lost. Gregory Monro did a wonderful thing and Trina Mitchum should be proud. I know Jimmy and Bob would have been.

Director: Gregory Monro
Writer: Gregory Monro
Producers: Celine Loiseau, Trina Mitchum
Cinematography: Nicolas Le Gal , Patrick Selvage
Film Editing: Juliette Haubois
Sound Department: Géraud Bec
Cast: Trina Mitchum (Herself), Kelly Stewart (Herself), Judy Stewart (Herself), Victoria Tennant (Herself), Leonard Maltin (Himself), Leo Braudy (Himself), James Stewart (Himself, archive footage), Robert Mitchum (Himself, archive footage), Gloria Stewart (Herself, archive footage), Dorothy Mitchum (Herself, archive footage)

By Greg Ferrara

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