We recently watched El Dorado with John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and James Caan. So good to see Wayne and Mitchum in a film together when they were both right at the very top of their game. I had the great pleasure of working with Mitchum in 1981 on a TV epic called The Winds of War. By my reckoning he was 64 by this time (I'd have been 26), but on screen he still looked a decade younger than this. The Winds of War was based on the novel by Herman Wouk and documents the escalation to World War Two, up to the point where the US became involved. I was involved in a twenty minute sequence where Admiral Henry (Mitchum's character) goes on a fact-finding bombing raid with the RAF.
I have a lot to thank the RAF for: the original plan had been to shoot the briefing scenes at Hendon RAF museum, and then a week or so later to travel to Scotland for four days to film the plane's interiors in what I believe is the only surviving Wellington bomber in the UK. Unfortunately, (but fortunately for me and my British actor chums playing the air crew) the RAF, pointing out that they were not flying Wellingtons at the time it was stated they did in the novel, wouldn't allow us access to their plane. The director/producer Dan Curtis sidled up to us when we arrived at Hendon, explained the problem together with the odd expletive whenever the acronym RAF came up, and asked if we'd object to flying over to Hollywood to complete the scenes a few months hence. We sighed at the aggrevation of it all and after some serious thought, stoically agreed to do it (whilst trying to contain the shrieking child who learns that its birthday and Christmas have mysteriously fallen on the same day this year!).
I went off and did a new play at one of our regional theatres in this time-off period and flew to LA in early December. Mitchum was one hundred percent professional. He must surely have known how totally in awe of him we were, but he treated us as his equals. Great movie stars aren't expected to hang around the set between takes, but Mitchum never went to his trailer once and just loved to sit around and chat. On our final day I spent about six or seven hours in the studio mock-up of a bomb aimer's bubble with Robert Mitchum squashed in beside me. He didn't use a stand-in while the scene was being lit, even though he might have done, and it was stiflingly hot and uncomfortable. We entertained ourselves by telling each other jokes and discussing stuff that interested us. He was a very smart guy - much much smarter than most of the hard men he regularly played.
He inisited that the company provide us with another day to see the city of LA that he loved, and threatened to shame them by paying for us out of his own pocket if they refused - which they did of course. He bought us dinner at the famous Chasen's restaurant in West Hollywood on our final evening.
I think anyone might agree, all in all not a bad few days work!