This permanent A list actor always told the tale about how he escaped from a chain gang and then worked his way to Hollywood.
What he never mentioned is the guard who he left for dead and needed 24/7 care for the rest of his life.
After being expelled from Haaren High School, Mitchum left home at age 14 and traveled throughout the country, hopping freight cars and taking a number of jobs, including ditch-digging for the Civilian Conservation Corps and professional boxing. In summer 1933, he was arrested for vagrancy in Savannah, Georgia and put in a local chain gang. By Mitchum’s account, he escaped and hitchhiked to Rising Sun, Delaware, where his family had moved.
Mitchum talked about his chain gang experience in the 1962 Saturday Evening Post interview: “I had hopped a freight train with about seventeen other kids and headed South. In my pocket I had thirty-eight dollars – all I had in the world. When we reached Savannah, I was cold and hungry. So I dropped off to get something to eat. The big fuzz grabbed me. ‘For what?’ I asked. He grinned. ‘Vagrancy – we don’t like Yankee bums around here.’ When I told him I had thirty-eight dollars, he just called me a so-and-so wise guy and belted me with his club and ran me in.” – Source
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