Monday, September 19, 2011

Celebs Celebrate John Mitchum

John Mitchum in Noises Off.
When Cindy Mitchum Azbill’s father, actor, singer and poet John Mitchum, passed away in 2001, she had the idea of commemorating his life with a memorial website. But a few of John’s celebrity friends, including actor Ernest Borgnine and producer A.C. Lyles, said he deserved something bigger. An idea was born: Contact John’s friends and ask each one to pick their favorite John Mitchum poem and record it. The result is Old Friends, Why I Love Them: a 10-year project of 50 recorded poems featuring some of Hollywood’s brightest stars – many of who have connections to Arizona’s Little Hollywood. (Though John never made a film in Sedona, his brother, Robert Mitchum, starred in Blood on the Moon; John is best known for his role as Clint Eastwood’s partner in three Dirty Harry films.)

Among the talent who have filmed movies in Sedona and recorded John’s poetry, you’ll find Ernest Borgnine and Ben Cooper (Johnny Guitar); James Drury (The Last Wagon); L.Q. Jones (Stay Away, Joe); Jane Russell (actress and former Sedona resident); Morgan Woodward (Firecreek); Bruce Boxleitner (Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, Part III: The Legend Continues); and Ann Rutherford (Out West with the Hardys). Though he doesn’t have a Sedona connection, Academy Award winner Robert Duvall recorded John’s best-known poem, America, Why I Love Her (written at his home in Los Angeles in 1969). John Wayne originally recorded the poem, which became the title track for John Wayne’s only album, released in 1973. John Mitchum was nominated for a Grammy for the record.

“There’s been a remarkable outpouring of love and respect for my father, his poetry and each other,”says Cindy. “I think every Western [film] is represented on this record.”

Though the album won’t be released until the end of this year, at press time plans were in the works to screen a video of Robert Duvall reciting America at the unveiling of the 9/11 memorial in New York City this month. For more info, visit––By Erika Ayn Finch. Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Sedona Monthly

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