Robert Mitchum: Max Cady vs. Harry Powell

Robert Mitchum Characters: Max Cady vs. Harry Powell

One actor. Two film roles. You tell us which portrayal was the best. The most memorable. Or iconic. Or simply your favorite.

But before you pass judgment, a few words defending the “character” of each…

The case for Max Cady

“I got somethin’ planned for your wife and kid that they ain’t nevah gonna forget. They ain’t nevah gonna forget it—and neither will you, Counselor! Nevah!” Yikes! Those are the words of one Max Cady vowing revenge upon the man who helped send him to prison. Mitchum’s diabolical villain may be a brute but he’s a sly devil, never getting caught for any wrongdoing while stalking and terrorizing lawyer Sam Bowden and his family. Cady and Bowden’s showdown at the family houseboat on Cape Fear is a classic.

The case for Harry Powell

In The Night of the Hunter, woman-hating religious fanatic Harry Powell seduces widows with his sermons about LOVE and HATE (famously tattooed across the knuckles of his right and left hands), marries the susceptible women, then murders them for their money. While in prison for auto theft Powell learns of another widow-to-be who unknowingly has $10,000 of stolen money. After being released he sets his treacherous sights on the gullible woman and kills her too, but her children (who know where the money is hid) are not deceived by the psychotic preacher’s charms. “Chilll-dren!”

Now that you’ve heard the arguments for both it’s time to render your verdict!

  • Chrijeff50

    I think my favorite Mitchum character is Marshal James Flagg in the not-as-well-known-as-it-should-be Western, “The Good Guys & the Bad Guys.”  He co-stars with George Kennedy, who plays a former outlaw nemesis of his, and they team up to prevent a gamg of young punks from robbing the bank.  Mitchum’s Flagg is an older man, world-weary and experienced but still resolved to do his job.

  • Movie Fan

    I haven’t seen Robert Mitchum’s movies in years, but I loved his ability to merge with the character he was portraying. He was a fantastic actor, always believable, never forced. 

  • Wayne P.

    Way too hard to choose here…both great pics and showed Mitchum to evil advantage…my other fave of his is Thunder Road 1958 in which he starred with his son James as a moonshiner bent on road rage!

  • Bjodrie

    Max Cady is my pick.Another film along the same line as Cape Fear is Make Haste To Live(1954)Steven McNally is a sadistic ex con who returns to get even with his wife(Dorothy McGuire.)

  • Richard

     Two of my favorite performances of Bob Mitchum are in The Wonderful Country

    (1959) as Martin Brady the gunrunner which is an anti-heroic role, and as Harry Kilmer in The Yakuza (1974) as a man getting a bit too old but willing to return to Japan to help a friend and face other past emotional ties.

  • Hudsonjrp

    Still lovin his murderous preacherin /gambler in” FIVE CARD STUD “. Nice job by RODDY MC DOWELL also. 

  • Cara

    I simply can’t pick between the two roles. He was diabolical and incredibly menacing in both. Robert Mitchum could play villains about as well as anyone ever has.