Lost in the Movies: Bradley and Rodney Mitchum (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #37)

Bradley and Rodney Mitchum (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #37)


The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. A new character study will appear every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through mid-August before pausing again, although patrons will have immediate access to each entry a month before it goes public. There will be spoilers.


The Mitchums are rescued from their dour aggression by cherry pie, a $30 million check, and a remote control slap to the face, allowing their hearts of gold to shine.


Monday, September 26, 2016
Burns, the terrified manager of the Silver Mustang Casino, stares in horror at surveillance footage from the day before, when a strange man drained $425,000 from the business' coffers by winning jackpots on thirty different slot machines. Now his bosses have arrived to confront him: the grim, simmering Bradley and Rodney Mitchum interrogate Burns about what happened and then make their dissatisfaction clear in highly physical fashion. "Turn him around," Rodney practically spits to his henchmen, proceeding to punch and kick a bloodied Burns before firing him. Bradley steps in front of the groggy victim as he's being dragged from the room and mutters, "Leave town. Don't ever come back." Rodney promotes Burns' terrified assistant and demands to be notified if the offending customer ever enters the casino again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
The Mitchums will return to that surveillance room in the belly of their beast later this evening, but while it's light out, Rodney signs off on surveillance logs. He ignores Candie, one of three pouffy-dressed personal assistants, as she stalks a fly through their living room. She picks up a remote control, eyes on the prize, and then swats mercilessly at the bug once it lands on Rodney's face. He howls in pain, Bradley races into the room, and Candie breaks down in sobs, horrified at what she's inadvertently done. A few hours later, she remains devastated even as a bandaged Rodney tries to reassure her that he's okay. Preparing for their evening work, the brothers catch a news report revealing that Ike the Spike - a hated assassin on whom they'd taken out their own (soon to be cancelled) contract - has been captured after attacking an insurance agent named Douglas Jones. Bradley recognizes the man in the footage as the same person who took down their business the other day and they marvel at the coincidence. But they haven't seen anything yet. That night, Anthony Sinclair calls upon them with some information he's sure they'll want to hear (although it takes several minutes for Candie to conclude an impromptu weather report before showing him in - "We fire her, she's got no place to go," Bradley points out defensively). Unaware of what they just saw on TV, Anthony reveals that this same Douglas Jones works with him at Lucky 7 Insurance and personally screwed them out of a $30 million payout on a claim that was falsely rejected. The brothers play it cool with Anthony in the room but as soon as he's gone, their fury reveals itself. Back at home, they simmer and swear vengeance against this malefactor.

Thursday, September 29, 2016
Candie notifies Rodney that Bradley has just woken up in the middle of the afternoon. Still in bathrobes, the brothers eat cereal while Bradley mentions that he dreamt about Mr. Jones and can't wait to kill him. That evening, however, waiting for their target in the middle of the desert, Bradley has second thoughts. He reveals to Rodney that in his dream the "Candie cut" was gone and he rips off his brother's band-aid to discover that, indeed, the scar has miraculously been healed. When they face off against in the immobile Jones, who calmly grips a cardboard box while Rodney prepares to shoot him, Bradley admits that in his dream, there was a certain item inside the box (whose identity he whispers to Rodney) and if it's there in reality, they can't go through with the hit. Incredulous, Rodney pulls out his handgun, aims it, and asks if there's a cherry pie inside the box. Unthreatened, Douglas Jones repeats, "Cherry pie." Bradley looks inside, confirms the pie, and then discovers something in the pardoned man's suit pocket: a check for $30 million. The Mitchums rejoice and take their new best friend Dougie to a fancy restaurant where they are serenaded by a pianist, served pie and champagne by Candie (along with Sandie and Mandie), and introduced to an old woman whom Dougie helped out before.

Friday, September 30, 2016
After a long night on the town, the Mitchums, Candie, Sandie, Mandie, and Dougie parade into Lucky 7 Insurance to reward Bushnell Mullins, the business' owner, with several gifts. Everyone is in good spirits.

Sunday, October 1, 2016
Hearing that Dougie has been hospitalized in a coma following a shock from an electrical outlet, the Mitchums pay a visit to his bedside, bringing a large gift basket and finger sandwiches. They greet Dougie's wife Janey-E and son Sonny Jim, inspect the unresponsive patient, and ask for keys to the Jones house so they can deliver a bounty of food to further demonstrate their concern. After delivering the goodies in Dougie's neighborhood, they race outside to witness a gunfight involving an angry man, a white van, and eventually a couple FBI agents (which encourages them to retreat back inside). Later, at their apartment, they receive a phone call from an awakened and highly talkative Dougie, who compels them to gas up a private jet so they can fly to Spokane, Washington. Bradley agrees without question and the Mitchums meet Dougie at the Silver Mustang; they watch as he speaks to his concerned wife and child, and then depart together in a limo (sans wife and child). The Mitchums respond with surprise and hesitation upon discovering that Dougie is actually an FBI agent himself, and that he wants them all to travel to a police station in a small Northwestern town. Dougie tells them not to worry, he'll vouch for them having hearts of gold - to which Candie replies, "They do...they really do!" After landing, the Mitchums take another limo where they watch their FBI friend make a concerned call ahead to their destination. They join him inside the sheriff's office and are astonished to witness a surreal, apparently supernatural battle between a young man wearing a single green glove and a floating ball with a man's face inside. The lights brighten once the ball appears to be shattered, Dougie places a ring on a deceased lookalike's finger (before the corpse disappears), and an Asian woman with scarred eyes transforms into a white woman with bright red hair whom Dougie kisses. "One for the grandkids," Bradley remarks. Others arrive in the room, Dougie makes some difficult-to-interpret statements, and the lights go out.

Characters the Mitchums interact with onscreen…

Candie

Anthony Sinclair

Agent Cooper

Bushnell Mullins

Sonny Jim Jones

Janey-E Jones

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through the Mitchums
More than any other characters in Las Vegas, the Mitchums' personal redemption arc corresponds with Twin Peaks motifs seeping into their narrative world. This is true to the point where they even end up in the town of Twin Peaks itself - unlike other Vegas stalwarts such as Bushnell or even Cooper's own spouse and son! Along the way, cherry pie - as well as a first encounter with Twin Peaks' greatest (if non-native) ambassador - marks their big turning point, and the Twin Peaks theme music accompanies another key moment. In terms of original series character connections, initially they remind us of the Renault brothers, Quebecois mobsters associated with that other corrupt casino, One Eyed Jack's. However, just as Bushnell's gleaming office contrasts with the woodsy sheriff's station decor and Janey's cookie-cutter suburban home feels distinct from the Palmers' imposing facade, the monolithic casino seems quite far from the red curtains and lush wallpaper of the Canadian locale. As well, the Mitchum brothers' threatening scowls are menacing in a different fashion than the Renault brothers' variously gluttonous and faux-chivalrous personas. In light of their full arc, Bradley and Rodney end up most resembling a different set of villainous brothers: Ben and Jerry Horne, particularly the former. After all, Mr. Horne also owned a resort (several, given his secret stake in Jack's), became embroiled in grand financial schemes, came into conflict with other even worse local criminals, and was ultimately transformed into a lovable figure trying to do good and endearing himself to the audience. Finally, Cooper brings both Ben Horne and the Mitchums to the sheriff's station in order to witness a dramatic supernatural transformation involving BOB.

The Mitchums’ journey
Few characters change as much from the beginning to the end of their screentime as these two gangsters. Or do they? Dramatically, there can be little question. From heavies to allies, threatening presences to comic relief, active antagonists to passive bystanders, bosses on their own turf to strangers in a strange land, down-to-earth businessmen to supernatural dream figures...it's hard to imagine many more ways that the Mitchums' roles in the narrative could transform. And yet what's really going on beneath that fluid surface? Unlike Anthony, who visibly cracks under pressure, or Janey, who gradually learns what the new "Dougie" has to offer, these two radically reverse themselves all at once and the cause is (almost) purely mercenary. Cooper yanks them into "good guy" territory with a $30 million check and all of their generosity and bonhomie from this point forward exists in the shadow of this context. At series end, outside of the company of their new buddy, are they really any different from the ruthless mobsters we see give a hapless employee a beatdown? Will they give the next Douglas Jones a fairer shake (and will Burns get an apologetic invitation back to town)? Of course it feels almost churlish to interrogate the brothers' underlying morality in this fashion - after all, their twists and turns work on a playful, almost instinctive level; David Lynch and Mark Frost masterfully manipulate our expectations in order to amuse and endear. Besides, the creators embroider their sharp switches and curious justifications with a richer, more subtle evolution. Long before they cheer for cherry pie, the Mitchums have been humanized by bemusing banter and especially absurd interactions with Candie. And even after Cooper has melted their initial hostility, they continue to dance between exasperated impatience and paternal indulgence with their spacey but well-intentioned assistant. Ultimately it's her statement more than Cooper's that confirms their underlying integrity and leads us to question their transformation from the opposite direction. Despite the counter-evidence of Burns' beating, maybe the Mitchums hid hearts of gold all along?

Actor: Jim Belushi
Always identified first as a brother, like Bradley Mitchum, Jim followed famous sibling John into the Chicago comedy troupe Second City and eventually as a cast member of Saturday Night Live, the show that made his brother famous (and, arguably, vice-versa). These were difficult shoes to fill especially after the elder Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982, passing from zeitgeist-defining icon to immortal legend (coincidentally, the climax of John Belushi's last film Continental Divide was shot in the Snoqualmie Valley, like Twin Peaks). Branching out into drama as well as comedy (albeit often as comedic relief), the younger Belushi showed up in Brian De Palma's Fury, Michael Mann's Thief, and Oliver Stone's Salvador, among other notable titles including Trading Places, The Man With One Red Shoe, Jumpin' Jack Flash, Little Shop of Horrors, Red Heat, K-9, Curly Sue, Mr. Destiny, Last Action Hero, Wag the Dog, The Pebble and the Penguin, Canadian Bacon, Jingle All the Way (reuniting him with Arnold Schwarzenegger for the third time), Gang Related (Tupac Shakur's last film), Return to Me, The Ghost Writer, Thunderstruck, The Whole Truth, and Wonder Wheel (as well as, for some reason, a penguin named "They're Aall Bitches" in Farce of the Penguins).

TV work incudes guest appearances on Laverne & Shirley, Faerie Tale Theatre (the "Pinocchio" episode), ER, and George Lopez, voice work on Pinky and the Brain, Gargoyles, Timon & Pumbaa, The Tick, Life with Louie, and Rugrats, and recurring roles on The Larry Sanders Show, Me, Eloise, Hercules, Hey Arnold!, Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, Show Me a Hero, Beggars and Choosers, Good Girls Revolt, Aaahh!! Real Monsters, The Blues Brothers Animated Series, and Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series. In the mid-nineties he starred as Harry Wyckoff in Oliver Stone's dystopian miniseries Wild Palms - often cited as a Twin Peaks-inspired work; he co-starred (as Steve Wegman) with James Remar in the short-lived espionage series Total Security; and in the zeroes he landed his own domestic sitcom, According to Jim, which he anchored as the central lead for eight seasons and one hundred eighty-two episodes spanning almost the entire decade (he also composed the theme music, produced all but the pilot, and directed thirty episodes). His follow-up The Defenders, in which he played Las Vegas (!) attorney Nick Morelli alongside Jerry O'Connell, ran for one season.

Despite a career full of popular and even many acclaimed projects, Belushi always lived in his brother's shadow and was a subject of mockery and scorn...not helped by his reputation for being a notorious jerk. Anecdotes, some perhaps apocryphal, circulated about him throwing a fire extinguisher at an SNL producer, lecturing his future wife about how she was never allowed to talk while he drove (that one by his own account), and perhaps most infamously a vulgar refusal to provide an autograph for a sick kid. That last story sparked years of feuding between him and David Cross, resulting in Cross sarcastically crashing a live performance by Belushi's band in the mid-2000s. Around that time, Belushi settled another long feud with neighbor Julie Newmar, a property dispute that he parodied on According to Jim - with her as the guest star! When his name was announced in conjunction with Peaks, many fans groaned...only to be pleasantly surprised by Belushi's comic delivery and expressiveness. His performance was praised with near unanimity and coincided with an upswing in goodwill toward Belushi, now frequently celebrated in social media as a genial pot farmer. (The Mitchum role, one of his last as a busy acting career slowed down, may have contributed to this overall shift in reputation but it's worth noting that in a Wikipedia section that surveys a vast amount of work ranging from NFL spots to video games to cartoons to sitcoms to prestigious classic, Peaks is never even mentioned). In this sense, Belushi's own post-2017 trajectory mirrors the journey of Bradley from villainy to lovability. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his co-star. (film pictured: Mr. Destiny, 1990)

Actor: Robert Knepper
As with many Twin Peaks cast members - and actors generally - Knepper's first love was the theater. Intrigued by his mother's role behind the scenes of community plays in Ohio, he studied and began working in Chicago. If he was less interested in screen than stage, the screen came looking for him nonetheless and in the mid-eighties he landed a lead role in the vigilante/quasi-superhero movie Wild Thing as an urban avenging angel raised by a bag lady after his parents are murdered. He also showed up in Young Guns II, Gas Food Lodging, and Everyone Says I Love You among other nineties films, following up later with Good Night and Good Luck, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1. Mostly, Knepper's impact was felt on TV, starting with guest appearances in Star Trek: The Next Generation, China Beach, Red Shoe Diaries, L.A. Law, Law & Order, Murder, She Wrote, ER, Star Trek: Voyager, La Femme Nikita, The West Wing, CSI: Miami, Criminal Minds, Shameless, The Blacklist, The Flash, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Hawaii Five-0, NCIS, and American Horror Story. Roles were more recurring on Presidio Med, Stargate Universe, Mob City, Thieves, Carnivale, Cult, and twenty-seven episodes in the fourth season (and a concurrent miniseries) of Heroes. By far, Knepper's biggest role was as Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell in Prison Break, acclaimed as one of the great villains in TV history, in eighty-seven episodes over five seasons and a spin-off series (plus the straight-to-DVD The Final Break). After a seven-year break, the show was revived in 2017, a golden year - initially at least - for Knepper who not only appeared in Prison Break and Twin Peaks but also the hit shows Homeland and iZombie.

Mere months after Peaks ended, as the #MeToo movement swept Hollywood, Knepper was accused of harassment, physical injury, and sexual assault by costume designer Susan Bertram. She recalled an incident in his trailer on the set of Gas, Food, Lodging twenty-five years earlier which Knepper denied, spurring a defamation lawsuit which her lawyers announced had been settled, on undisclosed terms, in 2021. Meanwhile, four more accusers came forward relaying very similar stories, often of Knepper violently pressing them between himself and a wall or floor while they were alone and aggressively and profanely propositioning them, in one case going so far as to carry out a rape. Many of their stories had been told privately to friends and families in the past, but Knepper's response to Bertram unleashed the floodgates. Several investigations into his conduct on iZombie were undertaken and he was cleared of any wrongdoing pertaining specifically to that set but was released at the end of the season. (The producers claimed that this had always been the plan.) His work on Homeland also came to an end in 2018. Since then, Knepper has continued to work in film and TV but there are few interviews or articles related to him and the projects appear to be less prominent than his previous work (though, as often in the case in post-scandal careers, it's hard to read those tea leaves at a glance). He was cast in Chinese movies like the action film S.W.A.T. as well as in the ensemble of Nova Vita. The upcoming Paper Empire will perhaps be his highest-profile production of the past half-decade. (series pictured: Prison Break, 2005)

Episodes
Part 5 (Showtime title: "Case files.")

Part 10 (Showtime title: "Laura is the one.")

*Part 11 (Showtime title: "There's fire where you are going." - best episode)

Part 13 (Showtime title: "What story is that, Charlie?")

Part 16 (Showtime title: "No knock, no doorbell.")

Part 17 (Showtime title: "The past dictates the future.")

Statistics
The Mitchums are onscreen for roughly forty-two minutes. They are in fifteen scenes in six episodes, taking place over a week. They're featured the most in part 10, when they realize that Dougie is their enemy. Their primary location is their apartment (with the casino close behind). They share the most screentime with Candie, Sandie, and Mandie. Collectively (not that they have almost any screentime apart) they are in the top ten of part 17, second only to Cooper in part 11, and the #1 characters in part 10 (one of only eight times a non-Cooper character takes the top spot, and the second time in this character series after Sam and Tracey). And they are the fifth-highest ranked characters introduced in the third season (sixth if we include Diane despite original series dialogue addressed to her).

Best Scene
Part 11: In the moment when a path for happiness opens up to them, Bradley tells Rodney his dream and removes a band-aid before meeting Cooper and his pie.

Best Line
“What the fuck kind of neighborhood is this?!”
“People are under a lot of stress, Bradley.”

Mitchums Offscreen

Part 4: While never mentioned by name, the Mitchums are a formidable implicit presence. Burns, the casino manager, moans that he's "dead" as he watches Cooper take them for tens of thousands of dollars.

Part 10: Duncan Todd tells Anthony to set the Mitchums after Cooper, by informing them about his role in their insurance disaster.

Part 11: Bushnell prepares Cooper for his meeting with the Mitchums by gleefully saying that he discovered they were cheated out of $30 million but he covered his losses by taking out a second policy. The Lucky 7 owner gives his employee a check for the full refund and sends him off to a meeting, confident that the gangsters will be happy to see him when they learn about the payout. Outside (after Cooper is diverted into a bakery, emerging with the big cardboard box), Bushnell escorts Cooper to the Mitchums' limo driver who says they'll be going to the restaurant Santino's.

Part 13: In a panic when he sees the Mitchums and Cooper dancing around the office, Anthony calls Duncan and gives him the bad news. Later, he will confess his role in the entire Mitchums set-up to Bushnell. In between, Janey-E is impressed to discover that the Mitchums have gifted Dougie a BMW convertible and sent a crew to assemble a jungle gym for Sonny Jim in the backyard. That night, she tells Dougie that she was upset when he was away all night but thanks to the Mitchums' good graces she's in "seventh heaven" now.

Part 16: When he awakens from his coma, Cooper tells Bushnell to call the Mitchums.

Additional Observations

• The Mitchums - and the Vegas plot generally, especially Dougie's situation - very much recall the early Lynch/Frost screenplay One Saliva Bubble, a wacky body-swap comedy almost shot with Steve Martin and Martin Short (SM & MS - coincidence?) before Dino De Laurentiis' company went belly-up. In that script, a thirties-style gangster named Horton Thorsby swaps places with henpecked husband Wally Newton (the switch aspect can be discussed more extensively in Cooper's entry). This hardboiled tough guy routine is something you don't see much of in the original Peaks, but both this persona and its subversion have precedent in the creators' unfilmed work.

• Humorously, every time Rodney mentions how much money Dougie cost them, the number grows. Burns tells him the amount was $425,000 but Rodney later adds $427,000 to the $30 million. Finally, in the limo before their fateful confrontation, Rodney reminds Bradley that Cooper cost them not just the insurance claim but an additional "$472 grand". Of course, once they get their insurance check restored, the Mitchums are happy to forget that half a million and change (give or take a few thousand).

• Rodney's wound was actually a spontaneous invention of David Lynch on set, after Knepper was injured by a falling light. Remarkably, this spurred not only the extended Candie reaction, a big part of her character development, but also a new wrinkle in the dream that saves Cooper's life. Add it to the list of accidents-turned-plot points including creamed corn and Killer Bob...



Next (available now): Hank Jennings
Previous: Dick Tremayne


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(at the time of publication, this includes full entries on new or revised characters among #36 - 28 & 26 - 25)

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