Dorothy Mitchum, Widow of Actor Robert Mitchum, Dies at 94

Dorothy Mitchum Dead Obit
Ronald Dumont/Express/Getty Images

Dorothy Clements Spence Mitchum (above, with husband Robert), a writer and the widow of the late actor Robert Mitchum, died at Serenity House hospice in Santa Barbara, Calif., on April 12. She was 94.

Born in Camden, Delaware, Spence met Mitchum, two years her elder, when she was 14, after a brief courtship with his younger brother John. Robert Mitchum had already begun his vagabond life, and when he returned to Delaware, he met the dark-haired girl his brother was courting. They were married in Dover, Delaware, on March 16, 1940.

Dorothy attended Peirce College in Philadelphia with the aim of becoming a secretary, but she abandoned that ambition to accompany her husband to Hollywood, where he eventually found his fortune as a movie actor. Along the way, the newlyweds worked for astrologer Carroll Righter. Dorothy wrote horoscopes and developed a lifelong interest in astrology.

By this time Robert Mitchum’s acting career took off, Dorothy was raising two sons while being a glamorous Hollywood wife. She was a founding member of S.H.A.R.E. (Share Happily And Reap Endlessly), a charitable organization comprised of women who still produce an annual show to benefit mentally challenged individuals. In her many years of service with S.H.A.R.E., Dorothy displayed her talents as a dancer and organizer.

In 1952 Dorothy gave birth to a surprise third child, a daughter. After living on the Eastern shore of Maryland from 1960 to 1966, Dorothy and Robert moved back to Los Angeles and then, in 1977, to Montecito in Santa Barbara. Mitchum died in 1997.

Dorothy loved to reminisce and regaled listeners with stories such as the time she and Robert heard an unknown singer in a small club in Biloxi, Mississippi. The couple were very impressed by the young man’s talents. On returning to their hotel in New Orleans, they bumped into their acquaintance, Colonel Tom Parker, and told him he ought to check out the singer: Elvis Presley. Elvis later became a family friend.

Dorothy is survived by her three children – James, an actor-entrepreneur, Chris, an actor/politician and Petrine, a writer; her 16 grand and great-grandchildren; her younger sister Bette Compton; and her nieces Janeen Gaul and Judy Fowler.

Donations may be made to the Salvation Army and any charity that helps animals.

 

 

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  1. I have showed my support by donating to people in need like supplies, accesseries and so far.

  2. Baroness says:

    Marge, thanks for your very interesting family history. It’s neat that you shared it with us. Great article too! Mr. & Mrs. Mitchum were married for so very long. A rarity in Hollywood.
    Even though they had 57 years together, one always yearns for more time.

  3. Very nice article. I liked Robert Mitchum:s movies and it is nice when they stay together for life. Many of the movie stars of his time did keep their families together for life.

  4. Correction: it was called the Westin hotel.

  5. Didn’t Robert Mitchum live for a time, in downtown Seattle, at the Sheraton hotel; the twin hotels, which are both circular cylinder-like hotels?

  6. Marge says:

    Dorothy Clements Spence Mitchum and my father were first cousins. Dad’s family in lived in NJ, across the river from Philadelphia, PA, where his grandfather Clements was a business math professor at Peirce. Because of the proximity, Dotty and several other cousins over the years would come to live with Grandmother and Grandfather, in a spare room up in a sort of attic floor, and then commute in to Philly – to Penn, Drexel or Peirce. All these cousins were life-long friends. This will be the first Christmas in nearly 50 years that I won’t be sending her a card….
    In the the early 1950s, we lived in Denver, CO. When Denver hosted the World Premier of “River of No Return” starring Bob and Marilyn Monroe in 1954, Bob and Dotty came to visit us. While in town, they took us to a private screening of “Sudden Fear” with Joan Crawford and Jack Palance. I was only about 11 and SCARED TO DEATH of that show! But I enjoyed the luxury of that small, plush room with the comfy easy chairs.
    Mom, always an excellent homemaker, had cleaned up a storm in preparation for their visit. From then on, if the house was not in tip-top condition, the saying was, “Well, at least the Mitchums aren’t coming.” That mantra still pops into my mind in a similar situation. Chris, about my age, and my younger brother and I horsed around outside with neighborhood kids that afternoon, but Jim, at 17, was too cool to put up with that nonsense. Petrine was too young to accompany them.
    We visited them once in Los Angeles, also in the 1950s. I was astounded to see TVs in the kids’ bedrooms and a totally mirrored powder room! Then, in about 1962, we dropped in on them at their horse farm in Maryland. Bob took us around the barns and property, whistling “Alley Cat” the whole time.
    Dotty took her sister Bette overseas for some of the “Winds of War” filming and wrote such nice, newsy letters back to my grandparents about the countries they visited, the filming, settings, other performers. I wish our family still had those. She and Bette came East to see my grandparents now and then. Later the two of them planned a big family reunion in northern Ohio for all the descendants of Edgar and Salley Clements (my great-grandparents), but Bob died that week. We missed her but had a grand family get-together. I feel honored to have come from a family that always cared about one another.

  7. What kind of crazy crank critiques an obituary, particularly of some-one they obviously did not know?
    Dorothy’s enormous contribution to the success of S.H.A.R.E. was understated in the telling, and she did
    have great legs.The anecdote re: the pact was clear and to the point- an agreement between two caring
    and interesting minds, capable of humor: there was nothing wrong with the writing- perhaps it’s the
    sentiment you find offensive? I do look forward to reading your own obit., probably self-written- as a
    paradigm of flawless prose and worldly accomplishment. And cheers to Variety- for an informative article,
    well done, about a woman who will be missed.

  8. Jane Ayer says:

    Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Dorothy Mitchum.

  9. hey67 says:

    “Dorothy’s ashes will be scattered at sea so she can meet up with Robert at Easter Island per a long-ago pact between them.” “In her many years of service with S.H.A.R.E., Dorothy displayed her talents as a dancer and organizer.”

    Dear Variety–who vets your writers for your Variety Staff? This is some of the worst writing by a major publication ever… Dear Variety Staff-try reading the NYT Obits as a primer! Try reading, period.

  10. PETER says:

    A beautiful, sweet story for a change. Mitch was born in Bridgeport, CT and starred in some great movies. I remember THE SUNDOWNERS, OUT OF THE PAST, RYAN’S DAUGHTER, HEAVEN KNOWS, MR . ALLISON, and the private eye movies and the war movies.

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