• Robert Mitchum in The Story of G.I. Joe

On Monday Doc Films at University of Chicago begins its winter calendar with The Story of G.I. Joe, the first in a series devoted to actor Robert Mitchum (the subject of a recent Bleader post by Drew Hunt, incidentally). It’s one of those “deep cuts” of American film history that Doc programmers are so good at rooting out, a risk-taking studio film by an underappreciated auteur. Ever the eccentric, director William Wellman took pains to make this WWII drama one of his most naturalistic films—even though he shot it entirely at Selznick International Studios. Adapting a series of articles about the North African front by famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle, Wellman employed a stripped-down crew and cast mostly unfamiliar actors, including actual army veterans playing themselves. Consistent across Wellman’s uneven career is a strong instinct for charismatic performers; he helped make stars of Gary Cooper (in Wings) James Cagney (in The Public Enemy), Barbara Stanwyck (in Night Nurse), and of course Mitchum, who got one of his first leading roles in G.I. Joe.