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Dorothy Spence Mitchum, Wife of Actor Robert Mitchum for 57 Years, Dead at 94

Childhood sweethearts married young and they moved from Delaware to Hollywood, where he became a Hollywood legend

Dorothy Spence Mitchum, the wife of actor Robert Mitchum for 57 years, died Saturday at a hospice facility in Santa Barbara. She was 94.

She met Mitchum, who was two years her elder, in Delaware when she was 14 years of age after a brief courtship with his younger brother, John. She was Dorothy Clements Spence in the those days, and the two were married in 1940, before she turned 21.

They headed to Hollywood where the actor, who died in 1997 at the age of 79, eventually became one of the industry’s most celebrated stars. Before that, however, the newlyweds took jobs working for astrologer Carroll Righter, where she wrote horoscopes.

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Mitchum’s roles in movies like 1955’s “Night of the Hunter” and 1962’s “Cape Fear” established him as one of Hollywood’s first anti-heroes, and his hard-partying personal life contributed to his rakish reputation. Dorothy Mitchum stood by his side through several high-profile legal and public relations scrapes, including his 1948 arrest for marijuana possession.

dorothy-mitchum-hedshotThe pair had three children, sons James and Robin, and a daughter, Petrine. In addition to being a homemaker, Dorothy frequently accompanied her husband to movie location shoots and found time to be a founding member of Share Happily And Reap Endlessly, a charitable organization that benefited the mentally challenged.

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, where they lived until his death on July 1, 1997.

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In addition to her husband. Dorothy was preceded in death by her brother W. Lloyd Spence, and is survived by her younger sister, Bette Compton, and her niece Janeen Gaul of Simi Valley, Calif.; two great nephews, Weston and Trevor Gaul; her niece Judy Fowler of Delaware; and her three children: James, who became an actor, Chris, and actor and politician, and Petrine, a writer.

A private celebration of her life will be held in May. The family suggests donations in Dorothy’s name can be made to the Salvation Army, which they credit with keeping Robert alive during his early vagabond years.