Robert Mitchum, star of 1940's film noir classics, once commented on his
reputation as a Hollywood bad boy: "Booze, broads, it's all true. Make up
more if you want."

Benjamin Curtis, 22, an aspiring actor, is famous as the guy from the Dell
computer commercials who says, "Dude, you're gettin' a Dell!"

Seemingly, an odd couple. But when Mr. Curtis was arrested Sunday on a
charge that he bought a small bag of marijuana on the Lower East Side of
Manhattan, the two actors were wed by weed.

In 1948, Mitchum, who died in 1997, was attending a party at the home of a
Hollywood starlet, Lila Leeds, when he was arrested.

"I don't think anyone can claim that it hurt him one bit," said David
Thomson, the author of "The New Biographical Dictionary of Film." "It sort
of identified him as a lazy-eyed bad boy."

Mitchum was 31 and already well established at the time of his arrest,
having been nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role
in "The Story of G.I. Joe" in 1945. When he appeared in Life magazine,
mopping the prison floor during his 60-day sentence, it had little negative
impact on his career.

"It's kind of a surprise that marijuana in 1948 didn't stick more," Mr.
Thomson said. "It actually sort of warmed him to the public."

In 1951, Mitchum's case was reviewed, and the conviction was expunged from
the record. He never tried to publicize his exoneration.

Of course, being arrested for marijuana in 1948 was relatively novel. While
the first federal drug czar, Harry J. Anslinger, preached the many evils of
marijuana, Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia of New York was undecided,
commissioning a study of the subject that found "the sociological,
psychological and medical ills commonly attributed to marijuana have been
exaggerated insofar as the City of New York is concerned."

Despite the study, marijuana remains illegal in New York, as Mr. Curtis was
reminded Sunday night when he was arrested while wearing a kilt, a black
tuxedo jacket and beige knee-length socks. While the circumstances, and the
outfit, did not have the glamour of Mitchum's arrest, to which the
involvement of Ms. Leeds lent a whiff of the indiscreet (Mitchum was
married at the time), Mr. Thomson did not think it would doom the Dell dude.

Mr. Thomson said that if Hollywood's past is any guide, it all depends on
the follow-up act. "Of course," he added, "he is obviously going to have to
do a lot more than go to prison, or at least go to prison for something a
lot more substantial, to find his way into our hearts."

Mr. Curtis's agent, Bonnie Shumofsky, said he was declining to be
interviewed. She added, however, "There is no such thing as bad P.R."


Pubdate: Tue, 11 Feb 2003
Source: New York Times (NY)
Section: New York Region
Copyright: 2003 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/