#3. Robert Mitchum
Even if you're too young to recognize the name Robert Mitchum, you'll probably recognize his voice:
... and you'll definitely recognize his knuckles:
While his contemporaries were content playing pretty boy leading men, Mitchum built a career perfecting the gritty anti-hero, kind of like Humphrey Bogart, but with a much longer career. In fact, we always think of Humphrey Bogart as the quintessential film noir detective Philip Marlowe, but Mitchum played the detective twice, which by the way is twice as many times as Bogart. His most famous character, however, was serial killer Rev. Harry Powell, the guy with the love/hate knuckles up there. Mitchum's portrayal of the evil Rev. Powell was so memorable the character was voted the 29th-greatest villain on AFI's top 100 Villains list.
Landing on a list like that is going to be hard to beat. But Mitchum sure did try.
Mitchum escaped from a chain gang as a 14-year-old kid.
Like a lot of other kids during the Great Depression, Mitchum ended up on the road, riding the railroads and playing the hobo until things got better. Unfortunately, sometimes that meant getting arrested for vagrancy, and sometimes getting arrested meant getting shackled to real criminals and sent out into fields to work.
The bad news was that when the state needed more labor, authorities were known to make up charges to keep prisoners in their employment indefinitely. The good news was that the chains were slipped off the workers' ankles while they worked. So when Mitchum was sent to work on a new Georgia road bordering a swampy forest, he hightailed it to the trees. And made it.
This man's life was a "How-To" guide for Badass.
But being a real-life fugitive from a chain gang was only one chapter in his crazy life. In the next chapter, he boxed as a semipro and ghost-wrote for a celebrity astrologist. In the one after that, Mitchum went blind, but then recovered. The best chapter was the one where Mitchum was one of the very first celebrities arrested for marijuana possession, and was arrested at a "reefer resort." Here's the picture of him doing his 60 days of jail time:
The arrest didn't hurt Mitchum's career at all, even though smoking weed was the 1940s equivalent of shouting racial slurs into a live mic today. In fact, all of his biggest roles were still ahead of him at this point, officially making Mitchum the most successful pot-smoker, chain gang fugitive, former hobo and vocal representation for beef of the 20th century. RIP, Mr. Mitchum.
#2. Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn is remembered by the world over for her beauty, elegance and damn-near mastery of the fine art of class. She was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador before it was popular, a true humanitarian and one of the greatest actresses of all time. Also, she looked like this.
Hepburn worked for the Dutch Resistance by transporting secret messages in her ballet slippers.
While a ballerina in Nazi-occupied Europe young Ms. Audrey Kathleen Ruston was actually an agent for the Dutch Resistance and she performed in a series of secret ballets called "black performances" to raise money for the rebels and their underground war against Hitler.
His only weakness was ballet. And maybe Russia helped a bit.
In one instance, she was actually rounded up by the Germans and forced into a truck, but narrowly escaped when the Nazis pulled over. Another time, she volunteered to rendezvous with a British paratrooper hiding in the forests of Arnhem. Her cover: Go on a stroll through the woods "innocently picking wildflowers," which she used to successfully bribe a German soldier with who later questioned her.
That's right, young Audrey Hepburn outfoxed the fucking Wehrmacht ... through cuteness.
Could you say "no" to those eyes?
#1. Mel Brooks
You know Mel Brooks as the genius behind Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, and as one of the few guys who has actually achieved the elusive EGOT.
He also made this film, which some would argue was just as great an achievement.
If you were ever a fan of Mel Brooks the writer/producer/director/actor/songwriter, well, say hello to Corp. Melvin Kaminsky, the war hero.
The man behind Spaceballs: the Flame Thrower.
Brooks enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17 to fight in World War II. His job? Combat engineer, which meant it was his duty to defuse landmines for the fucking coalition army behind him in a hurry to liberate Europe.
Starring Mel Brooks as himself.
As a Jewish guy battling the Nazis, Brooks found that taunting his enemies was just as cathartic as defusing their bombs. For example, after the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans set up loudspeakers to pump Nazi propaganda out to Allied soldiers. Brooks responded by setting up his own loudspeakers and performing Jewish singer Al Jolson's music for his enemies. Even though it may not have had the same punch as "Springtime for Hitler," coming from Mel Brooks ... burn.
For more famous badasses, check out 7 Celebrities Who Had Badass Careers You Didn't Know About and 5 Authors More Badass Than The Badass Character They Created.
And stop by Linkstorm to learn which columnist also aided the Dutch Resistance during WWII.
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