Robert Mitchum received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Lieutenant later Captain Bill Walker in The Story of G.I. Joe.
Robert Mitchum despite a long successful film career only ever received a single Oscar nomination very early in his career for his supporting role in this film. This role of Mitchum's reminded very much of James Whitmore's character in Battleground. Both are films about World War II which are directed in a more realistic fashion for the time by the underrated William Wellman, both portray sympathetic but duty bound superiors to the army units portrayed in the film. Mitchum though does have a great deal more screentime at his disposal than Whitmore who only could do so much with his very limited role.
Robert Mitchum role is not a particularly actory sort of performance in that we rarely see Walker doing anything other than moving along through the war, and encouraging is men to do the same. Mitchum though certainly does make the most of his character with his performance though. He never attempts anysort of gimmicks with his performance, but throughout the film just attempts to portray Walker as any hard working Captain who cares for his men, and knows he must do his duty. Mitchum stay true to the part the whole film, and gives a realistic performance.
Mitchum gives an effective portrait of the Captain throughout the film with his distinct screen presence which Mitchum uses perfectly in this film. This allows Mitchum to hold the viewers attention when he is on screen without ever really seeming to strive for it in any obvious fashion. Mitchum makes simple and easy for us to follow the Captain particularly in the war scenes where he conveys the emotions of the moments wonderfully. He never overplays these scenes but rather creates a rather honest and realistic depiction of a man in his difficult situation.
Through most of the film Mitchum is there being as he should, but Mitchum like Whitmore in Battleground shows the degradation of the Captain as the war's difficulties weigh more and more upon him. Again Mitchum effectively and realistically portrays the toll it has on the Captain. Mitchum late in the film also has one scene where Walker can relay what he truly feels about his situation. It is a brief scene but an effective one where Mitchum honestly shows the tremendous hardship the Captain has from his duty through his simply and entirely honest delivery.
This is a strong performance that achieves a great deal despite the technical limitations due to the type of film it is. Mitchum moves along with the film from moment to moment, and gives a portrait of his soldier in war effectively. It may not be the greatest performance ever gave, and it is a bit strange that the prolific Mitchum only ever received this nomination despite his long career this is a deserving performance by Mitchum. He delivers a moving and interesting performance that manages to be noticed well among the ensemble of soldiers who in some cases have flashier parts than Mitchum.