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Robert Charles Durman Mitchum

Birthdate: (79)
Birthplace: Bridgeport, Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States
Death: July 1, 1997 (79)
Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of James Thomas Mitchum and Ann Harriet Gunderson
Husband of Dorothy Clements Mitchum
Father of Jim Mitchum; Private; Private; Private and Private
Brother of Julie Mitchum and John Newman Mitchum

Occupation: Actor
Managed by: Gary Morris Worth
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Robert Mitchum

Hollywood tough guy Robert Mitchum made a career of playing insouciant fatalists and unscrupulous rogues, especially in noir films of the 1950s. He was in the movies for more than five decades, breaking out early on with an Oscar-nominated supporting performance in 1945's The Story of G.I. Joe. Mitchum was a lovable bad boy on screen and off, and even 50 days in jail for marijuana possession (1948) didn't slow his rise to stardom. These days he's best remembered for Out of the Past (1949), The Big Steal (1949), The Night of the Hunter (1955) and Cape Fear (1961, starring Gregory Peck). Mitchum also had success on TV in the 1980s, with the miniseries The Winds of War (1983), North and South (1985) and War and Remembrance (1988). For his contribution to the motion pictures industry, Robert Mitchum was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6240 Hollywood Blvd.

BIOGRAPHY

He was born Robert Charles Durman Mitchum on August 6, 1917 in Bridgeport, Connecticut to shipyard worker James Thomas Mitchum and Ann Harriet Gunderson, a Norwegian immigrant and sea captain's daughter. A sister, Annette, (known as Julie Mitchum during her acting career) was born in 1913. Tragically his father was killed in a railyard accident when Mitchum was eighteen months old. After his death, Ann Mitchum was awarded a government pension, and soon realized she was pregnant. She returned to her family in Connecticut, and married a former British Army major who helped her care for the children. In September 1919 a second son, John, was born. When all of the children were old enough to attend school, Ann found employment as a linotype operator for the Bridgeport Post.

As a boy, Mitchum was frequently in trouble, and left home whilst still in his teens. Mitchum was famous for fabricating fantastic tales about his life, claiming to have once escaped from a Georgia chain gang.

In 1940, Mitchum married Dorothy Spence. They moved to California, and he found work with Lockheed Aircraft. His next job was with the Long Beach Theatre Guild, and this led to various jobs as a movie extra, primarily in war movies and Westerns.

His supporting role in 'The Human Comedy' (1943) led to a contract with RKO. Two years later, he starred in 'The Story of G.I. Joe' and earned his first and only Oscar nomination. Up to that point, Mitchum had been considered little more than a "beefcake" actor. He was also drafted that year, and served eight months in the military.

Following his discharge, Mitchum returned to movies. His role as a woman's former lover, who may or may not have killed her new husband, in 'When Strangers Marry' foreshadowed his import in the developing "Film Noir" genre. His first important noir was 'Out of the Past', a surprise hit that made him a real star.

He was arrested in August 1948 for allegedly possessing marijuana and spent 60 days in jail. He was also involved in several public scuffles.

Mitchum's performance as the menacing southern rapist Max Cady in Cape Fear (1962) brought him even more attention and enhanced his reputation for playing cool, predatory characters. The 1960s were marked by a number of lesser films and missed opportunities. The most notable of his films later in the decade included the war epics The Longest Day (1962) and Anzio (1968), the Shirley MacLaine comedy-musical What a Way to Go! (1964), and the Howard Hawks western El Dorado (1966), a remake of Rio Bravo (1959).

Though well known for noir, Mitchum was versatile, having played in romances, literary dramas, and straight dramas. During the 1960s, Mitchum had only a few notable film roles, but he continued playing leads through the 1970s, including a double stint as detective Phillip Marlowe, in 'Farewell My Lovely' and 'The Big Sleep'.

Mitchum branched out into television with the 1983 epic, The Winds of War. The big-budget Herman Wouk adaptation starred Mitchum as "Pug" Henry, a naval officer and examined the events leading up to America's involvement in World War II. He followed it in 1988 with War and Remembrance. The same year, he returned to the big screen for a memorable supporting role in Scrooged.

A year before his death, Robert Mitchum was diagnosed with emphysema, and lung cancer. He died on July 1, 1997. Despite a reputation as a Hollywood scamp, Mitchum was married to Dorothy Spence from 1940 until his death. Mitchum was survived by his wife, Bonnie; daughters, Victoria Mitchum and Cindy Azbill; eight grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, John Mitchum II in March. His brother, Robert Mitchum, died in 1997.

Sources: Wikipedia, Answers, Starpulse, The Biography Channel, Sprint Mail


Robert Charles Durman Mitchum (August 6, 1917 – July 1, 1997) was an American film actor, director, author, poet, composer, and singer. Mitchum rose to prominence for his starring roles in several classic films noir, and is generally considered a forerunner of the antiheroes prevalent in film during the 1950s and 1960s. His best-known films include Out of the Past (1947), The Night of the Hunter (1955), and Cape Fear (1962). Mitchum was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Story of G.I. Joe (1945).

Mitchum is rated number 23 on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest male stars of Classic American Cinema.[1]

Contents [hide] 1 Early life 2 Acting 3 Music 4 Later years 5 Death 6 Legacy 7 Documentary 8 Filmography 9 References 10 External links Early life[edit] Robert Mitchum was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1917 into a Norwegian-Irish Methodist family.[2] His mother Ann Harriet Gunderson was a Norwegian immigrant and sea captain's daughter; his father James Thomas Mitchum was a shipyard and railroad worker of Irish descent.[3] His older sister, Annette (known as Julie Mitchum during her acting career), was born in 1914. Their father James Mitchum was crushed to death in a railyard accident in Charleston, South Carolina in February 1919, when Robert was less than two years old and Annette was not yet five. Their mother was awarded a government pension; she soon realized she was pregnant; her and James' second son John was born in September of that year. Ann married again, to Major Hugh Cunningham Morris, a former Royal Naval Reserve officer. He helped care for her three children. Ann and Morris also had a daughter together, Carol Morris, born July 1927 on the family farm in Delaware. When all of the children were old enough to attend school, Ann found employment as a linotype operator for the Bridgeport Post.[4]

As a child Mitchum was known as a prankster, often involved in fistfights and mischief. When he was 12, his mother sent Mitchum to live with her parents in Felton, Delaware; the boy was promptly expelled from middle school for scuffling with the principal. A year later, in 1930, he moved in with his older sister Annette, in New York's Hell's Kitchen. After being expelled from Haaren High School, he left his sister and traveled throughout the country on railroad cars,[5] taking a number of jobs, including ditch-digging for the Civilian Conservation Corps and professional boxing. He had many adventures during his years as one of the Depression era's "wild boys of the road". At age 14 in Savannah, Georgia, he was arrested for vagrancy and put on a local chain gang.[5] By Mitchum's own account, he escaped and returned to his family in Delaware. During this time, while recovering from injuries that nearly cost him a leg, he met Dorothy Spence, whom he would later marry. He soon went back on the road, eventually riding the rails to California.[6]

Acting[edit] Mitchum arrived in Long Beach, California in 1936, staying again with his sister Annette, now going by the name of Julie. She had migrated to the West Coast in the hope of acting in movies. Soon, the rest of the Mitchum family joined them in Long Beach. During this time, Mitchum worked as a ghostwriter for astrologer Carroll Righter. His sister Julie convinced him to join the local theater guild with her. In his years with the Players Guild of Long Beach, Mitchum made a living as a stagehand and occasional bit-player in company productions. He also wrote several short pieces which were performed by the guild. According to Lee Server's biography (Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care), Mitchum put his talent for poetry to work writing song lyrics and monologues for Julie's nightclub performances.

In 1940, he returned to Delaware to marry Dorothy Spence, and they returned to California. He remained a footloose character until the birth of their first child James, nicknamed Josh. They had two more children: Chris and Petrine. Mitchum got a steady job as a machine operator with the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation.[6]

Mitchum suffered a nervous breakdown (which resulted in temporary blindness), apparently from job-related stress. He sought work as an actor or extra in films. His agent got him an interview with the producer of the Hopalong Cassidy series of B-Westerns; he was hired to play the villain in several films in the series during 1942 and 1943. In 1943 he and Randolph Scott were soldiers in the Pacific Island war film Gung Ho![7]

Mitchum continued to find work as an extra and supporting actor in numerous productions for various studios. After impressing director Mervyn LeRoy during the making of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Mitchum signed a seven-year contract with RKO Radio Pictures. He was groomed for B-Western stardom in a series of Zane Grey adaptations.[6]

Following the moderately successful Western Nevada, Mitchum was lent from RKO to United Artists for The Story of G.I. Joe (1945). In the film, he portrayed war-weary officer Bill Walker (based on Captain Henry T. Waskow), who remains resolute despite the troubles he faces. The film, which followed the life of an ordinary soldier through the eyes of journalist Ernie Pyle (played by Burgess Meredith), became an instant critical and commercial success. Shortly after making the film, Mitchum was drafted into the United States Army, serving at Fort MacArthur, California. At the 1946 Academy Awards, The Story of G.I. Joe was nominated for four Oscars, including Mitchum's only nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He finished the year with a Western (West of the Pecos) and a story of returning Marine veterans (Till the End of Time), before filming in a genre that came to define Mitchum's career and screen persona: film noir.

Film noir[edit] Mitchum was initially known for his work in film noir. His first foray into the genre was a supporting role in the 1944 B-movie When Strangers Marry, about newlyweds and a New York City serial killer. Undercurrent, another of Mitchum's early noir films, featured him playing against type as a troubled, sensitive man entangled in the affairs of his brother (Robert Taylor) and his brother's suspicious wife (Katharine Hepburn). John Brahm's The Locket (1946) featured Mitchum as bitter ex-boyfriend to Laraine Day's femme fatale. Raoul Walsh's Pursued (1947) combined Western and noir styles, with Mitchum's character attempting to recall his past and find those responsible for killing his family. Crossfire (also 1947) featured Mitchum as a member of a group of World War II soldiers, one of whom kills a Jewish man. It featured themes of anti-Semitism and the failings of military training. The film, directed by Edward Dmytryk, earned five Academy Award nominations.[6]

Mitchum's famous role in Out of the Past (1947) Following Crossfire, Mitchum starred in Out of the Past (also called Build My Gallows High), directed by Jacques Tourneur and featuring the cinematography of Nicholas Musuraca. Mitchum played Jeff Markham, a small-town gas-station owner and former investigator, whose unfinished business with gambler Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) and femme fatale Kathie Moffett (Jane Greer) comes back to haunt him.

On September 1, 1948, after a string of successful films for RKO, Mitchum and actress Lila Leeds were arrested for possession of marijuana.[8] The arrest was the result of a sting operation designed to capture other Hollywood partiers, as well, but Mitchum and Leeds did not receive the tipoff. After serving a week at the county jail (he described the experience to a reporter as being "like Palm Springs, but without the riff-raff"), Mitchum spent 43 days (February 16 to March 30) at a Castaic, California, prison farm. Life photographers were permitted to take photos of him mopping up in his prison uniform.[9] The arrest inspired the exploitation film She Shoulda Said No! (1949), which starred Leeds.[10] The conviction was later overturned by the Los Angeles court and district attorney's office on January 31, 1951, after being exposed as a setup.

Whether despite, or because of, Mitchum's troubles with the law and his studio, his films released immediately after his arrest were box-office hits. Rachel and the Stranger (1948) featured Mitchum in a supporting role as a mountain man competing for the hand of Loretta Young, the indentured servant and wife of William Holden. In the film adaptation of John Steinbeck's novella The Red Pony (1949), he appeared as a trusted cowhand to a ranching family. He returned to film noir in The Big Steal (also 1949), where he joined Jane Greer in an early Don Siegel film.

Career in the 1950s and '60s[edit]

Mitchum with Jane Russell in His Kind of Woman (1951) In Where Danger Lives (1950), Mitchum played a doctor who comes between a mentally unbalanced Faith Domergue and cuckolded Claude Rains. The Racket was a noir remake of the early crime drama of the same name and featured Mitchum as a police captain fighting corruption in his precinct. The Josef von Sternberg film, Macao (1952), had Mitchum as a victim of mistaken identity at an exotic resort casino, playing opposite Jane Russell. Otto Preminger's Angel Face was the first of three collaborations between Mitchum and British stage actress Jean Simmons. In this film, she played an insane heiress who plans to use young ambulance driver Mitchum to kill for her.

Mitchum was expelled from Blood Alley (1955), purportedly due to his conduct, especially his reportedly having thrown the film's transportation manager into San Francisco Bay. According to Sam O'Steen's memoir Cut to the Chase, Mitchum showed up on-set after a night of drinking and tore apart a studio office when they did not have a car ready for him. Mitchum walked off the set of the third day of filming Blood Alley, claiming he could not work with the director. Because Mitchum was showing up late and behaving erratically, producer John Wayne, after failing to obtain Humphrey Bogart as a replacement, took over the role himself.[11][12]

Following a series of conventional Westerns and films noir as well as the Marilyn Monroe vehicle River of No Return (1954), Mitchum appeared in Charles Laughton's only film as director: The Night of the Hunter (1955). Based on a novel by Davis Grubb, the thriller starred Mitchum as a monstrous criminal posing as a preacher to find money hidden by his cellmate in the cellmate's home. His performance as Reverend Harry Powell is considered by many to be one of the best of his career.[13][14] Stanley Kramer's melodrama Not as a Stranger, also released in 1955, was a box-office hit. The film starred Mitchum against type, as an idealistic young doctor, who marries an older nurse (Olivia de Havilland), only to question his morality many years later. However, the film was not well received, with most critics pointing out that Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, and Lee Marvin were all too old for their characters. Olivia de Havilland received top billing over Mitchum and Sinatra.

Mitchum with Deborah Kerr in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) On March 8, 1955 Mitchum formed DRM (Dorothy and Robert Mitchum) Productions to produce five films for United Artists; four films were produced.[15] The first film was Bandido (1956). Following a succession of average Westerns and the poorly received Foreign Intrigue (1956), Mitchum starred in the first of three films with Deborah Kerr. The John Huston war drama Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, starred Mitchum as a Marine corporal shipwrecked on a Pacific Island with a nun, Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr), as his sole companion. In this character study, they struggle to resist the elements and the invading Japanese army. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. For his role, Mitchum was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor. In the WWII submarine classic The Enemy Below (1956), Mitchum gave a strong performance as U.S. Naval Lieutenant Commander Murrell, the captain of a U.S. Navy destroyer who matches wits with a German U-boat captain Curt Jurgens, who starred with Mitchum again in the legendary 1962 movie The Longest Day. The film won an Oscar for Special Effects.[16]

Thunder Road (1958), the second DRM Production, was loosely based on an incident in which a driver transporting moonshine was said to have fatally crashed on Kingston Pike in Knoxville, Tennessee, somewhere between Bearden Hill and Morrell Road. According to Metro Pulse writer Jack Renfro, the incident occurred in 1952 and may have been witnessed by James Agee, who passed the story on to Mitchum. He starred in the movie, and also produced the film, co-wrote the screenplay, and is rumored to have directed much of the film. Mitchum also co-wrote (with Don Raye) the theme song, "The Ballad of Thunder Road". He returned to Mexico for The Wonderful Country (1959) and Ireland for A Terrible Beauty/The Night Fighters for the last of his DRM Productions.[17]

Mitchum as Max Cady in Cape Fear (1962) Mitchum and Kerr reunited for the Fred Zinnemann film, The Sundowners (1960), where they played husband and wife struggling in Depression-era Australia. Opposite Mitchum, Kerr was nominated for yet another Academy Award for Best Actress, while the film was nominated for a total of five Oscars. Robert Mitchum was awarded that year's National Board of Review award for Best Actor for his performance. The award also recognized his superior performance in the Vincente Minnelli Western drama Home from the Hill (also 1960). He was teamed with former leading ladies Kerr and Simmons, as well as Cary Grant, for the Stanley Donen comedy The Grass Is Greener the same year.

Mitchum's performance as the menacing rapist Max Cady in Cape Fear (1962) brought him even more attention and furthered his renown for playing cool, predatory characters. The 1960s were marked by a number of lesser films and missed opportunities. Among the films Mitchum passed on during the decade were John Huston's The Misfits (the last film of its stars Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe), the Academy Award–winning Patton, and Dirty Harry. The most notable of his films in the decade included the war epics The Longest Day (1962) and Anzio (1968), the Shirley MacLaine comedy-musical What a Way to Go! (1964), and the Howard Hawks Western El Dorado (1967), a remake of Rio Bravo (1959), in which Mitchum took over Dean Martin's role of the drunk who comes to the aid of John Wayne.[6] He teamed with Martin for the 1968 Western 5 Card Stud, playing a homicidal preacher.

Music[edit]

Album cover of Mitchum's calypso record, Calypso — is like so ... One of the lesser-known aspects of Mitchum's career was his forays into music, both as singer and composer. Critic Greg Adams writes, "Unlike most celebrity vocalists, Robert Mitchum actually had musical talent."[18] Mitchum's voice was often used instead of that of a professional singer when his character sang in his films. Notable productions featuring Mitchum's own singing voice included Rachel and the Stranger, River of No Return, and The Night of the Hunter. After hearing traditional calypso music and meeting artists such as Mighty Sparrow and Lord Invader while filming Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison in the Caribbean islands of Tobago, he recorded Calypso – is like so ... in March 1957. On the album, released through Capitol Records, he emulated the calypso sound and style, even adopting the style's unique pronunciations and slang. A year later, he recorded a song he had written for Thunder Road, titled "The Ballad of Thunder Road". The country-style song became a modest hit for Mitchum, reaching number 69 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. The song was included as a bonus track on a successful reissue of Calypso ... and helped market the film to a wider audience.[6]

Although Mitchum continued to use his singing voice in his film work, he waited until 1967 to record his follow-up record, That Man, Robert Mitchum, Sings. The album, released by Nashville-based Monument Records, took him further into country music, and featured songs similar to "The Ballad of Thunder Road". "Little Old Wine Drinker Me", the first single, was a top-10 hit at country radio, reaching number nine there, and crossed over onto mainstream radio, where it peaked at number 96. Its follow-up, "You Deserve Each Other", also charted on the Billboard Country Singles chart. He sang the title song to the Western Young Billy Young, made in 1969. Mitchum co-wrote and composed the music for an oratorio which was produced by Orson Welles at the Hollywood Bowl.

Albums[edit] Year Album U.S. Country Label 1957 Calypso — is like so ... — Capitol 1967 That Man Robert Mitchum ... Sings 35 Monument Singles[edit] Year Single Chart positions Album U.S. Country U.S. 1958 "The Ballad of Thunder Road" — 62 That Man Robert Mitchum ... Sings 1962 "The Ballad of Thunder Road" (re-release) — 65 1967 "Little Old Wine Drinker Me" 9 96 "You Deserve Each Other" 55 — Later years[edit]

Mitchum in October 1976 Mitchum made a departure from his typical screen persona with the 1970 David Lean film Ryan's Daughter, in which he starred as Charles Shaughnessy, a mild-mannered schoolmaster in World War I-era Ireland. Though the film was nominated for four Academy Awards (winning two) and Mitchum was much publicized as a contender for a Best Actor nomination, he was not nominated. George C. Scott won the award for his performance in Patton, a project Mitchum had rejected for Ryan's Daughter. The 1970s featured Mitchum in a number of well-received crime dramas. The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) had the actor playing an aging Boston hoodlum caught between the Feds and his criminal friends. Sydney Pollack's The Yakuza (1974) transplanted the typical film noir story arc to the Japanese underworld. He also appeared in 1976's Midway about an epic 1942 World War II battle. Mitchum's stint as an aging Philip Marlowe in the Raymond Chandler adaptation Farewell, My Lovely (1975) was sufficiently well received by audiences and critics for him to reprise the role in 1978's The Big Sleep.

In 1982, Mitchum went on location to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to play Coach Delaney in the film adaptation of playwright/actor Jason Miller's 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning play That Championship Season.

At the premiere for That Championship Season, Mitchum, while intoxicated, assaulted a female reporter and threw a basketball that he was holding (a prop from the film) at a female photographer from Time magazine, knocking two of her teeth out.[19][20] She sued him for $30 million for damages.[20] He eventually paid her his salary from the film.[19]

That Championship Season may have indirectly led to another debacle for Mitchum several months later. In a February 1983 Esquire interview, he made several racist, anti-Semitic and sexist statements, including, when asked if the Holocaust occurred, responded "so the Jews say."[19][21] Following the widespread negative response, he apologized a month later, saying that his statements were "prankish" and "foreign to my principle." He claimed that the problem began when he recited a racist monologue from his role in That Championship Season, but the writer had misunderstood the words to be his. Mitchum, who claimed that he had only reluctantly agreed to the interview, then decided to "string... along" the writer with even more incendiary statements.[21]

Mitchum expanded to television work with the 1983 miniseries The Winds of War. The big-budget Herman Wouk story aired on ABC, starring Mitchum as naval officer "Pug" Henry and Victoria Tennant as Pamela Tudsbury, and examined the events leading up to America's involvement in World War II.

He played George Hazard's father-in-law in the 1985 miniseries North and South, which also aired on ABC. He followed it in 1988 with War and Remembrance.[6]

Mitchum at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival Mitchum starred opposite Wilford Brimley in the 1986 made-for-TV movie Thompson's Run. A hardened con (Mitchum), being transferred from a federal penitentiary to a Texas institution to finish a life sentence as a habitual criminal, is freed at gunpoint by his niece (played by Kathleen York). The cop (Brimley) who was transferring him, and has been the con's lifelong friend and adversary for over 30 years, vows to catch the twosome. In 1987, Mitchum was the guest-host on Saturday Night Live, where he played private eye Philip Marlowe for the last time in the parody sketch, "Death Be Not Deadly". The show ran a short comedy film he made (written and directed by his daughter, Trina) called Out of Gas, a mock sequel to Out of the Past. (Jane Greer reprised her role from the original film.) He also was in Bill Murray's 1988 comedy film, Scrooged.

In 1991, Mitchum was given a lifetime achievement award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures and the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Golden Globe Awards in 1992.[6]

Mitchum continued to act in films until the mid-1990s, such as Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, and he narrated the Western Tombstone. He also appeared, in contrast to his role as the antagonist in the original, as a protagonist police detective in Martin Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear, but the actor gradually slowed his workload. His last film appearance was a small but pivotal role in the television biopic, James Dean: Race with Destiny, playing Giant director George Stevens. His last starring role was in the 1995 Norwegian movie Pakten.

A lifelong heavy smoker, Mitchum died on July 1, 1997, in Santa Barbara, California, due to complications of lung cancer and emphysema. He was about five weeks shy of his 80th birthday. His body was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea. He was survived by his wife of 57 years, Dorothy Mitchum (died April 12, 2014, Santa Barbara, California, aged 94), and actor sons, James Mitchum, Christopher Mitchum, and writer-daughter, Petrine Day Mitchum. His grandchildren, Bentley Mitchum and Carrie Mitchum, are actors, as was his younger brother, John, who died in 2001. Another grandson, Kian, is a successful model. Cappy Van Dien, Grace Van Dien, and Wyatt Mitchum Cardone are the children of Carrie Mitchum, the grandchildren of Christopher Mitchum, and the great grandchildren of Robert and Dorothy Mitchum.

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Robert Mitchum's Timeline

1917
August 6, 1917
Bridgeport, Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States
1997
July 1, 1997
Age 79
Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County, California, United States