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James Mitchell (1920 - 2010)

A photo of James Mitchell
James Mitchell
1920 - 2010
Born
February 29, 1920
Sacramento, Sacramento County, California United States
Death
January 22, 2010
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States
Other Names
James Mitchell
Summary
James Mitchell was born on February 29, 1920 in Sacramento, California United States. He died on January 22, 2010 in Los Angeles, California United States at 89 years old.
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Updated: July 29, 2020
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Introduction
James Mitchell was a famous dancer and actor with an illustrious Broadway and Film Career as well as a Television Star. Mitchell began his career as an accomplished dancer and played leading roles in such Broadway musicals as "Brigadoon," "Billion Dollar Baby," "Bloomer Girl," "Carousel," "Carnival," "Mack and Mabel" and "Paint Your Wagon." He appeared with the American Ballet Theater in New York, Europe and South America and with the Agnes de Mille Dance Theater on tour throughout the U.S. He also starred on tour in "Funny Girl" with Carol Lawrence, "The Three Penny Opera" with Chita Rivera, "The King and I" with Ann Blyth and in "The Rainmaker" with future "All My Children" co-star Frances Heflin. Mitchell also served as assistant to the director of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera production of "Annie Get Your Gun" with Debbie Reynolds. Mitchell's film roles included "That's Dancing," a retrospective of great dance numbers in movie musicals; "The Turning Point" (1977), in which he played the artistic director; "The Band Wagon" (1953) with Fred Astaire; "Oklahoma!" (1955); and "Deep in My Heart" (1954) with Cyd Charisse. He also danced with Charisse in her 1965 television special and in the Academy Awards presentation program in 1966. From 1969-73, he played Professor Hathaway on the daytime series "Where the Heart Is."
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Biography
James Mitchell
Most commonly known as
James Mitchell
Full name
James Mitchell
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Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California 90046
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James Mitchell was born on in Sacramento, Sacramento County, California United States
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James Mitchell died on in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States
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James Mitchell Born February 29, 1920 in Sacramento, California, USA Died January 22, 2010 in Los Angeles, California, USA (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) Height 5' 10" (1.78 m) James Mitchell was an American actor and dancer of English descent. He was one the leading dancers for choreographer Agnes de Mille (1905-1993). As an actor, Mitchell is primarily remembered for his role as diabolical businessman Palmer Cortlandt in the long-running soap opera "All My Children". Mitchell played this role from 1979 to 2010, and Cortlandt was one of the series' major characters until 2002. In 1920, Mitchell was born in Sacramento, California. His parents were English immigrants who operated a fruit farm in Turlock, an agricultural settlement in Stanislaus County, California. In 1923, his parents separated. His mother returned to England, and took Mitchell's siblings with her. Unable to raise Mitchell on his own, his father entrusted him to the care of vaudevillians Gene and Katherine King. While the senior Mitchell eventually reclaimed custody over his son, Mitchell became interested in a show business career of his own. Mitchell left Turlock in 1937, in order to seek education as an actor. He studied drama at Los Angeles City College, and was trained in modern dance by famed choreographer Lester Horton (1906-1953). Following his graduation, Mitchell formally joined the Lester Horton Dancers (1932-1944), Horton's own dance company. In 1944, Horton dissolved his dance company and moved to New York City, taking Mitchell with him. Horton attempted to form a new dance company there for dancer Sonia Shaw, and his main investor was Shaw's husband. The investor reneged on the deal, and Horton's company went bankrupt before its debut performance. Mitchell was left unemployed for the first time in his career. Mitchell eventually applied for a job as a dancer in the musical "Bloomer Girl" (1944), where Agnes de Mille was the choreographer. She asked him to perform ballet moves, unaware that Mitchell had little to no training in ballet. Instead Mitchell performed a dance improvisation. De Mille was sufficiently impressed by his style to offer him the dual position of principal dancer and assistant choreographer in the show. He took the offer. Mitchell's professional relationship with de Mille lasted from 1944 to 1969. In her autobiography, she praised Mitchell, commenting that he gad "probably the strongest arms in the business, and the adagio style developed by him and his partners has become since a valued addition to ballet vocabulary." Mitchell remained primarily a theatrical actor in the 1940s, though he appeared as a dancer and uncredited extra in film musicals and westerns. He was eventually offered a contract with Warner Brothers by producer Michael Curtiz (1886-1962). Mitchell only appeared in two Warner Brothers-produced film. His most notable there was playing gangster Duke Harris in the Western "Colorado Territory" (1949). Mitcell was next signed to a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), where he played supporting roles in films from 1949 to 1955. His film appearances included the film noir "Border Incident" (1949), the Western "Stars in My Crown" (1950), and the musical comedy "The Band Wagon" (1953). His last MGM-produced film was the Biblical epic "The Prodigal" (1955), a notorious box office flop that resulted in losses of 771,000 dollars by the company. Mitchell's contract was terminated shortly afterward. In 1956, Mitchell gained his first lead role in a film, playing gunfighter Terrall Butler in the Western "The Peacemaker" (1956). It was a low-budget production by independent producer Hal R. Makelim, and the film eventually only had a limited release. It was Mitchell's last film role for decades. Mitchell was able to find steady work as an actor in television productions. In 1964, he gained the recurring role of corrupt Captain Lloyd Griffin in the soap opera "The Edge of Night" (1956-1975). He eventually gained the lead role of professor of literature Julian Hathaway in another soap opera, "Where the Heart Is" (1969-1973). The series had "fairly healthy ratings" for its entire run, but it was typically the lowest-rated soap on CBS' daytime schedule. It was eventually canceled and replaced by a more successful soap opera, called "The Young and the Restless" (1973-). For much to the 1970s, Mitchell was reduced to sporadic guest star appearances in television. He financially supported himself as an acting teacher Juilliard, Yale University, and Drake University. He was eventually offered the new role of businessman Palmer Cortlandt in the soap opera "All My Children", a role he played for 31 years. By 2008, Mitchell was forced to reduce his television appearances due to health problems. He was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an obstructive lung disease characterized by long-term breathing problems and poor airflow. He formally retired from acting in 2009, but made return appearances in 2010. He died in January 2010, his death caused by his chronic disease and complications by pneumonia. He was 89-years-old. [About still thinking of himself as a dancer at age 84] When I go to the theater to watch dance, my muscles twitch. I can't help but respond physically to music and the choreography. It simply moves me. There's no doubt that the dancer is still present inside.

Personal Life

Has taught movement for actors to theater arts students at Yale University. After he put up his dancing shoes, he turned to TV and found a nice niche for himself in soaps -- notably as the scheming old tycoon Palmer Cortlandt on All My Children (1970) playing the role since 1979. In his early career, he performed with the American Ballet Theatre. First appeared on stage as part of his foster parents' vaudeville act. Received a degree in drama from Los Angeles City College. In 1947, his performance in the original Broadway production of "Brigadoon" earned him a Walter Donaldson Award (the predecessor of the "Tony" Award) as Best Dancer, as well as a Theatre World Award. His best-known role on film was in Agnes de Mille's spectacular dream sequence as 'Dream Curly' in the 1955 musical classic Oklahoma! (1955) He worked in tandem with the famed choreographer quite frequently. The Harlem Renaissance artist Richmond Barthe (1901-1989) sculpted and exhibited a bust of Mitchell in 1947. Briefly co-owned an antiques shop called "Country Imports" in the late 1950s. His longtime partner was costume designer Albert Wolsky. Close associations in dance were with Gower Champion, Eugene Loring (with whom he also trained), and Jerome Robbins. In 1923, his mother, Edith, left his father and returned to England with Mitchell's brother and sister; she and Mitchell had no further contact. Unable to run a farm while single-handedly raising his remaining son, Mitchell's father fostered him out for several years to vaudevillians Gene and Katherine King. He taught movement for actors at the American Laboratory Theatre, 1966-1967; movement for actors and directors at the Yale School of Drama, 1974, and movement for actors and directors at the Drama Division of The Juilliard School, 1976. Danced for Lester Horton, the Agnes de Mille Dance Theater and the American Ballet Theater. Retired. [October 2009] Personal Quotes (5) [on Palmer Cortlandt] He's not a threat at all. He's just aggravating. [In a promotional article for TSR's All My Children (1970) role-playing game] When I play, I like to be Erica. [on Jerome Robbins] He was the most charming, lovable son of a b**** that I have ever known. [About starring in The Peacemaker (1956)]: I'm an old face but a new voice.

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'All My Children' actor James Mitchell dies Played wealthy patriarch Palmer Cortlandt for 30 years James Mitchell, who played wealthy patriarch Palmer Cortlandt on ABC daytime soap "All My Children" for 30 years, died Friday in Los Angeles of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, complicated by pneumonia. He was 89. Mitchell joined the cast of "AMC" in 1979. His final appearance was Jan. 5 for the show's 40th anniversary episode. Mitchell began his career as an accomplished dancer and played leading roles in such Broadway musicals as "Brigadoon," "Billion Dollar Baby," "Bloomer Girl," "Carousel," "Carnival," "Mack and Mabel" and "Paint Your Wagon." He appeared with the American Ballet Theater in New York, Europe and South America and with the Agnes de Mille Dance Theater on tour throughout the U.S. He also starred on tour in "Funny Girl" with Carol Lawrence, "The Three Penny Opera" with Chita Rivera, "The King and I" with Ann Blyth and in "The Rainmaker" with future "All My Children" co-star Frances Heflin. Mitchell also served as assistant to the director of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera production of "Annie Get Your Gun" with Debbie Reynolds. Mitchell's film roles included "That's Dancing," a retrospective of great dance numbers in movie musicals; "The Turning Point" (1977), in which he played the artistic director; "The Band Wagon" (1953) with Fred Astaire; "Oklahoma!" (1955); and "Deep in My Heart" (1954) with Cyd Charisse. He also danced with Charisse in her 1965 television special and in the Academy Awards presentation program in 1966. From 1969-73, he played Professor Hathaway on the daytime series "Where the Heart Is." Mitchell taught movement for actors and theater arts students, which he described as "an exchange of the disciplines of dancing and acting." He taught at Yale University and at Drake University, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in fine arts. Mitchell is survived by his longtime partner, Albert Wolsky.
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1920 - 2010 World Events

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In 1920, in the year that James Mitchell was born, on January 1, over 6000 people were arrested and put in prison because they were suspected of being communists. . Many had to be released in a few weeks and only 3 guns were found in their homes. The U.S. Department of Justice "red hunt" netted thousands of "radicals" and suspected "communists" and aliens were deported. But the "hunt" ended after Attorney General Palmer forecast a massive radical uprising on May Day and the day passed without incident.

In 1937, by the time he was 17 years old, on May 28th, the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge opened to cars. Taking 5 years to build, the 4,200-foot-long suspension bridge was an engineering marvel of its time - 11 men died during construction. The "international orange" color was chosen because it resisted rust and fading. To the present, it is the symbol of the City that is known throughout the world.

In 1956, he was 36 years old when this was the year that the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, became an international sensation. He began the year as a regional favorite and ended the year with 17 recordings having been on the Billboard’s Top 100 singles chart, 11 TV appearances, and a movie. Elvis scandalized adults and thrilled teens.

In 1968, when he was 48 years old, on June 5th, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles by Sirhan after celebrating his win in the California presidential primary. He died the next day at Good Samaritan Hospital.

In 1998, by the time he was 78 years old, on December 19th, the House of Representatives initiated impeachment charges against U.S. President Bill Clinton. He was subsequently acquitted of these charges by the Senate on February 12th.

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