James Mitchell, former Turlock resident and ABC soap opera actor of “All My Children,“ died at the age of 89.
ABC Television Network announced that James Mitchell died on Friday, January 22, 2010 in Los Angeles of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, complicated by pneumonia.
James Mitchell played Palmer Cortland on “All My Children” for about thirty years. Mitchell appeared in more than 300 episodes of the popular soap from 1979 until 2008. His final appearance was on January 5th, 2010 for the show’s 40th anniversary episode.
Mitchell was born in Sacramento, moved to LA, and then moved back to Turlock until he was 17. James Mitchell attended Turlock High School where he was class president.
Mitchell’s parents emigrated from England to Northern California, where they operated a fruit farm in Turlock. In 1923, Mitchell’s 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. After Mitchell’s mother died, however, his father remarried and brought both of his sons, but not his daughter, back to Turlock. At age seventeen, Mitchell left Turlock for Los Angeles, where he remained close to the Kings.
James Mitchell began his career as an accomplished dancer. He played leading roles in a number of Broadway musicals, including “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 United States. 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 his then future “All My Children” co-star, Frances Heflin. In addition he served as assistant to the director of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera production of “Annie Get Your Gun,” with Debbie Reynolds.
James Mitchell’s notable film roles included “That’s Dancing,” a retrospective of great dance numbers in movie musicals; “The Turning Point,” in which he played the artistic director; “The Bandwagon” with Fred Astaire; “Oklahoma” and “Deep in My Heart” with Cyd Charisse. He also danced with Miss Charisse in both her 1965 television special and in the Academy Awards Presentation program in 1966. From 1969 to 1973 he played the role of Professor Hathaway on the Daytime series “Where the Heart Is.” He also appeared in the ABC primetime series “Charlie’s Angels.”
Mr. 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 in Des Moines, Iowa, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in fine arts.
James Mitchell is survived by his long time partner, Albert Wolsky. Memorial services will be held at a later date.
2. Early life: virtually identical accounts with more or less detail in Meredith Brown, “James Mitchell: Dancing His Way into Your Heart,” Soap Opera Digest 5.17 (28 October 1980): 40-41; Robert Schork, “Flying High,” Soap Opera Magazine 7.45 (18 November 1997): 21-23; “Rebecca Herbst & James Mitchell,” Soapography (aired 2 September 2006).