James Mitchell (1920-2010) died today, Friday, January 22, 2010 in Los Angeles of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, complicated by pneumonia. Mr. Mitchell joined the cast of “All My Children” in 1979, having created the role of Palmer Cortlandt, the wealthy patriarch of one of Pine Valley’s most popular families. His final appearance was on January 5th, 2010 for the show’s 40th anniversary episode.
Born and raised in Sacramento, California, Mr. 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.
Mr. 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.
He is survived by his long time partner, Albert Wolsky. Memorial services will be held at a later date.
“All My Children” celebrated its 40th anniversary on January 5th, 2010. The program has successfully maintained its popularity and continues to be one of daytime’s most compelling dramas. “All My Children” took home the 1998 Emmy Award for Outstanding Daytime Drama Series, the third time the show received this top honor, having also garnered the award in 1994 and 1992. In 2004 the show also received its third consecutive Emmy Award for Outstanding Daytime Drama Series Writing, its third Writers Guild Award and its fourth GLAAD Media Award in March 2007.
Created by Agnes Nixon, “All My Children” premiered on the ABC Television Network on January 5, 1970, as a half-hour show; seven years later it expanded to an hour. Julie Hanan Carruthers is executive producer with David Kreizman and Donna Swajeski as co-head writers. “All My Children” is produced Los Angeles and airs MONDAY-FRIDAY (1:00-2:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network.