Cameron Mitchell (November 4, 1918 – July 6, 1994) was an American film, television and Broadway actor with close ties to one of Canada's most successful families, and considered, by Lee Strasberg, to be one of the founding members of The Actor's Studio in New York City.
Early life and career
Born Cameron MacDowell Mitzel in Dallastown, Pennsylvania to Rev. Charles and Kathryn Mitzel, Mitchell served as a bombardier with the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. His film career began with minor roles in films dating back to 1945, but he quickly rose to young leading man status opposite such stars as Wallace Beery in The Mighty McGurk, Doris Day and James Cagney in Love Me or Leave Me, Lana Turner and Spencer Tracy in Cass Timberlane, Clark Gable and Jane Russell in The Tall Men, and Marlon Brando, Merle Oberon, and Jean Simmons in Desiree.
Some of his best-known films included the 1951 adaptation of Death of a Salesman (he originated the role of Happy on Broadway), the 1953 comedy How to Marry a Millionaire (with Marilyn Monroe), and 1956's film version of Carousel.
During the 1960s, Mitchell starred in numerous Italian horror, fantasy, and thriller films, several of which were directed by Mario Bava, including Erik the Conqueror (1961), Blood and Black Lace (1964), and Knives of the Avenger (1966).
It was on TV where Mitchell had the greatest effect during the latter part of his career, and he is best remembered for starring as Uncle Buck in the 1960s western series, The High Chaparral. He had also made an appearance on an episode of Bonanza & S.W.A.T., and guest starred on the short lived TV series The Swiss Family Robinson in 1975. He also provided the voice of Jesus in The Robe.
Between the first and second world wars, during his years as a young actor in Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne's National Theater Company, Fontanne suggested that Cameron's surname sounded "a bit too much like the Hun" and insisted he change it to "Mitchell."
In 1940, Mitchell married Johanna Mendel, the daughter of self-made Canadian business tycoon Fred Mendel. The Mendel family was based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where Fred Mendel founded Intercontinental Packers, a major family-owned meat packing operation.
Johanna Mitchell gave birth to their first son, Robert Cameron Mitchell, in New York on July 4, 1941. Although Cameron and Johanna divorced in 1960, Cameron maintained close ties to Canada. His children by Johanna hold dual US/Canada citizenship. Their daughter, Camille Mitchell and son, Cameron Mitchell Jr. are both actors. Another son, Fred Mitchell, was president of Intercontinental Packers for many years working alongside his mother, Johanna Mitchell who was Chairwoman of the Board. Today the company is known as Mitchell's Gourmet Foods and still operates out of Saskatoon, now owned by Maple Leaf Foods.
Mitchell's children from his second marriage - Jake, Jono and Kate Mitchell - live in Los Angeles, California.
After a decades long career in radio, film and television, Cameron Mitchell died of lung cancer, aged 75, on July 6, 1994, in Pacific Palisades, California. He is buried at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City.