April 13th, 2014
The Movement to Remember Cameron Mitchell is Catching Fire!
Just a little over a year ago, the Cameron M. Mitchell (Buck Cannon) Fans Facebook page was begun by one of the many fans of The High Chaparral who, like thousands of others, began participating in a revival of our beloved show and its characters due to the growth of The High Chaparral Reunion. A year later, the page has in excess of 600 members and multiple administrators.
Flash forward eleven months and two-thousand miles east of Old Tucson Studios (where The High Chaparral was filmed). In York County, PA, Bryan Sellers had an awakening of a different sort.
Sellers, an employee of the local Emergency Services in the Glen Rock area, was attending a meeting at the old high school in New Freedom one day. The building, now used for business, still has the Student Recognition plaques on the wall from the time when the high school used to single out a Student of the Year. One plaque, from 1937, showed the name Cameron Mitzell.
“I asked the people around me if they knew who that was,” Sellers said. “Most did not. I thought it was a shame because he (Cameron) is probably the most famous actor to come out of York County.”
Sellers has a great reason for knowing so much about Cameron Mitchell, whose given name was Mitzell. Born in Dallastown, PA on Nov. 4, 1918, Cameron was raised in Shrewsbury, right next to Glen Rock. Sellers’ father, Bruce, and his uncle, Herman Sellers, were childhood friends of the actor, playing baseball and tennis and acting in local plays together in the Shrewsbury, Glen Rock, and New Freedom area. In fact, Sellers says Cameron talked Uncle Herman into going to Hollywood with him after their World War II service.
“Cameron presented to my uncle that he go to Los Angeles with him,” Sellers said, “and he promised to help my uncle get work…Herman got work at MGM Studios where he eventually became supervisor of the film processing section and Cameron’s career took off. He would ask my uncle to take care of his personal affairs while Cameron took off to Canada or Europe,” Sellers said. When his uncle passed away in 1983, Sellers inherited all the correspondence between the two as well as photos and other memorabilia.
Mitchell hit the big time during the hey-day of Hollywood, starring opposite such actors as Jimmy Cagney, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall. He worked for renowned directors Elia Kazan and John Ford, plus, he had a huge European following working for director Mario Bava in various swashbuckling roles in movies like Erik the Conqueror and Knives of the Avenger. Then, in 1967, the actor was cast by show creator David Dortort as Buck Cannon on The High Chaparral, a historic Western that brought Uncle Buck into the home of millions from the show’s location in Hollywood and at Old Tucson Studios in Arizona.
So when Sellers, who is a member of the Glen Rock Historical Society, was asked to present information on a local topic in January of this year, he opted to do one about Cameron Mitchell to re-educate the community about their famous native son. The January 28th meeting announcement in the York Daily Record stirred up so much local interest that it had to be moved to a larger location to accommodate all those attending—in spite of a series of huge snow storms in the area.
Glen Rock Meets Social Media
The article announcing the meeting was emailed to one of the administrators of the Cameron M. Mitchell (Buck Cannon) Facebook page by one of Cameron’s relatives still living in the York area. Nephew Marc and the administrator had met at The High Chaparral Reunion in 2013 and had stayed in touch throughout the year. The administrator called Sellers immediately and introduced him not only to the Cameron Facebook page, but also to The High Chaparral Reunion organization, the underlying source of the show’s and Cameron’s revival. Sellers’ meeting was announced on the Cameron Facebook page, and one of its members was even able to attend despite the freezing temperatures and snow.
Sellers, the local newspapers and numerous residents who personally knew, or whose family members knew, the famous actor have stirred up excitement in York County that continues to grow. Sellers has held or participated in more than five meetings with the local business community as well as members of the public, the media and the Facebook groups to try to identify the best way to keep Cameron Mitchell’s legacy visible in his native area.
“We’d like to see a scholarship fund set up and possibly a sign or plaque,” Sellers said. “We also want to include Harkey in the scholarship fund because she helped him (Cameron) and so many others in the area.” “Harkey” is the nickname of Helena Hartenstein, a high school teacher who is credited with lending Cameron the money and encouragement to go to New York to pursue his acting career.
Sellers is also reaching out to connect with The High Chaparral Reunion organization, the Cameron
M. Mitchell Facebook page and others who have expressed interest in helping with fundraising for the scholarship. Monies would be set aside for York area high school seniors pursuing studies in the media arts including acting. There’s also talk of a Cameron Mitchell Day back in the hometown area.
“I think this recognition (for Cameron) is long past due,” Sellers said. This July 7th will mark the 20th year of Cameron’s passing.
Apparently a lot of folks agree with Sellers because the movement to honor Cameron’s memory is catching fire not just in York County, but also on a global scale through The High Chaparral Reunion’s Facebook page as well as the others that sprung from the show’s revival. Plus, INSP has been airing the iconic Western since September 2012, introducing it to even more generations of fans who simply love Uncle Buck and the story of the Cannon and Montoya families as they struggle to make a life in the Arizona Territory.
Look for more updates as this effort moves forward.