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post Cameron Mitchell, Actor-Ballplayer

January 15th, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 5:17 pm

Cameron Mitchell, Actor-Ballplayer

Vintage article, Jan 20, 1973

All  of us have our Walter Mitty dreams, and for actor Cameron Mitchell the unfulfilled ambition is to make an unassisted triple play.

In fact, while Mitchell is a dedicated and successful actor, athletics is his abiding passion.  He’s a frustrated baseball player – “To this day, I’m sorry I didn’t go professional. “ – and at the drop of a resin bag he’ll talk about baseball.

We chatted the other day at the NBC-TV studios in Burbank and at times I thought I had switched jobs with Blade sports writer Tom Loomis. Mitchell talked about baseball and athletics most of the time during an interview which ran nearly an hour.

Oh, he did manage to bring up his new series, “Escape,” which will have its premiere Feb. 11 on NBC, probably because there was a press agent hovering in the background. But Mitchell kept turning the conversation back to sports.

Mitchell has some impressive credentials as an actor, such as playing in the original roadway production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” in a high-powered cast which included Lee J. Cobb and Arthur Kennedy.

But he’d rather be remembered as the pitcher for the Hollywood Stars, made up of a group of actors, who beat the Los Angeles Angels, 4-3, back in 1948.

“And, mind you, the home-plate umpire wouldn’t give me anything – he hated actors,” Mitchell said, grinning.

“Yeah, and I remember I once batted against Satchel Paige – perhaps the greatest pitcher who ever lived – when I was 17. I got a single. Then old Satch picked me off base. That man had the fastest ball I’ve ever seen. He’d wind up, lazy like, and that ball just smoked toward the pate – or to first base.”

Mitchell, a six-footer who doesn’t look that tall because of his athletic build, has a face that reflects his part-Indian ancestry. His black hair is now slightly flecked with gray, but his virile good looks continue to draw appreciative glances from the feminine division.

The actor comes from a strict Scottish-German family in Dallastown, PA, and his father was a minister who wasn’t enthusiastic about Cameron becoming an actor. At about this point in the interview, while discussion religion, Mitchell pulled up his turtleneck sweater, displaying three religious medals denoting the major Western faiths, and pronounced:

“I play it safe.”

Reminiscing further about his early years and the start of his acting career, he recalled that a teacher in Dallastown gave him is first big break, when she lent him money to go to New York to study acting.  She was, he recalled, “a homely woman with a beautiful heart.” He wasn’t an overnight success in New York, working as a dishwasher and an usher before breaking into show business.

His first Broadway role was in the 1939 production of “Taming of the Shrew,” with Alfred Lunt and Lyn Fontanne. After serving as an airman in World War II, he came to Hollywood and appeared in dozens of movies, including such hits as Cass Timberlane,” “Command Decision, “Some Like it Hot,” and “No Down Payment.”

The highlight of his television career was a starting role in “High Chaparral,” the western series which was quite successful and rather mysteriously cancelled (“We were very disappointed at that cancellation”).

“Escape,” his new TV venture, is another of NBC’s mini-series, consisting of four half-hour action-adventure dramas depicting people coping with life-or-death situations.  In his segment, “Lost,” due to be broadcast in mid or late February, he plays a sergeant in charge of a Los Angeles County emergency service team trying to find a brother and sister lost in a mountainous area. The show also stars Glenn Corbett and Marion Ross.

Stars in other segments of the series are John Ericson and Ed Nelson. The series is a Jack Webb enterprise, and Webb is the off-camera narrator in all four episodes, giving the shows a semi-documentary flavor.

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