post Memories of Cameron Mitchell By Debbie Carlson

January 14th, 2009

Filed under: Interviews & Articles — admin @ 8:12 pm

Cameron Mitchell
Cameron Mitchell as Buck Cannon

Editor’s Note: Fan Debbie Carlson knew the Cameron Mitchell family during The High Chaparral years, and graciously agreed to share her memories with all of us.

My time with the Mitchell family took place when I was a young teen. I met Cameron Mitchell and his second wife and their two boys when they moved in to the house next to ours in Pacific Palisades. I believe that was in 1967 which would have made me around 12 years old. “High Chaparral” was in production but had not yet aired. The Mitchells were all very friendly and welcoming to all of us curious kids. We were curious about the “actor” moving in but I think more curious about the new family and kids on the block. I quickly became friends with the kids and was accepted into their house.

Mr. Mitchell was a very kind and generous man. He seemed to genuinely love kids. He would play ball with us, spray us with the hose as we rode our bikes past his house, tease and joke with us etc. He always made us feel good, telling us how well we threw or kicked the ball, how smart we were etc. We just drank it in. I remember how excited he was when their third child was on the way (a girl). He was over the moon about her. But, it wasn’t just all fun. I also remember him insisting we watch certain educational shows like shows about the perils of drugs. After all, it was the 60’s. He was very much a father figure to all of us neighborhood kids, not just to his own. I remember things like watching the moon landing at their house and on weekends, he always had a golf game on. He was an avid golfer.

Cameron Mitchell

The family often included me in outings to dinner with them which were always fun. Mr. Mitchell would sometimes take over a restaurant, going back into the kitchen to meet the chef and being very gregarious and friendly with everyone. He was always kind to his fans. I marveled at how the family handled it considering they were often interrupted during their meals by well wishers. Even at that age, it made me very aware of the sacrifice actors make with respect to their privacy. It was always an adventure.

My mother was very aware of Mr. Mitchell’s movies and career but she was careful to respect their privacy. But, one time I remember Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell coming over to the house. I can’t remember who provided the movie magazines, which as many probably recall were the gossip rags of the day. He read through some of them aloud which had articles about him and his family and it was such a hoot hearing him totally tear the articles apart…total fabrication in most cases. My parents took them to the Hollywood Bowl and they reciprocated by taking my parents to the premiere of “Patton”. I think my parents had the time of their lives and I’m sure it was a special memory for them.

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to Paramount Studios a few times to watch the taping of High Chaparral. I was fascinated by everything and everyone, including the process. I also was invited to fly to Tucson with his sons to watch them shoot on the Old Tucson set. Everyone was so welcoming. I remember Leif Erickson being very nice even though I was somewhat intimidated by his size and voice. Linda Crystal seemed like a spitfire. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was something of the nature that she seemed so petite and delicate. I quickly learned from her that she could stand up to the boys and take care of herself, and the men there at the time concurred. She was very pretty on TV but even prettier in person. Of course I had a huge crush on Mark Slade, didn’t everyone? Henry Darrow seemed just like he was on TV…very happy, always smiling with a bit of the devil in him. He seemed like someone you’d always want to be around because he was just so full of life. Of course, I don’t know these people, this was just my impression of all of them and what a great experience that trip was.

Cameron Mitchell
Cameron Mitchell in The Andersonville Trial.

I know that my memories are that of a young teenager and in one aspect I regret that. I never thought to ask him about his career, what it was like to work with the likes of Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Spencer Tracy, Doris Day and all the big names of his era. I never heard him say anything bad about another actor. I remember how nervous but excited he was about appearing in a made for TV movie with George C. Scott (this was after “Patton”). (ed. note: that movie would likely be The Andersonville Trial, directed by George C. Scott, starting William Shatner, Cameron Mitchell, Jack Cassidy, Richard Basehart, and a host of others). I really would have loved to hear the stories. Unfortunately the Mitchells moved out of the house next door several years later. I maintained contact with them for a while but they eventually divorced and I had my own life, moving to San Diego to attend college. I wish I knew what their children have done in their lives.

Even though this all started some 42 years ago, that friendship with Mr. Mitchell and his family had a huge impact on my life and I cherish the time I was allowed to be a part of it. It was educational on so many fronts. He often made me feel good about myself, I loved the play and fun we had and being allowed to see into the world of acting for a brief time. I suspect he had a great impact on many peoples’ lives. From my point of view, he was everything good people say about him. He knew his craft, he was very nice and friendly, he would give you the shirt off his back, generous to a fault, loved kids and was a genuinely good and kind man.

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