Thomas Mitchell (actor)

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Thomas Mitchell
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Thomas John Mitchell

(1892-07-11)July 11, 1892
DiedDecember 17, 1962(1962-12-17) (aged 70)
Resting place Chapel of the Pines Crematory
  • Actor
  • director
  • playwright
  • screenwriter
Years active1916–62
Ann Stuart Breswer
(m. 1915;div. 1935)
(m. 1941)
Rachel Hartzell
(m. 1937;div. 1939)

Thomas John Mitchell (July 11, 1892 – December 17, 1962) was an American actor. Among his most famous roles in a long career are those of Gerald O'Hara in Gone with the Wind , Doc Boone in Stagecoach , Uncle Billy in It's a Wonderful Life , Pat Garrett in The Outlaw , and Mayor Jonas Henderson in High Noon . Mitchell was the first male actor to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony Award. [1]


Mitchell was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the films, The Hurricane (1938), and Stagecoach (1939). He won the award for his role in Stagecoach . He was nominated three times for the Primetime Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series in 1952 and 1953, for his role in the medical drama The Doctor , and won in 1953. While he was nominated again in 1955, for an appearance on a weekly anthology series, he did not win. Mitchell won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, in 1953, for his role as Dr Downer in the musical comedy Hazel Flagg , based on the 1937 Paramount comedy film Nothing Sacred , rounding out the Triple Crown of Acting. In addition to being an actor, he was also a director, playwright, and screenwriter.

Early life

Mitchell was born to Irish immigrants in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He came from a family of journalists and civic leaders. Both his father and brother were newspaper reporters, and his nephew, James P. Mitchell, later served as Dwight Eisenhower's Secretary of Labor. [2] Later on, in the 1952 presidential election, Mitchell, a Republican himself, would go on to support Eisenhower's campaign. [3] The younger Mitchell also became a newspaper reporter after graduating from St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth. However, Mitchell soon found that he enjoyed writing comic theatrical skits much more than chasing late-breaking scoops. In 1927 Mitchell joined The Lambs. [4]

Acting career

Trailer for High Barbaree (1947) Thomas Mitchell in High Barbaree trailer.jpg
Trailer for High Barbaree (1947)

He became an actor in 1913, at one point touring with Charles Coburn's Shakespeare Company. Even while playing leading roles on Broadway into the 1920s Mitchell would continue to write. One of the plays he co-authored, Little Accident, was eventually made into a film (three times) by Hollywood. Mitchell's first credited screen role was in the 1923 film Six Cylinder Love.

Portraying Tom Blue in The Black Swan (1942) Thomas mitchell black swan 1.jpg
Portraying Tom Blue in The Black Swan (1942)

Mitchell's breakthrough role was as the embezzler in Frank Capra's film Lost Horizon (1937).

Following this performance, he was much in demand in Hollywood. [5] That same year, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Hurricane , directed by John Ford.

Over the next few years, Mitchell appeared in many significant films. Forty-three of the fifty-nine films in which he acted, were made in the 10-year period from 1936–1946. Considered one of the finest character actors in film, [6] in 1939 alone he had key roles in Stagecoach , Mr. Smith Goes to Washington , Only Angels Have Wings , The Hunchback of Notre Dame , and Gone with the Wind . [6] While probably better remembered as Scarlett O'Hara's loving but doomed father in Gone with the Wind, it was for his performance as the drunken Doc Boone in Stagecoach, co-starring John Wayne (in Wayne's breakthrough role), that Mitchell won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. In his acceptance speech, he quipped, "I didn't know I was that good". Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Mitchell acted in a wide variety of roles in productions such as 1940's Swiss Family Robinson , 1942's Moontide , 1944's The Keys of the Kingdom (as an atheist doctor) and High Noon (1952) as the town mayor. He is probably best known to audiences today for his role as sad sack Uncle Billy in Capra's Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life (1946) with James Stewart.

Mitchell (right) with Tyrone Power in trailer for The Black Swan (1942) Tyrone power thomas mitchell black swan 1.jpg
Mitchell (right) with Tyrone Power in trailer for The Black Swan (1942)

From the 1950s and into the early 1960s, Mitchell worked primarily in television, appearing in a variety of roles in some of the most well-regarded early series of the era, including Playhouse 90 , Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater (in a pilot episode that became the CBS series Johnny Ringo ), and Hallmark Hall of Fame productions. In 1954, he starred in the television version of the radio program, Mayor of the Town . In 1955, he played Kris Kringle in The 20th Century-Fox Hour version of The Miracle on 34th Street opposite Teresa Wright and MacDonald Carey. In 1957 he hosted The O. Henry Playhouse. In 1959, he starred in thirty-nine episodes of the syndicated television series, Glencannon , which had aired two years earlier in the United Kingdom.

In the early 1960s, Mitchell originated the stage role "Columbo", later made famous on NBC and ABC television by Peter Falk (Bert Freed played the part on live television before Mitchell portrayed Columbo on stage); Columbo was Mitchell's last role.


Mitchell died at age 70 from peritoneal mesothelioma in Beverly Hills, California. He was cremated at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory and his ashes are in vaultage. [7]



1923 Six Cylinder Love Bertram Rogers (film debut) Elmer Clifton
1936 Craig's Wife Fergus Passmore Dorothy Arzner
1936 Adventure in Manhattan Phil Bane Edward Ludwig
1936 Theodora Goes Wild Jed Waterbury Richard Boleslawski
1937 Man of the People William J. Grady Edwin L. Marin
1937 When You're in Love Hank Miller Robert Riskin
Harry Lachman
1937 Lost Horizon Henry Barnard Frank Capra
1937 I Promise to Pay District Attorney J.E. Curtis D. Ross Lederman
1937 Make Way for Tomorrow George Cooper Leo McCarey
1937 The Hurricane Dr. Kersaint John Ford
1938 Love, Honor and Behave Dan Painter Stanley Logan
1938 Trade Winds Commissioner Blackton Tay Garnett
1939 Stagecoach Doc Josiah Boone John Ford
1939 Only Angels Have Wings Kid Dabb Howard Hawks
1939 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Diz Moore Frank Capra
1939 Gone with the Wind Gerald O'Hara Victor Fleming
1939 The Hunchback of Notre Dame Clopin William Dieterle
1940 Swiss Family Robinson William Robinson Edward Ludwig
1940 Three Cheers for the Irish Peter Casey Lloyd Bacon
1940 Our Town Dr. Gibbs Sam Wood
1940 Angels Over Broadway Gene Gibbons Ben Hecht
Lee Garmes
1940 The Long Voyage Home Driscoll John Ford
1941 Flight from Destiny Prof. Henry Todhunter Vincent Sherman
1941 Out of the Fog Jonah Goodwin Anatole Litvak
1942 Joan of Paris Father Antoine Robert Stevenson
1942 Song of the Islands Dennis O'Brien Walter Lang
1942 Moontide Tiny Archie Mayo
1942 This Above All Monty Anatole Litvak
1942 Tales of Manhattan John Halloway Julien Duvivier
1942 The Black Swan Tommy Blue Henry King
1943 Immortal Sergeant Sgt. Kelly John M. Stahl
1943 The Outlaw Pat Garrett Howard Hughes
1943 Bataan Cpl. Jake Feingold Tay Garnett
1943 Flesh and Fantasy Septimus Podgers Julien Duvivier
1944 The Fighting Sullivans Mr. Thomas F. Sullivan Lloyd Bacon
1944 Buffalo Bill Ned Buntline William A. Wellman
1944 Wilson Joseph Tumulty Henry King
1944 Dark Waters Mr. Sydney Andre DeToth
1944 The Keys of the Kingdom Dr. Willie Tulloch John M. Stahl
1945 Captain Eddie Ike Howard Lloyd Bacon
1945 Within These Walls Warden Michael Howland H. Bruce Humberstone
1945 Adventure Mudgin Victor Fleming
1946 Three Wise Fools Terence Alaysius O'Davern Edward Buzzell
1946 The Dark Mirror Police Lt. Stevenson Robert Siodmak
1946 It's a Wonderful Life Uncle Billy Frank Capra
1947 High Barbaree Capt. Thad Vail Jack Conway
1947 The Romance of Rosy Ridge Gill MacBean Roy Rowland
1948 Silver River John Plato Beck Raoul Walsh
1949 Alias Nick Beal Joseph Foster John Farrow
1949 The Big Wheel Red Stanley Edward Ludwig
1951 Journey Into Light Gandy Stuart Heisler
1952 High Noon Mayor Jonas Henderson Fred Zinnemann
1954 Secret of the Incas Ed Morgan Jerry Hopper
1954 Destry Rags Barnaby George Marshall
1956 While the City Sleeps Jon Day Griffith Fritz Lang
1958 Handle With Care Mayor Dick Williston David Friedkin
1960 Too Young to Love Judge Bentley Muriel Box
1961 By Love Possessed Noah Tuttle John Sturgess
1961 Pocketful of Miracles Judge Henry G. Blake (final film) Frank Capra



1950Showtime, U.S.A.PerformerEpisode: American Red Cross Drive
1951 Celanese Theatre Uncle SidEpisode: Ah, Wilderness!
1951 Armstrong Circle Theatre PerformerEpisode: The Long View
1952 Robert Montgomery Presents PerformerEpisode: The Farmer's Hotel
1951-52 Tales of Tomorrow Prof. Frederick Vaneck/Captain Nemo 3 episodes
1951-52 Betty Crocker Star Matinee Performer2 episodes
1951-52 Pulitzer Prize Playhouse Mr. Antrobus2 episodes
1951-52 Studio One in Hollywood Various Roles4 episodes
1952Lights OutPerformerEpisode: The Eyes from San Francisco
1952 Gulf Playhouse PerformerEpisode: Mr. Nothing
1952 Suspense Henry Brown/Dr. Paul Morgan2 episodes
1953The DoctorMatthew DayEpisode: Desk of Matthew Day
1953 The Backbone of America Fred TuppleTelevision Movie
1953Of Time and the RiverWilliam Olivier GrantTelevision Movie
1953Of Time and the River Part IITelevision Movie
1954 Omnibus Shark WicksEpisode: Nobody's Fool
1954 Medallion Theatre PerformerEpisode: The Gentle Deception
1954 Fireside Theatre PerformerEpisode: Afraid to Live
1954-55 General Electric Theatre Mender McClure2 episodes
1954-57 The Ford Television Theatre Various Roles6 episodes
1954-55 The United States Steel Hour Scotty/Silas Lapham2 episodes
1954-55 Mayor of the Town Mayor Thomas Russell39 episodes
1955 Damon Runyon Theater SylvesterEpisode: It Comes Up Money
1955The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Pap Finn Television Movie
1955 Screen Directors Playhouse Dr. Joseph H. WaltonEpisode: The Final Tribute
1955 The Alcoa Hour Cap. JarvisEpisode: Undertow
1955 The 20th Century Fox Hour Kris KringleEpisode: The Miracle on 34th Street
1955-56 The Star and the Story Various Roles3 episodes
1955-56 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Carl Smith/Sam Hawkins2 episodes
1951-56 Lux Video Theatre Various Roles6 episodes
1956 Celebrity Playhouse Cal LoganEpisode: They Flee By Night
1956 Chevron Hall of Stars Performer2 episodes
1956 Telephone Time Andrew Hamilton2 episodes
1957 The O. Henry Playhouse O. Henry45 episodes
1958 Shirley Temple's Storybook EmperorEpisode: The Nightingale
1958 Kraft Television Theatre WhitehallEpisode: The Velvet Trap
1958 Playhouse 90 Mr. CarsonEpisode: Natchez
1959 Laramie Judge Matthew HedrickEpisode: Dark Verdict
1959 Goodyear Theatre SargeEpisode: The Lady Bug
1959GlencannonCapt. Colin Glencannon
Sgt. Harry Mork
39 episodes
1959 The Untouchables Milo SullivanEpisode: The Underworld Bank
1960 Sunday Showcase PerformerEpisode: The Secret of Freedom
1960The Right Man Grover Cleveland Television Movie
1961The Joke and the ValleyTruman WintersTelevision Movie
1961 Adventures in Paradise Hubert WillisEpisode: A Penny a Day
1958-61 Zane Grey Theater Various Roles3 episodes
1961Stagecoach WestEthan BlountTelevision Movie
1961Our American HeritageJoseph MurrayEpisode: The Invisible Teddy


1916Under SentencePerformer Roi Cooper Megrue
Irvin S. Cobb
Harris Theatre, Broadway
1917NjuPerformer Osip Dymov Bandbox Theatre, Broadway
1918Crops and CroppersPerformer Theresa Helburn Belmont Theatre, Broadway
1918RedemptionArtyomyeff Leo Tolstoy Plymouth Theatre, Broadway
1919Dark RosaleenPerformerW. D. Hepenstall
Whitford Kane
Belasco Theatre, Broadway
1920Not So Long AgoSam Robinson Arthur Richman Booth Theatre, Broadway
1921 The Playboy of the Western World Christy Mahon John Millington Synge Bramhall Playhouse, Broadway
1923KikiAdolphe David Belasco Belasco Theatre, Broadway
1926The Wisdom ToothBemis Marc Connelly Little Theatre, Broadway
1926Glory HallelujahN/AThomas Mitchell Broadhurst Theatre, Broadway
1927Blood MoneyJames Bolton George Middleton Hudson Theatre, Broadway
1927-28NightstickTommy Glennon John Wray, J.C. Nugent
Elliott Nugent
Elaine Sterne Carrington
Selwyn Theatre, Broadway
1928-29 Little Accident Norman OverbeckThomas Mitchell Morosco Theatre, Broadway
1931Cloudy with ShowersPeter HammillThomas Mitchell
1932Riddle Me ThisMcKinley Daniel N. Rubin John Golden Theatre, Broadway
1932Clear All WiresBuckley Joyce Thomas Bella Spewack
& Sam Spewack
Times Square Theatre, Broadway
1933HoneymoonBob TaylorSamuel Chotzinoff
& George Backer
Little Theatre, Broadway
Vanderbilt Theatre, Broadway
1935Fly Away HomeJames Masters Dorothy Bennett
& Irving White
48th Street Theatre, Broadway
1935Stick-in-the-MudPaw Meriwether Frederick Hazlitt Brennan
1941Crazy with the HeatPerformerSam E. Werris, Mack Davis,
Max Liebman, Don Herold
& Arthur Sheekman,
44th Street Theatre, Broadway
1947-49An Inspector CallsInspector Goole J.B. Priestly Booth Theatre, Broadway
1949The Biggest Thief in TownBert Hutchins Dalton Trumbo Mansfield Theatre, Broadway
1949-50 Death of a Salesman Willy Loman (replacement) Henry Miller Morosco Theatre, Broadway
1953Hazel FlaggDr. Downer Ben Hecht Mark Hellinger Theatre, Broadway
1960Cut of the AxeRollie EvansSheppard Kerman Ambassador Theatre, Broadway

Staged by

1931Cloudy with Showers Morosco Theatre, Broadway
1932-33Honeymoon Little Theatre, Broadway
Vanderbilt Theatre, Broadway
1933Forsaking All Others Times Square Theatre, Broadway
1933Twenty-five Dollars an Hour Theatre Masque, Broadway
1935Fly Away Home 48th Street Theatre, Broadway
1935Something Gay Morosco Theatre, Broadway
1935-36At Home Abroad Winter Garden Theatre, Broadway
1935Stick-in-the-Mud 48th Street Theatre, Broadway


1953 Theatre Guild on the Air A Square Peg [8]
1945Suspense1945-02-22 John Barby and Son

Awards and Nominations

In 1953, Mitchell became the first man to win the "triple crown" of acting awards (Oscar, Emmy, Tony). He remains one of only a handful of individuals to have won each of these awards.

1937 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor The Hurricane Nominated
1939 Stagecoach Won
1939 National Board of Review Best Actor Nominated
1940 New York Film Critics Circle Best Actor The Long Voyage Home Nominated
1940 National Board of Review Best Actor Won
1942 Moontide Won
1952 Primetime Emmy Awards Best Actor N/ANominated
1953 Best Actor N/AWon
1955 Best Actor in a Single Performance The Ford Television Theatre Nominated
1953 Tony Award Best Actor in a Musical Hazel Flagg Won

See also

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  1. Riddle, Joe (May 8, 2020). "Thomas Mitchell's five-star career". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Retrieved 2020-06-03.
  2. Life. October 19, 1953. "Labor gets a new secretary". p. 56.
  3. Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 34, Ideal Publishers
  4. "About The Lambs". The Lambs. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  5. Monush, Barry. (2003) The Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 509. ISBN   1-55783-551-9.
  6. 1 2 Wilson, Steve (2014). The Making of Gone With the Wind. University of Texas Press. p. 89. ISBN   978-0-292-76126-1.
  7. "Thomas Mitchell, Actor, Dead; Star of Stage and Screen, 70; Actor's Career in the Movies and in Theater Spanned a Half Century Appeared in Many Films". New York Times. 18 December 1962. p. 4. Retrieved 2020-06-03.
  8. Kirby, Walter (March 15, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 46. Retrieved June 25, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  9. "Walk of Fame Stars-Thomas Mitchell". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2016.

Further reading