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Thomas Mitchell (July 11, 1892 – December 17, 1962) was an Americanmarker actor, playwright and screenwriter. Among his most famous roles in a long career are those of the father of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind and Uncle Billy in It's a Wonderful Life. Mitchell was the first person to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony Award.

Early life

Thomas Mitchell was born to Irish immigrants in Elizabeth, New Jerseymarker. He came from a family of journalists and civic leaders. Both his father and brother were newspaper reporters (his nephew, James P. Mitchell, later served as Dwight Eisenhower's Secretary of Labor). Like them, the younger Mitchell also became a newspaper reporter right after high school. Soon, however, Mitchell found he enjoyed writing comic theatrical skits much more than chasing late-breaking scoops.

Acting career

He became an actor in 1913, at one point touring with Charles Coburn's Shakespeare Company. Even while playing leading roles on Broadwaymarker 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 Hollywoodmarker. Mitchell's first credited screen role was in the 1923 film Six Cylinder Love.
Mitchell's breakthrough role was as the embezzler in Frank Capra's 1937 film Lost Horizon.

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

Over the next few years, Mitchell appeared in many of the greatest films of the 20th century. In 1939 alone he had key roles in five classic films: Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Only Angels Have Wings, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Gone with the Wind. 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 1944's The Keys of the Kingdom (as an atheist doctor) and 1952's High Noon (as the town mayor). He is probably best known to audiences today for his role as sad sack Uncle Billy in Capra's 1946 Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life opposite James Stewart. This film, while not well received when initially released, has over time become a classic that is shown each year on broadcast television.


From the 1950s and into the early 1960s, Mitchell worked in the new medium known as television. He appeared in a variety of roles in some of the most well-regarded early series of the era, including Playhouse 90, Zane Gray Theatre, and Hallmark Hall of Fame television productions. In 1954, he starred in the TV series Mayor of the Town and in the early 1960s originated the stage role "Columbo", later made famous on television by Peter Falk (Bert Freed played the part on live television before Mitchell portrayed Columbo on stage); Columbo was Mitchell's last role.

Death

Thomas Mitchell died in 1962 from bone cancer in Beverly Hills, Californiamarker. He was cremated and his ashes stored in the vault at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angelesmarker.

Awards and honors

In 1953, Mitchell became the first person 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. In 1939 he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Stagecoach as Doc Boone. In 1952, he won the Best Actor Emmy (Comedy Actor category), and the following year a Tony Award for best performance by an actor in the musical Hazel Flagg (based on the Carole Lombard film Nothing Sacred). He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker, one for his work in motion pictures at 1651 Vine Street and one for his work in television at 6100 Hollywood Boulevard.

Filmography

As actor





As writer

  • Little Accident (1930 - play, Little Accident)
  • Papa Sans le Savoir (1932 - play, Little Accident)
  • All of Me (1934; screenplay)
  • Life Begins with Love (1937; screenplay)
  • Little Accident (1939 - play, Little Accident)
  • Casanova Brown (1944)


References

  1. Life. October 19, 1953. "Labor gets a new secretary". p. 56.
  2. Monush, Barry. Hal Leonard Corporation. (2003). ISBN 1557835519. p. The Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. p. 509.


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