HELLO AMERICA!—I had known actor Don Mitchell since our drama class days at Los Angeles City College and there was no doubt in my mind that he was a standout from all the other young actors who stood on the stage. When he died in 2013, I wasn’t able to attend his funeral to pay my respects.
When viewing several of our communication notes I decided to pay tribute to him based on our last meeting together at his home in Encino. Even then he was very realistic concerning the extent of his talent and how possibly he might fit in the Hollywood scheme of things. We shared many thoughts and ideas about the challenges we must face in order to survive in a well-known rat ace of thespians and other dreamers who might survive day by day simply on hopes and dreams.
Several months before his passing, I had the pleasure of speaking with my ol’ buddy and it was as though time had not passed at all. He reminded me that it was he who drove me from location to location during a pilot shoot for one of my talk show projects. “It was fun to have Marty Kove with us at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel so drunk that the only thing he did was smile every time you posed a question. But the best time was with Beverly Garland who told some darn good dirty Hollywood stories even I had never heard. She was great!” I had to confess that if it were not for Don, that shoot would have been somewhat boring.
When reminding him how proud I was for his great job on “Ironside” he laughed and said, “Yeah, it was quite an opportunity as well as an acting challenge. There were so many fine actors, real veterans of the industry who knew the game of working with the camera and the different directors. It forced me to listen and think as well as appreciate the opportunity of working with such fine cinema type actors. You know when you’re working on stage in the theatre, there’s different kind of consciousness when you’re delivering lines to another actor and the movement to enhance ideas and feelings are quite different, whereas, when there’s a camera you’re always conscious of your mark and you’d better hit it! I learned much about myself as a man as well as an artist but most importantly I realized how much I needed to learn and it made me even more grateful to be given this career opportunity.”
What did he think about the kind of stories being filmed today on the networks and even those Cable produces? Don didn’t miss a beat and quickly responded: “A lot of it is a bunch of crap! These so-called realities shows are killing actual well scripted stories which might enhance the careers of solidly well trained actors who have spent years in training for the opportunity to perform in something worthy of viewing. There’s very little on the networks that is exciting or even worth the time watching. Cable is somewhat better, it comes up with some challenging story ideas and even in the music area but otherwise I feel there’s something missing. I yearn for the likes of Playhouse 90 or some of the mystery shows such as Alfred Hitchcock and the like — shows and stories that made you think!”
Even though Don had been rather quiet during his last few years, he made it very clear that he had not left the game. He was offered a few roles but noted they were the kind of characters that didn’t make him feel he would be moving forward.
“They were stereotypes which he had neglected to portray or take during the early days of his career…”I don’t want to go backward and I’ve always needed to move ahead, try new ground, hungry for the challenge. This is why I’m doing a little writing and dealing with who I am and what I’ve learned about myself and the world today. And you know something, it’s very exciting!”
And my dear friend, Don Mitchell did exactly that even though I’m just letting the world know how I feel.