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Long-time actor and Turlock High grad James Mitchell dies at 89
James Mitchell, an actor in the ABC soap opera “All My Children” and a graduate of Turlock High School, died Friday at the age of 89.
Mitchell was born in Sacramento, and at the age of 3 moved to Los Angeles. He spent nine years of his childhood in Turlock, where his father worked as an accountant. He attended Turlock High School, where he was class president. He also won a citizenship award and acted in several school plays. He distinguished himself in debate and dramatics at Turlock High, and he was involved in several other school clubs.
In his student body president’s message in the 1927 THS yearbook, Mitchell wrote “..Friendship has done much to make our high school work pleasant and interesting. We who have attended Turlock High School are proud of this friendly spirit and hope that many of these friendships will endure through the years.”
Mitchell was interviewed by the Turlock Journal several times in the early 1980s, after he landed the role of Palmer Courtland, the sometimes cruel patriarch on “All My Children.” Mitchell credited his high school drama teacher with encouraging him to stick with his dreams of becoming an actor.
“I credit him with giving me the big push,” Mitchell said in one interview about his Turlock High School drama teacher Robert Rees. “Theater was my big dream then, but my family thought it was a ridiculous waste of time.
“I remember that close to graduation time I went to him (Rees) and told him I wanted to do it (get into theater). He told me if you want to do it, you go and do it. He was the one that gave me the courage to say ‘buzz off, Pop.’”
Shortly after high school, Mitchell left Turlock for Los Angeles. His family soon left the Turlock, and Mitchell never returned to the area for any great length of time.
Mitchell attended Los Angeles City College for three years, where he developed his talents in acting, dancing and singing. After a brief stint in World War II, he moved to New York to pursue a theater career. There he had parts in several Agnes DeMille musicals, including “Bloomer Girl” and “Brigadoon.”
The actor also had parts in several films, and danced with the American Ballet Theater and the Agnes DeMille Dance Theater. His most memorable role, however, came in 1976 when he was cast in “All My Children.” He was a regular on the show for over 30 years, and he returned for the show’s 40th anniversary episode this month.
Mitchell died of pneumonia contracted after a years-long battle with pulmonary disease, according to a statement released by ABC.
Mitchell is survived by his long-time partner, Albert Wolsky.