Wednesday, May 5, 2010

50 Greatest Soap Actors: #9 James Mitchell

NAME: James Mitchell
SOAP ROLES: Palmer Cortlandt, ALL MY CHILDREN (1979-2010); Julian Hathaway, WHERE THE HEART IS (1969-1973); Lloyd Griffin, THE EDGE OF NIGHT (1964)

1992 Soap Opera Digest nomination for Best Wedding: Daytime
1989 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
1989 Soap Opera Digest nomination for Outstanding Villain: Daytime
1988 Soap Opera Digest nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role: Daytime
1986 Soap Opera Digest nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role on a Daytime Serial
1985 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
1984 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series
1983 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series
1982 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series
1981 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series
1980 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series

Alan Carter: It's criminal that Mitchell never won an Emmy. Cliff and Nina as a storyline only works if you hate Palmer with your every fiber. Ironically, probably never a nicer man ever walked the planet...but Mitchell was so good at playing evil, it made you wonder. I know better and I'm pretty smart, most of the time, but I have to admit being a little nervous about meeting him. I think he was smart enough to know he scared people and maybe it made him more gracious....although I imagine there was always a shy, nice guy underneath the character all the while.

Connie Passalacqua Hayman (Marlena De Lacroix): What elegance, what authority, what style, as Palmer Cortlandt on ALL MY CHILDREN (and before that on WHERE THE HEART IS). A great dancer and actor, he was another Hollywood gift to daytime. A great villain, I loved Palmer's tenderness with young troubled wife Donna (Candy Earley) and older wife Daisy (the sparkling Gillian Spencer).

Jonathan Reiner: So, so good at playing the evil patriarch with a heart of gold and more layers than an onion.

Patrick Erwin: A finely tuned performance of an extremely controlling man. Mitchell’s acting was as virtuoso as his dancing.

Roger Newcomb: He could play a villain, he was great a comedy. He never ceased to amaze me.

Taylor Miller: (worked with Mitchell on ALL MY CHILDREN) James Mitchell, one of the kindest men in the world, was about finding the humor in situations. He was a great friend.

Jean LeClerc: (worked with Mitchell on ALL MY CHILDREN) He was a man who had a great sense of humor. He was a gentleman. He was a very serious actor. I got to know him outside of ALL MY CHILDREN. I was amazed by the career he had had before he joined. This man created Oklahoma! Some of us were invited to his home in L.A. He was the most generous host who got us all in his home to play and laugh and drink and celebrate life. He was a life lover. I was so sad when I heard he passed away.


  1. simply the best. Palmer was a classic character who could be so ruthless and mean, but also so funny and lovable. He may not be ranked #1, but there was no one better.

  2. I adored him from my first episode of AMC, so I'm happy he made the top 10. He made Palmer a very angry, but sad man and gave the villain a sense of humor...particularly opposite Gillian Spencer. He was fabulous in "The Turning Point" was well.

    It's great to hear that he was such a nice man.

  3. No question about the selection of James Mitchell, but I'm disappointed that this list so favors recent actors. Only 2 of the 42 actors named to the list saw their soap careers end before 1990. One, Chris Bernau, died just before 1990, and the other, Jonathan Frid, is here because no doubt because of the exposure he got when Dark Shadows was continually rerun. 32 of the 42 selections still had active daytime careers in the 20th century. I'm absolutely sure about the identity of 4 of the top 8 nominees - Tony Geary, Michael Zaslow, Justin Deas, and David Canary have to be there, and I'd be really shocked if Larry Brygmann wasn't there as well. So clearly there doesn't seem to be much room left for actors whose careers ended earlier, such as Donald May (though I think he actually might make the list) and Henderson Forsythe. And I can't even mention their predecessors; there should be people on this left I've never heard of, and there aren't any.

    I also wonder about the lack of minority actors on this list. Daytime's black actors have always been better than its white actors because its so much harder (though this was much more true in the past than today) for black actors to gain film and other roles. That's the reason a very large percentage of the black actors who have been nominated for Academy Awards have had soap backgrounds. On the other hand, for various reasons, black actors rarely stay on individual soaps for all that long, which makes it harder to find ones to vote for in polls like this. The fact that the character of Jim Frazier on GL was portrayed -briefly - by both Billy Dee Williams and James Earl Jones - is illustrative of that problem. I'm hoping to see one more black actor on this list - probably Al Freeman Jr., one of the few (if any)actors to win a Daytime Emmy as Best Actor (he was also nominated 3 other times as best supporting and was nominated for a regular Emmy twice) and an Image Award for a performance in a film.

    Other minorities groups have had even worse luck on the soaps. General Hospital tried to integrate other ethnicities into the show in the 80s and 90s, but the plots range from horrendously offensive (the Asian quarter) to terrible (a plot I can't even remember the details of with some hispanic characters and Colton). Y&R's plot of Jack finding his true love and son from Vietnam worked reasonably well despite being quite hokey at times, but the writers of that show seem determined to forget that Keemo ever existed most of the time. In general, I think one of the major reasons that soaps are in so much trouble today has been their total reluctance to embrace diversity. In trying to fill their canvases with characters with wide appeal, they have ended up creating way too many bland characters who don't come off as interesting enough to be fully fledged human beings. Viewers are more sophisticated today, but the shows aren't. It's too bad so few writers ever learned from Claire Labine; she may have sometimes had trouble plotting her shows, but she was second-to-none in creating characters who came off like real individual human beings and not soap factory models.

    (Meanwhile, I guess I've given up on the prospects of David Lewis or William Roerick making the list)