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Thomas Mitchell (1892-1962)

 

  1. Henry Kolker, The Cowboy and the Lady, 1938.   aka Syretch and Mary: Gary Cooper andf Merle Oberon…  Due to production hassles and his next gig, Mitchell had to quit being Mary’s Pa. Kolker took and reshot all of Mitchel’s previous footage as directors changed
  2. Edward Arnold, The Devil and Daniel Webster, 1940.    Poor Mitchell  lost control of his horse-drawn carriage and was flung out onto the road during a scene, fracturing his skull ane requiring hospitalisation for 17 weeks. Director William Dieterl called up  Arnold to take over the title tole - and he re-shot all the previous Mitchell footage.
  3. Walter Huston, All That Money Can Buy (UK: The Devil and Daniel Webster) 1941.    Mitchell was injured as shooting began on Simone Simon'sreturn to Hollywood after La bête humaine.Catapaulted fromhis carriage on losing control of the horses, he spent four monthsin dock with afractured skull. Arnold was playing Daniel Webster within 24 hours.
  4. Lynne Overman, Roxie Hart, 1941.  A musical  dedicated to “all the beautiful women in the world who have shot their men full of holes out of pique…”  After the Chicago trial for murder, the titular Ginger Rogers has to decide which guy to wed.  Frawley as the jury foreman or George Montgomery as the poor but honest crime reporter. Nolo contendere.
  5. Akim Tamiroff, For Whom The Bell Tolls, 1943.     Among the usual suspects for such a support role: Edward Arnold, Wallace Beery, Lee J Cobb...even Charles Laughton and Edward G Robinson.
  6. Charles Bickford, The Song of Bernadette, 1943.    About ten actors tested for  Father Peyramale, parish priest of the  French girl who had a vision of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes in 1858. They included: Mitchell, Lee J Cobb, Donald Crisp, Walter Hampden and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. (Cobb was later given Dr  T Duzous). 
  7. Ray Collins, Leave Her To Heaven, 1945.   A Fox press release on April 6, 1945, stipulated that Mitchell would play Glen Robie in the trashy soap opera - despite its Shakesperean title. (Hamlet). . He didn’t. Collins did. Who? Well, everyone knew him better as LAPD Lieutenant Tragg in Perry Mason during 1957-1965.
  8. Brian Donlevy, Canyon Passage, 1946.  For his first major Western (and colour debut),Hollywood’s resident realisateur Jacques Tourneur wanted to reunite the 1938 Stagecoach team of Trevor, John Wayne and Thomas Mitchell.He had to make do with Susan Hayward, Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy.
  9. Chill Wills, Giant,  1955.
  10. Lionel Barrymore, It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946. 
  11. Peter Falk, Columbo, TV, 1971-2003.   The tenacious but eventually boring Lieutenant Frank Columbo actually dated back to 1960 and Bert Freed playing the William Link and Richard Levinson creation in the Enough Rope episode of NBC’s The Chevy Mystery Show. Two years later, they turned the  script into a stage play, Prescription For Murder, with Mitchell just-one-more-thinging.   Audiences preferred him to Joseph Cotton’s villain and the writers started musing on a series format for Mitchell. But the veteran  died in 1962. So who else? Bing Crosby turned down all series: “It would interfere with my golf game.” Lee J Cobb also passed. It took Link andf Levinson three years to wear down Falk’s reluctance down (by agreeing to eight shows a season, instead of the usual 22). Two pilots led to the first season’s opener: Murder By The Book, a Steven Bochco script directed by an unknown whelp named Steven Spielberg. Falk was really reprisng his Lieutenant  Bixby from the 1965 Penelope film with Natalie Wood. He was anti-cliché until, of course, he became a most annoying cliché, himself. With all his oddities: never being called Frank (the name was visible on his warrant card), his pessimism (forever wearing the world’s most famious raincoat in the LA sun), his battered Renault 403, and, finally, a dog. Oh,  and a wife, often mentioned but unseen (until winning her own series). Falk died  at 83 in 2011, no longer knowing who he was.  Or Columbo.

 





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