James Mitchell dies at 89; actor, dancer was ‘All My Children’ staple

Early in his career, James Mitchell had leading roles in popular Broadway musicals including "Brigadoon" and "Paint Your Wagon." He also taught movement for actors and theater students at Yale and Drake universities.

James Mitchell, a stage and film actor and dancer who became a soap opera staple in his role as Palmer Cortlandt on the long-running ABC show “All My Children,” has died. He was 89.

Mitchell died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease complicated by pneumonia, his longtime partner, Albert Wolsky, said Sunday.

James Mitchell obituary: The obituary of actor James Mitchell in Monday’s Section A said that Mel Ferrer starred in the film “Deep in My Heart.” Jose Ferrer appeared in the movie. —

Mitchell joined “All My Children” in 1979 as the wealthy patriarch of one of the principal families living in fictional Pine Valley. A biography on the show’s website described Mitchell’s character as “gruff on the outside” but “a self-made millionaire whose love for his family runs to his core.”

His final appearance was earlier this month for the show’s 40th anniversary episode. He was nominated for seven Daytime Emmy Awards for his role.

“He really enjoyed it,” Wolsky said of the soap. “The meaner he could be, the happier he was; actors love to play the villain.”

Mitchell, born Feb. 29, 1920, in Sacramento, had leading roles in such Broadway musicals as “Bloomer Girl,” “Billion Dollar Baby,” “Brigadoon” and “Paint Your Wagon.”

He also performed in touring companies of “Funny Girl” with Carol Lawrence, “The Three Penny Opera” with Chita Rivera and “The King and I” with Ann Blyth.

He appeared with the American Ballet Theatre and with the Agnes de Mille Dance Theater.

Mitchell’s movie roles included “The Turning Point” in 1977 with Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine, “The Band Wagon” in 1953 with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, “Oklahoma” in 1955 with Gordon MacRae and “Deep in My Heart” in 1954 with Mel Ferrer and including Charisse, who dances with Mitchell.

He had several television appearances, and his other soap operas credits were “Where the Heart Is” from 1969 to 1973 and “The Edge of Night” in 1956.

Mitchell also taught movement for actors and theater students at Yale and Drake universities. Drake awarded him an honorary doctorate in fine arts.

A memorial will be held at a later date, Wolsky said.