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All My Children's James Mitchell passes away

by Allison Waldman, posted Jan 23rd 2010 10:09AM
james_mitchell_all_my_childrenOne of the most famous stars of daytime, All My Children's James Mitchell, died Friday, January 22 in Los Angeles. He was 89 and suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, complicated by pneumonia. He hadn't been on the show much of the past couple of years, but he did make it back for the AMC 40th anniversary episode on January 5, and that turned out to be his last professional appearance.

James Mitchell was a man with two great careers. To soap fans, he was the indomitable Palmer Cortlandt, a brilliant tycoon and businessman, but also a man obsessed with his family and not above manipulation to get his way.

From 1979 to 2010, he was a loving father and family scion to some characters, but to others, Cortlandt was a ruthless bastard who lied and cheated to get what he wanted. He romanced the ladies, was discovered to have a secret past, and did things that should have gotten him thrown in prison.

In other words, as played by James Mitchell, Palmer was the perfect villain. The man you loved to hate.

But there was another career that most All My Children watchers weren't even aware of unless they watched old movies or had been a theater and ballet buff. James Mitchell was gifted dancer, a professional performer who was known for his style and grace and masculinity. He bullied Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in The Bandwagon, as a know-it-all choreographer. In Oklahoma, he was the dancing Curly, the embodiment of Gordon MacRae's character when the fantasy ballet commenced. Watch these movies now and you can see and appreciate what James Mitchell had that was special.

In the theater, James was a leading man in Broadway musicals, including Brigadoon, Carnival, Paint Your Wagon and Mack and Mabel.

But it was truly on television, that James became a big-time star. Palmer Cortlandt was the kind of role that made a soap and he savored every machination and manipulation by the character.

Mitchell was born and raised in Sacramento, California, but he became a New Yorker, thriving in theater, ballet and eventually, at home on All My Children.

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When I saw James Mitchell's name roll by on the ticker of an AOL bar, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I knew that he wasn't looking too well the last times I'd seen him on AMC, but it's still sad to hear that he passed. I remember the first time I realized he was "Curly" in the dance/dream sequence in "Oklahoma!" I said to my sister something like, "Hey! That dancer is Palmer Courtlandt!!" Then, I was even more surprised when I read tonight that he was Marco, the Magnificent in "Carnival" (which meant that the first time I saw him I was four and thought it was "real magic!"). Then, seeing him a few months ago when PBS aired "The Band Wagon..."

I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Mr. Wolsky. There will be a lot of people who miss Mr. Mitchell, too.

In some of the other comments above, I saw where a couple people said that AMC should bring back Nina for Palmer Courtlandt's funeral and to meet Petey. Wouldn't that be a bit difficult to do? I mean, I was under the impression that Nina died from complications of her juvenile diabetes. (The character, of course, not the actress.)

As for any tribute/funeral for Palmer Courtlandt, I hope that it would be in the storyline for AMC and not something that would only be seen on The Soap Channel. I would really hate to miss it (and I'd have to if it was on The Soap Channel).

R.I.P. Mr. Mitchell and, by extension, Palmer Courtlandt.

January 26 2010 at 2:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rhiannnonn's comment

oh, no, "Nina" lived happily ever after with Cliff. They have two sons, Bobby and Michael. Bobby was on the show for a while as a rebellious teenager, and Nina brought him (back) to Pine Valley personally to ask her father to straighten him out. She would have met Petey then.

January 26 2010 at 2:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I too, am sorry to hear that James Mitchell has passed away, but he lived a wonderful ,long life & gave us loyal AMC viewers many years of enjoyment playing Palmer Courtland. {And I will certainly look him up on TCM} I miss ALL of the cast that is gone now, Mona, Charles, Lenny, Myrtle, & of course Phoebe. They all gave us a touch of old Hollywood & class when they were on.
This leaves Adam Chandler and Dr. Joe Martin as our matriarchs now. Somehow, I never see Erica filling that bill, as she never seems to REALLY age...such is a woman's prerogative! And it makes me yearn for the old days when all of the stars were just starting in the 70's on AMC. I have been watching since 1973, through many incarnations. I even miss the old theme music.
I sure hope the new writers will stick to the core story of Pine Valley & keep Joe,& Adam & as many of the original players as active as possible.
Palmer was a force to be reckoned with, especially when facing Adam, & Tad, for that matter.
Michael Knight is a gem like no other in the men of all soaps, he is gorgeous, & talented, & allows his wit, charm & sense of humor show in his character & I hope he is front & center as the show goes on. He IS Pine Valley.
Adam Canary is just as wonderful to watch, his cunning & stealth is really something to look forward to -especially up against Tad. David is trying to be as clever & devious as Palmer, Phobe, Lenny, Myrtle & Adam, but, until he ages considerably...well...
Let me just say I miss the ones we have lost, & appreciate the ones we still have & hope to keep with the new writers coming in. If any of the cast we have watched all these years is written out-the show will lose it's draw. That's why bringing back Jesse was SO fantastic!!
We love Jesse! Bring MORE of our ALL MY CHILDREN back....it will be appreciated.
My condolences to everyone at AMC on the loss of another great one.

January 23 2010 at 8:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Professor Zed

I thought Palmer was a really cool character. I had no idea that James Mitchell had been a dancer. Very surprising! It was great to see him on the 40th anniversary special.

January 23 2010 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Allison, thank you for the very nice write up. I did not know that about our beloved Palmer.

I hope AMC doesn't ignore this.

January 23 2010 at 7:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

James Mitchell (Palmer Cortlandt) will be truely I saw him on the anniversary show and you could tell he was ill but Palmer we will miss you and we loved your scenes with Adam, Dixie,Nina and especially Opal.
James Mitchell you will be truly missed.
It would be nice if they give you a special sendoff with Nina and Petey meeting for the first time!
we love you!

January 23 2010 at 7:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So sad to hear the James Mitchell. I really enjoyed watching him thru all the years.
He will be missed.

January 23 2010 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been watching "All My Children" since I was a pre-teen....first day it was on the air!!! James Mitchell(Palmer Cortlandt) was one of my favorite characters and I had the great pleasure of meeting this classy and talented man through a mutual friend a number of years ago. James Mitchell was a class act and will be greatly missed.

January 23 2010 at 6:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kathryn Low

I remembered James Mitchell from Oklahoma when he first joined AMC and was thrilled to see that he was a fabulous an actor as he was a dancer. I have missed him the past few year and I know the AMC cast will be said to lose him as well as Eileen Herlie. Tough year!

January 23 2010 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kathryn Low's comment

This is such sad news :( I just saw him on the 40th anniversary episode and thought it was so great to see him in character again. He was one of AMC's all time greats. He will be sorely missed. Hope he meets up with Eileen Herlie, Ruth Warwick, Louis Edmonds, Frances Heflin and Kay Campbell up in heaven for a wonderful Pine Valley Reunion. RIP James Mitchell.

January 23 2010 at 6:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So sad to hear of the passing of James Mitchell.
I remember when he came to Pine Valley, and all the antics between Pete Cooney and good ole Adam Chandler. Seeing him on the anniversary special was nice.
He will be greatly missed by all.
God Speed Palmer Courtlandt.

January 23 2010 at 12:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

1. Spammers should die painfully and slowly. If the spam comments are cleaned out by the time anyone reads this...well, good, and I seem foolish now. :)

2. You could see it in him on that 40th anniversary special. He didn't look great. But he DID look like a damn pro, and that's what people say about him; he was a consummate pro.

We'll miss you, Palmer. And Opal may miss you most of all. :)

January 23 2010 at 11:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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