Skip to comments.Bodybuilder and B-movie actor Gordon Mitchell dies
Posted on 09/25/2003 8:30:55 AM PDT by NormsRevengeEdited on 04/12/2004 5:58:05 PM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]
MARINA DEL REY, Calif. (AP) - Bodybuilder and actor Gordon Mitchell, who appeared in more than 200 B-movies during his 40-year career, has died. He was 80.
Mitchell, who acted mostly in cheaply made "sword and sandal" films such as 1961's "The Giant of Metropolis," died in his sleep Saturday at his home in this coastal town. The cause was an apparent heart attack, said Bill Comstock, his assistant.
(Excerpt) Read more at sacbee.com ...
God's Rest, Gordon.
The best way to go. I want to die in my sleep as my uncle did, not screaming and yelling as his passengers did.
"After making his mark on sword and sandal films, by 1965 the genre had faded. Rather than packing up and heading back to America, as many of his contemporaries did, Mitchell rolled with the punches and further expanded his range. Even before the death of peplum, Mitchell had portrayed the "bad" guy in several Italian fustos such as in Erik, the Viking with Guiliano Gemma, and Battle of the Valiant with Tony Kendall. Mitchell's co-stars had difficulty acting against him in the role of adversary. For example, in Battle of the Valiant, Mitchell recalls: "...We had great problems to stage a believable fight. [Tony Kendall] was a very nice person, but maybe because of differences in physique or body length, it just didn't work out the way it should, [with] the good guy's triumph over the bad guy.... I really had to force [Kendall] to get nasty; he was so hesitant!" Obviously, Mitchell went at these villanous roles with gusto, creating characters often more memorable than the heroes."
"Mitchell's films illustrate an incredible variety of roles. He has acted in nearly every film genre, including sword and sandal flicks, spaghetti westerns, martial arts, comedies, dramas, adventure films, and horror films, just to name a few. He acted in several 'A' pictures, such as Reflections in a Golden Eye with Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. Reflections, made in Rome, features a scene with Mitchell and Taylor. Mitchell remembers: "[Taylor] was really professional as a worker, not at all like a diva." On another front, Mitchell was able to lend his expertise to John Huston, the director of the film: "Once, they had prepared a scene where Liz was supposed to climb on a horse, with a little ladder. But she did it from the wrong side! It just looked silly. Everywhere there were these horse trainers standing around, and nobody said a word. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't take it any longer and went to the director." Mitchell took the time to explain to Huston that this way of mounting was absurd, and Huston quickly made the changes Mitchell had suggested."
"Mitchell as studio mogul"
In 1970, Gordon Mitchell did a small film for a producer who, as it turned out, couldn't pay him. Rather, the producer offered him a small piece of land just outside of Rome. Mitchell decided to take the beautiful parcel and turn it into a studio complete with a western town; he named it Cave Film Studio. However, his idea proved to be mired in local red tape: "I really had no idea what I was in for. There was so much paperwork; it was awful!" The mayor of the locality, for some unknown reason, gave him only a temporary permit to build the western town. After clearing more paper hurdles and enduring the construction, the studio was complete. Mitchell recalls: "First, directors were a little hesitant [to shoot films at the studio] because they thought I had forgotten to get permission to shoot films there. But I had cleared everything.... Many little producers chose to shoot at my studio because it was much cheaper than the ones at Cinecitta.... We shot maybe 150 films there." But all good things must come to an end---the permit ran out. Mitchell still owns the property and may do something with it in the future."
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After moving back to the US several years ago, Mitchell remained very active. His last feature-length film appearance was in 1995's Bikini Drive-In, in which Mitchell has a great cameo; he appears as Goliath in a trailer for a feature entitled "Goliath and the Cheerleaders." Directed by B-movie legend Fred Olen Ray, Bikini Drive-In also includes appearances by Stanley Livingston (Chip from TV's My Three Sons), Ross Hagen, Conrad Brooks (who appeared in several Ed Wood productions), and David F. Friedman, who produced the first slasher movies Blood Feast (1963), 2000 Maniacs (1964), and Color Me Blood Red (1965) for director Herschell Gordon Lewis. Also, Mitchell appeared in the German TV program Ehen vor Gericht in the role of Pendelton' in episode Cybersex und Sektenfalle, which aired in May 1998. Mitchell passed away peacefully in his sleep in September 2003 at the age of 80."
Looks there was a bit more to this fellow than one might seem. RIP.