Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Cameron Mitchell Prefers Bankruptcy to Suicide [archived newspaper article]


The Indiana Gazette

Indiana, Pennsylvania

March 2, 1974

Has Debts Of $2.4 Million

LOS ANGELES (AP) – “I had two choices – I could swallow a handful of sleeping pills, or I could declare myself bankrupt. My father was minister, and he didn’t believe in suicide. Neither do I. I chose bankruptcy.

     Actor Cameron Mitchell, 55 was explaining why he was in bankruptcy court for the second time in nine years. This month he declared he had debts of $2.4 million and two bank accounts worth $26.

     How could it happen? Mitchell has been a well-known and working actor since 1945, when he landed a contract at MGM. He starred as Buck Cannon in “High Chaparral” on television at, $6,500 a show; the series earned him an estimated $750,000 in residuals.

     “The reasons are the same as have happened to other actors over the years,” said Mitchell. “Stupid bad investments. Parasites who live off you. Too much trust in people who handle your money. Most actors are children really; they have no sense when it comes to money.”  

     Left unspoken were major reasons for his money troubles: two costly divorces.

     Mitchell was here to face his financial crisis and to appear in a television movie for NBC, “The Girl on the Late Late Show.” He now makes his home in Darlington, S.C. with his third wife, the former Margaret Mozingo. Mitchell said he fell in love with her and the Southern pace of living while making a film with Burt Lancaster in Florence, S.C. last year.

     The actor said his current troubles stem from a dispute with an Italia producer over an unfinished film, “Massacre.”

     Mitchell lived in Italy from 1959 to 1965 and made 40 films – “Few of them have reached this country, thank God.”

     I know how Italian producers operate,” he said. “They get an American actor in a nonunion picture and then try and finish without paying all of his salary.”

     “With two weeks to fo the producer owed me $400,000. He kept putting me off, and my agent advised me to get the money or quit. Then I was in a minor car accident, and I decided to walk off the picture. Now he’s suing me for million dollars.”

     Faced with this and other possible law suits, Mitchell chose bankruptcy. “It was embarrassing to sit down and fill out the forms for four hours with a stub of a pencil, along with others who were doing the same thing,” he said.

     “It’s also embarrassing to meet people and wonder, ‘Do they know?’ And if they do, ‘What are they thinking?’ I would much rather have people make jokes about it than remain silent.”

     Besides his bankruptcy, Mitchell said he has problems with the Internal Revenue Service. “They tell me I earned as much as $400,000 last year,” he said, “I honestly don’t know. I said, “You tell me what I made and what I’m supposed to do about it.”

     Just when his fortunes seemed at their lowest, Mitchell landed his best role in years. He will play the heavy in “The Klansman,” a story of bigotry in a small Southern town. The stars are Lee Marvin and Richard Burton.

     “When I heard the news,” said Mitchell, “I got down on my knees – literally – and thanked God. I never thought at my age I’d have another chance.”

     He had to change his lifestyle. He used to own a Cadillac El Dorados and Lincoln Continentals; now he rents a Pinto. But he refuses to be discouraged.

     “I’ve got my health, and I’m not senile yet,” he remarked. “I may have lost little virility, but not much. As long as you’ve got your health, you’re rich.”

1 comment:

  1. I plan on making a movie about Cameron Mitchell called, "The Man Who Would Be Buck". The title stems from the fact that in the film, Mitchell later goes on to become Buck Cannon on "The High Chaparral". It will take place from 1938 to 1992 and focus on Cameron Mitchell's life before, during, and after "The High Chaparral". I will play the role of a fictional character named Ray Tate who is a big fan of Westerns but more importantly "The High Chaparral". During one scene, my character asks Cameron Mitchell, "How much does it cost to get a gig on the High Chaparral?" Then Mitchell asks, "Just what the Hell ya talking bout?" I say, "I wanna be on the show!" Mitchell then asks, "And who would you play?" And I say, "Anybody!" I end up on the show as a guest star but I am credited as David Scott. (I think I told you the story of how I became David Scott one time if you don't remember). Not that I mind, but that's not my name. So I ask Cameron Mitchell why I'm being credited as David Scott. He then says, "Your other name was too short. So we changed it." I ask who I am playing. He says, "You will play Doc Holliday." What? You're kidding! I gotta play him? But his character has tuberculosis! Mitchell gets mad at me and says, "Do you want the job or not?" I say, "Yes." Then Mitchell says, "Well then, play the damn part!" So I play the part and soon he realizes that he and I have worked together before. I appeared in a uncredited role as a gunfighter named Ringo in "Minnesota Clay" when he and I didn't even know who Sergio Corbucci was. We thought we were working for Sergio Leone! He also tells me that he and I did "The Last Gun" together but that he and I walked off halfway through because he didn't like the salary they offered him and I didn't like the script. In that film, I have an uncredited role as Billy Hart. During the final scene, in 1992, I ask his character what his one regret in life is. He says, "I only regret growing up too soon." And that is how the movie ends. Wish me luck.