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.”

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