A few weeks ago we began to talk of actors who’d won the triple crown — an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony. The first person accomplish that feat was Thomas Mitchell.
Mitchell, one of the best character actors of all time, is also famous for appearing in more classic films than another other performer. Film historians often cite 1939 as a banner year for Hollywood. Of the dozens of successful films from that year Mitchell costarred in five.
FIVE memorable films in one year.
What are the titles, you ask? Well, there was director William Dieterle’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” plus Howard Hawks’ “Only Angels Have Wings” with Cary Grant. Then there was John Ford’s “Stagecoach,” was that western throwaway with John Wayne. And don’t forget Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.”
And, oh yeah (we almost forgot), there was that little picture called “Gone With The Wind.”
It was in “Gone With the Wind,” portraying Scarlett O’Hara’s father, that Mitchell has the classic lines about Tara and “Land is the Only Thing That Matters.” And Mitchell won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the alcoholic “Doc”in “Stagecoach.”
His career flourished throughout the 40s and 50s. He scored in hits such as “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “High Noon.” When he turned his talents to TV he was equally successful. He won an Emmy in 1952.
Then in 1953, he became the First Triple Crown Winner of Actors when he won a Tony for his performance in “Hazel Flagg,” the 1953 stage musical version of the classic 1937 film “Nothing Sacred.”
No surprise that when Mitchell came to Hollywood in 1935, at the relatively late age of 46, he had already established a solid foundation as a theater director and actor. Studio bosses had a way of acknowledging talent when they saw it, and cast him almost immediately in substantial parts in good pictrures.
Our triple crown winner — one of the great character actors in Hollywood history.