INSP TV is adding The High Chaparral to its stable of shows, and kicking things off with a marathon on September 15. This has me thinking about Cameron Mitchell, who played Buck Cannon throughout the show’s run.
Mitchell had a pretty incredible career, beginning with offers to pitch for the major leagues — which he turned down to pursue acting — and serving as an Air Force bombardier in World War II. He played Happy Loman in Death Of A Salesman both on Broadway and film. Then there’s his film credits: John Ford’s They Were Expendable (1945), Command Decision (1947), House Of Bamboo (1955), Monkey On My Back (1957). Ride In The Whirlwind (1966, a great film) — even the voice of Christ in The Robe (1953).
He was very visible in 50s Westerns, too. Man In The Saddle (1951), Powder River (1953), Garden Of Evil (1954) and Tension At Table Rock (1956, above with Richard Egan), to name a few. Then came a busy period in Europe that resulted in Mario Bava’s Blood And Black Lace (1964), Minnesota Clay (1964) and Knives Of The Avenger (1966), among others.
He did some really terrible horror films in the 70s and 80s — The Toolbox Murders (1978) is atrocious — and he worked steadily on TV. (Name a show, and there’s a good chance he was on it at least once.) What always struck me was that he never seemed to walk through a part. He was too professional for that, the perfect example of a working actor. And while it sometimes seems beside the point, he was good. And quite often, as in Ride In The Whirlwind or The High Chaparral, he was excellent.