Job Actor, director, playwright, screenwriter
Years active 1916-62
Known for Irish-tinged performances
Top Roles Diz Moore, Uncle Billy Bailey, Tom 'Tommie' Blue, Mayor Jonas Henderson , Willie Tulloch
Top GenresDrama, Romance, Comedy, War, Film Adaptation, Adventure
Top TopicsBook-Based, World War II, Romance (Drama)
Top Collaborators (Director), (Director), (Producer), (Producer)
Shares birthday with Yul Brynner, Tab Hunter, Alfred E. Green  see more..

Thomas Mitchell Overview:

Legendary character actor, Thomas Mitchell, was born on Jul 11, 1892 in Elizabeth, NJ. Mitchell died at the age of 70 on Dec 17, 1962 in Beverly Hills, CA and was laid to rest in Chapel Of The Pines Crematory (ashes in vaultage) Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

Early Life

Thomas John Mitchell was born on July 11th, 1892 in the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey. He was born to Irish immigrants that came from a family of journalists and civil service workers. He attended the now defunct St. Patrick High School, where he first became interested in theater. However, after graduating Mitchell decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and brother by taking a job as a newspaper reporter. He went to work for his brother, John, the managing editor for the Newark Journal before heading south for a brief stint at the Baltimore Sun. He then worked in cities such as Washington and Pittsburgh. Mitchell, however, soon found himself spending more time writing theatrical skits then chasing the latest news stories and decided it was time for a career change.

Early Stage Career

After leaving the world of journalism, Mitchell threw himself into the realm of the theater. He first began his new journey by writing comic skits for anyone who would take them. In 1913 he began his career as actor after meeting veteran Broadway actor, Charles Coburn, who at the time had founded his own company, the Coburn Players. Coburn then offered Mitchell an opportunity to gain some valuable acting experience with his company. For the next three years Mitchell traveled through out the United States honing his skills as actor through the works of William Shakespeare. In 1916 Mitchell made his Broadway debut in the Roi Cooper Megrue and Irvin S. Cobb penned Under Sentence. He then immersed himself in the world of Broadway building his reputation as an actor with small roles in plays like Crops and Croppers, Redemption, Not so Long Ago, and The Playboy of the Western World. During this time Mitchell also made his film debut with small role in the film Six Cylinder Love

After decade on the Broadway stage, Mitchell finally received his first starring role in the Marc Connelly penned comedy The Wisdom Tooth. The play was hit and ran for over 150 performances. Not only a skillful actor, Mitchell also spent his time on Broadway working behind the scenes as a writer. He co-scripted the play Glory Hallelujah with Bertram Bloch, which opened at the Broadhurst Theater in 1926. Also the play was a flop, only lasting 15 performances, Mitchell was none-the-less proud of his work. Also the play was not a hit, Glory Hallelulah did demonstrate Mitchell's writing abilities and soon the actor found himself serving dual roles as writer-actor for the plays Little Accident which lasted over 300 performances. Clearly something of a jack-of-all-trades, Mitchell then took on the third role as director for the 1931 play Cloudy with Showers. For the next five years Mitchell continued to work on the Broadway stage as writer-actor-director with plays like Honeymoon and Fly Away Home. Mitchell even took a stab at producing with Twenty-five Dollars an Hour. After working on 29 Broadway plays over the span of 20-years, the veteran stage actor decided to expand his horizons and go west to Hollywood.

Film Career

Mitchell arrived in Hollywood in 1936 and began his filmic career with a minor role in Dorothy Arzner film Craig's Wife. He followed that up with more small roles in film's like Theodora Goes Wild and When Your in Love. In 1937 he found his breakout role as the swindling Henry Barnard in Frank Capra's fantasy film Lost Horizon. Able to display both his dramatic skill and comedic timing, Mitchell's performance got him immediate notice form critics and audiences. Later that year he would receive an Academy Award nomination for his performance in John Ford's adventure film The Hurricane and soon after became one of Hollywood's most sought after character actors.


Much like the rest of Hollywood, 1939 proved to be a particularly astounding year for Mitchell. He appeared in five films that year, each one of the becoming a well-remembered classic. First appeared as Doc Boone in John Ford's revolutionary western Stage Coach for which he go on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He further showed his versatility as actor with supporting roles in Only Angels Have Wings, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. His most memorable role of the year, and perhaps even his whole career, was as Scarlett O' Hara's father, the Gerald O'Hara, in Gone with the Wind.

Mitchell remained a popular, in demand actor into the next decade, playing a large variety of roles. In 1940 he appeared in five films including Swiss Family Robinson, Our Town and Angels Over Broadway. In 1942 he starred opposite Tyrone Power as his second in command in the swashbuckling pirate adventure flick The Black Swan. Two years later he reminded the world of his great dramatic prowess, playing the atheist doctor, Willie Tulloch, opposite a young Gregory Peck in Kingdom of Heaven. His most famous and remembered role of the decade came in 1946 as the well meaning but dim-witted Uncle Billy in It's Wonderful Life, whose mistake sets in motion one of the most beloved Christmas films of all time. He finished out the decade with appearances in films like Silver Rover, The Big Wheel and High Barbaree.

Move to Television

As the new decade began, Mitchell began exploring his options as an actor. He soon found himself primarily gracing the small screen, making a name for himself in the growing medium of television. Like his transition from stage to screen, his move the large screen to the small seemed, well, seamless. Soon he was appearing on some of the most popular series of he day including Suspense, The Doctor, The United States Steel Hour and Climax. Although Mitchell was now working primarily on television, that does not mean he abandoned the big screen altogether. In 1952 he appeared in High Noon as Mayor Jonas Henderson and also won an Emmy Award for his television work. The next year he won a Tony award for his work in the Broadway play Hazel Flagg, making one of the few actors to earn the "Big 3" acting awards. He returned to the big screen in 1954 for the films Secret of the Incas and Destry. On the small screen he appeared in TV movies like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Backbone of America before starring in his own short-lived series Mayor of the Town. He starred in his own series once again with 1959's Glencannon.

Later Career and Life

In 1960 the veteran actor made one more stop on the New York stage for a single performance in Cut of the Axe. He then returned to Hollywood for his television work. In 1960 he appeared in five series including The Right Man, Sunday Showcase, and The Islanders. The next he made his final television appearance in the TV movie The Joke and the Valley. That year he also made his final big screen appearance in the Frank Capra film Pocketful of Miracles before finally retiring after five decades in the business.  He then quietly retired for his final yeas. Thomas Mitchell died on December 17th, 1962. He was 70 years old.

(Source: article by Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub).



Thomas Mitchell was nominated for two Academy Awards, winning one for Best Supporting Actor for Stagecoach (as Dr. Josiah Boone) in 1939.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1937Best Supporting ActorThe Hurricane (1937)Doctor KersaintNominated
1939Best Supporting ActorStagecoach (1939)Dr. Josiah BooneWon

He was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the categories of Motion Pictures and Television.

BlogHub Articles:

as Gerald O'Hara

By Amanda Garrett on Nov 18, 2014 From Old Hollywood Films

Legendary character actor 's portrayal of Gerald O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939) was one of the highlights of his career. Here, in the film's opening scene, he tells Scarlett, "Land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for."... Read full article


By Aurora on Nov 17, 2014 From Once Upon a Screen

If there’s a name synonymous with versatility in acting that name is?. ?Equally adept at comedy and drama, Mitchell made memorable appearances in some of the greatest movies of the golden age. ?He was Gerald O’Hara in Victor Fleming’s GONE WITH THE WIND, Doc Boone in... Read full article

Classic Movie Legend Tribute:

By Annmarie Gatti on Jul 11, 2013 From Classic Movie Hub Blog

Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, Character Actor , born July 11, 1892! Veteran Character Actor has appeared in such a wonderful array of iconic films — and has portrayed such a diverse palette of characters — that it’s almost hard to know where... Read full article

Supporting Actors:

By Duke Mantee on Apr 20, 2012 From Spoilers

The name may not be instantly recognizable, but his list of credits should illicit a knowing ?ohhh, that guy.? Mitchell was born in 1892 in New Jersey, to Irish parents. The on-screen persona he created was most definitely Irish, usually hard-drinking, stout, and usually one who pul... Read full article

See all articles

Thomas Mitchell Quotes:

Tom Destry: What about the Doc? Is he any good?
Reginald T. 'Rags' Barnaby: I had a dog once. He got all swelled up. Doc wanted to operate. The next day I had six of the prettiest puppies you've ever seen.

Jed Waterbury: [to Henry after getting calls objecting to the story] The buzzards are swoopin' down on us, Henry!

Gerald O'Hara: Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O'Hara, that Tara, that land doesn't mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts.

read more quotes from Thomas Mitchell...

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Best Supporting Actor Oscar 1939

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Thomas Mitchell Facts
He was interred at the Vaultage of the Chapel of the Pines in Los Angeles.

The youngest of seven children born to Irish immigrants who settled in New Jersey, his father James Mitchell, worked in the newspaper industry and died when Thomas was a young boy; his mother's name was Mary.

Daughter Anne, born of his first marriage, was his only child.

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