When I was growing up in Louisville, Kentucky - disguised to myself, deep in my nature as it is with most boys - I invented some people I could be. I had no idea I was acting a role as it was all real to me. If someone asked me then who I was I would look blank and consider the question as stupid; it never occurred to me that I had no idea who I was.
Much later I realized, after much risk in trial and error, that I didn't really exist. This served my acting in a very special way; not being anything but a blank. I identified with every part and every emotion. When I called myself "me," "I," or "Mitch", the ego was reinforced. The more successful I became the easier it was to take credit for what "I" accomplished. This course of action is deadly in the long run and not in accordance with reality. Then it dawned on me that I was not all these characters I played. Only then, the astonishing thought came to me in the form of the question "Who am I?" and it stopped me. I began to revise my life. This, of course, is an ongoing process.
I was born in January of 1934- the same month and year that Hitler came to power. This I would always toss into the convivial air of the bar. As an aside, I was born to a father who was a salesman and a mother who was a writer. They lived as well as they could and raised me in the only way that that was possible and I became the person that I am. I was, and am, completely equipped to be an actor.
After I left the Navy it took less than a year to find and acting troupe. I started in, as Eugene O'Neill's father said over Andover, "I studied Shakespeare like you would study the Bible" - that is, with great interest and diligence. I was doing a play every night for fifteen years; in theatres, on and off Broadway, road shows and summer stock.
Just a few of the great parts I was privileged to play were Hamlet, Iago, Leontes, Tullus Aufidius, Petruchio, and other parts in twenty of the thirty six plays Shakespeare wrote.
I can't count the number of plays I have done, but it could easily be over one hundred. Jason in Medea; Agammemnon in Iphigenia; Tyrone in Long Days Journey Into Night, Jamie from Moon For The Misbegotten, The Ape in The Hairy Ape from the Eugene O'Neill canon.
In 1969 I was on the road with Moon for the Misbegotten playing in Los Angeles when I was hired into the movies. In the 1950's and 60's I had done much acting in the great early television in New York. Theatre Guild On The Air; Studio One; The beginning film shows Naked City and The Defenders. In 1957 I played in a movie with Robert Mitchum called Thunder Road - which, years later, became a cult movie. I was twenty-three years old and on my first movie set. I was nervous as hell and stayed to the side away formt he camera. I had a small scene with Mitchum who was just short of being a god and at the height of his popularity. He stood by the camera joking with the crew. At last I heard my scene called, at which point Mitchum walked over to me, was silent for a second and then said, "Remember, I'm big Mitch and you're Little Mitch." He looked grim then burst out laughing and said, "Let 's do this fucking thing."
We were on location is North Carolina and when we finished shooting Thunder Road, Mitchum and his stand in and I drove across the country to Hollywood. It took six days - and I may write a book about that trip. I only stayed several months and then back to New York for another twelve years where I did my most productive theatre work. Then in 1969 I was back in Hollwyood and had a starring role in a big western, Monte Walsh, with Lee Marvin, Jean Moreau, and Jack Palance. So, I left the stage and became a movie actor.By the way, the part I played in this western film was "The second best bronc rider in the west" and I had never been in a horse in my life. I earned the apt title of "The Lincoln Center Kid." That's how they do it in Hollywood. That was 1969. Although I have done several plays sonce and went to New York twice to work - first in Medea which ran a year on Broadway with Zoe Caldwell and Judith Anderson. Also, several years later, I was in a revival of Arthur Miller's The Price.
I have worked and lived in Los Angeles since and have appeared in fifty or so films and done much television. Most recently, in the hit show Dharma and Greg, which ran primetime on the network for five years.