Mitchell in 1915
December 10, 1890|
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
October 16, 1957 (aged 66)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Homicide by strangulation|
|Resting place||Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
Rhea Mitchell (December 10, 1890 – September 16, 1957) was an American film actress and screenwriter. She began her career during the silent film era, and went on to appear in over 100 films. In her early career, she earned the name of "the little stunt girl" because of her willingness to attempt thrilling scenes in motion pictures. Mitchell's first major role was in On the Night Stage (1915), followed by a part in The Diamond from the Sky, a serial film starring Lottie Pickford.
After the advent of sound pictures, Mitchell continued to work in film, though often appearing uncredited, before retiring in 1952. In 1957, Mitchell was murdered by a tenant in an apartment building she owned in Los Angeles, California. She is interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Mitchell was born on December 10, 1890 in Portland, Oregon, to Lillie and Willis N. Mitchell. Mitchell was raised in Portland, and was an only child. At age seventeen, Mitchell was given her first role in a local theater production.
Mitchell began her career in 1909 playing in the Baker Theater Stock Company in her hometown of Portland. Between 1911 and 1913, Mitchell lived in Spokane and Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, appearing in theatrical productions, before settling in San Francisco. In San Francisco, she was a part of the Orpheum Circuit and at the Alcazar Theater. Mitchell made her film debut in 1912 with the New York Motion Picture Corporation  and would eventually appear in over 100 films during her career. She appeared a number of times with Western star William S. Hart playing a leading role in those films. In 1916 she played in The Brink with Forrest Winant and Arthur Maude.
After 1917, her roles became smaller and she appeared in a handful of films through the mid-30s and in several bit parts during the early 1950s which often went uncredited. In 1936, she appeared in an uncredited part in San Francisco, starring Clark Gable, and directed by W. S. Van Dyke, who had directed Mitchell in The Hawk's Trail in 1916. In addition to her acting work, Mitchell also worked as a screenwriter.
After her retirement from films, Mitchell managed a large apartment house in Los Angeles. While managing a second apartment in 1957, the La Brea District Apartments, a disgruntled tenant named Sonnie Hartford, Jr., strangled her with the cord of her blue silk dressing gown. An article in the Press-Telegram read in part,
A search still was being made by police for a 'baldish, middleaged man' who reportedly kept company recently with the never-married Miss Mitchell. Seattle police were asked to question Miss Mitchell's only known relative, an aunt, Mrs. John Benson. Police said there was no sign of a struggle or criminal attack. Her body was discovered by the houseboy. The actress, known as Ginger to her friends, had played opposite such silent film stars as William S. Hart, Tom Mix, King Baggot and Bert Lytell.... She had appeared in film bit roles as recently as 1951.
Mitchell is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.
|1912||The Hidden Trail|
|1913||An Indian's Gratitude|
|1913||An Indian's Honor|
|1914||The Fires of Ambition||Mrs. Patton|
|1914||In the Southern Hills||Nan Hopkins|
|1915||The Scourge of the Desert||Ellen Holt||Alternative title: Reformed Outlaw|
|1915||On the Night Stage||Belle Shields|
|1915||The Diamond from the Sky|
|1915||Tools of Providence||Daisy Austin|
|1915||The Beckoning Flame||Elsa Arlington|
|1916||The Sable Curse||Mary||Alternative title: The Sable Blessing|
|1916||Sequel to the Diamond from the Sky||Esther Stanley|
|1916||The Three Musketeers||Constance Bonacieux|
|1916||The Man from Manhattan||Virginia Winters|
|1917||The Gilded Youth||Mary|
|1917||Whither Thou Goest||Maizie|
|1918||Honor's Cross||Jane Cabot|
|1918||The Goat||Bijou Lamour|
|1919||The Money Corral||Janet Collins|
|1919||The Hawk's Trail||Jean Drake|
|1920||The Devil's Claim||Virginia Crosby|
|1920||The Scoffer||Alice Porn|
|1921||A Ridin' Romeo||Mabel Brentwood|
|1921||The Innocent Cheat||Peggy Adair|
|1923||The Greatest Menace||Mary Lewis|
|1924||The Other Kind of Love||The Chorus Girl|
|1927||The Home Trail|
|1928||Danger Patrol||Gladys Lawlor|
|1933||The Big Bluff|
|1934||Behold My Wife||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1934||One Hour Late||Stage mother||Uncredited|
|1936||Mysterious Crossing||Hall clerk||Uncredited|
|1938||The Ship That Died|
|1940||I Take This Woman||Decker's Secretary||Uncredited|
|1943||Harrigan's Kid||Woman at Race Track||Uncredited|
|1943||The Cross of Lorraine||Mother||Uncredited|
|1944||Marriage Is a Private Affair||Nurse||Uncredited|
|1944||Mrs. Parkington||Mrs. Humphrey||Uncredited|
|1945||The Hidden Eye||Pedestrian||Uncredited|
|1946||The Hoodlum Saint||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1947||The Mighty McGurk||Woman at Children's Society||Uncredited|
|1947||Green Dolphin Street||Emily||Uncredited|
|1948||The Bride Goes Wild||Wedding Guest||Uncredited|
|1948||State of the Union||Jeny||Alternative title: The World and His Wife|
|1949||In the Good Old Summertime||Woman at window||Uncredited|
|1950||Stars In My Crown||Mrs. Backett||Uncredited|
|1950||The Next Voice You Hear...||Woman in church||Uncredited|
|1951||The Unknown Man||Maid||Uncredited|
|1951||It's a Big Country||School teacher||Uncredited|
|1952||My Man and I||Nurse||Uncredited|
|1952||The Member of the Wedding||Townswoman||Uncredited|
- Daisy Dean "News Notes From Movieland", Janesville Daily Gazette (Wednesday, October 4, 1916) p 6, Janesville, Wisconsin
- "Rhea Mitchell in household of * N Mitchell, Precinct 44 Portland city Ward 9, Multnomah, Oregon, United States; citing sheet 4B, family 88, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,241,350." U.S. Census, 1900. January 22, 2015. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
- Wadleigh, Ryan (July 4, 2013). "Silent film actress: Rhea Mitchell". Ryan's Dead Ancestors. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
- The Moving Picture World, Vol. 29 (1916) Chalmers Publishing Company, New York
- "Unique Theater", Marshfield Times (April 26, 1916) p4, Marshfield, Wisconsin
- "Brilliant Picture to Close Its Show Tomorrow Night". San Jose News. July 17, 1936. p. 27. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
- "Ex-Star Slain, Jail Houseboy" (September 17, 1957) Long Beach, California Press-Telegram p 1.
- Los Angeles Times, "Ex-Actress Strangled", September 17, 1957, Page 38.
- "Rhea Mitchell". University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
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