12 September 2009 | Cheyenne-Bodie
Cameron Mitchell's first series
Forty-four year old Cameron Mitchell played John Lackland. Lackland was an efficiency expert in San Francisco who apparently got fed up obsessing about worker productivity. Lackland now spent his days on a South Sea island being as unproductive as humanly possible.
This 1962 syndicated show was produced by ITC ("The Saint"). "The Beachcomber" may have been inspired by the much more dramatically ambitious "Adventures in Paradise" (1959-1962). Mitchell was almost certainly a better actor than Gardner McKay, but somehow in this show he wasn't as much fun to watch.
It might have been more interesting to follow John Lackland back in his efficiency expert days in San Franciso. I bet he lived in a great penthouse apartment, drove a cool sports car, dated glamorous woman, and solved fascinating problems for his employers. He was probably a much more dynamic hero in his working days than after he "retired" to the life of a lazy beachcomber.
The executive producer of "The Beachcomber" was Robert Stambler, who went on to be a producer of "Hawaii 5-0". The producer was Nat Perrin, who was later writer/producer of "The Adams Family". Elmer Bernstein ("The Magnificent Seven") is credited with the theme music.
The creator of "The Beachcomber" was Walter Brown Newman, who was nominated for an Oscar three times. Newman's films included "Ace in the Hole" (1951), "The Man With the Golden Arm" (1955), "Crime and Punishment, USA" (1959), "The Interns" (1962), and "Cat Ballou" (1966). He is said to have worked on the script for "The Magnificent Seven". He also received an Emmy nomination for an episode of "The Richard Boone Show" (1963). A very interesting talent. I'd like to know more about him.
"The Beachcomber" ran for 39 episodes. Each episode of the adventure series was 30 minutes.
What the series needed was a strong co-star for Cameron Mitchell to play off of. In episode 18, forty year old Don Megowan joined the cast as Captain Huckabee. (Huckabee had been played in an earlier episode by Adam West.) Near the end of the run, Megowan was starring in episodes alone. Apparently Mitchell got tired of the series. Megowan was 6 feet 6 inches tall and ruggedly handsome. Megowan looked a lot like Rod Cameron, whose brother he played in "The Man Who Died Twice" (1958). "The Beachcomber" was one of Megowan's rare leading man performances, and he was very good.
Cameron Mitchell had been a bombardier during World War ll. In 1948 (at age 30) he was in the original Broadway production of "Death of a Salesman" with Lee J. Cobb, Mildred Dunnock, and Arthur Kennedy. He was a fine contract player at 20th Centuury Fox during the 1950's. One of his best films there was in Martin Ritt's "No Down Payment", where he played Troy Boone, Joanne Woodward's disturbed husband.
Perhaps Mitchell's greatest performance was in "Monkey on My Back" (1957). Mitchell played boxer Barney Ross who develops a drug habit during World War II. Andre De Toth directed the film based on Ross' book.
In the early 1970's I saw Mitchell on "The Merv Griffin Show" where he claimed he had turned down the lead in "The French Connection" because he didn't like the script. But it is hard to believe Cameron turned down much work. Unlike beachcomber John Lackland, Cameron Mitchell never stopped working.