Scoey Mitchell, the comedian and actor whose busy television career in the 1970s included a co-starring role in a groundbreaking comedy series adaptation of Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park, died March 19 at a health care facility in Torrance, CA. He was 92.
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His death was announced by his brother, the jazz pianist Billy Mitchell, who posted the news on Facebook. “He had a very successful and colorful career during 70s and 80s as an actor, writer and film director,” Billy Mitchell wrote. “He sacrificed much in the struggle to get blacks behind the camera, into production and into positions that are taken for granted today. Its important to remember those few that opened up the doors for so many!”
Mitchell, who sometimes used the family spelling “Mitchlll,” already was familiar to TV viewers from his late-1960s stand-up, talk show and variety show appearances on The Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Mike Douglas Show and numerous others before he landed the co-starring role opposite Tracy Reed in the 1970 sitcom Barefoot in the Park.
With Black actors in the newlywed roles made famous on Broadway and in the 1967 feature film by white actors (Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in the movie), the series was a pioneering, if at just one season short-lived, effort. Reports at the time suggest Mitchell was fired from the show after clashing over creative differences with producers, and ABC canceled the low-rated sitcom rather than find a new actor.
Mitchell returned to series television in 1974 with a two-year recurring role on Rhoda, in which he played a co-worker of Rhoda’s husband Joe.
A frequent and witty guest on game shows of the era, Mitchell appeared often on The Hollywood Squares, Match Game, Tattletales, Password Plus and Super Password.
In 1972, Mitchell wrote and hosted the TV special The Scoey Mitchlll Show, and in 1984 he wrote and co-directed a TV movie titled Me & Mrs. C, about a young Black female ex-convict who lives in a boarding house owned by an elderly white woman. The movie was later adapted as a sitcom in 1986.
Born Roscoe Mitchlll Jr. in Newburgh, NY, Mitchell continued acting, writing and directing for television well into the 1980s, if more sporadically than in his ’70s heyday. His most prominent role on the big screen came in 1985, when he played the father of Richard Pryor’s in the movie Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling.
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