Gordon Mitchell was one of that group of body builders-turned-actors who achieved cinematic fame during the 1960s, specializing in European sword-and-sandal films. Born Charles Allen Pendleton in Denver, CO, he was raised in Inglewood, CA, in the wake of his parents' divorce. He developed an interest in body building as a boy in Denver, having to contend with bigger, tougher kids, and found that many people in his part of California, even in the 1930s, shared this enthusiasm. After serving in the military during World War II (with another stint in uniform for the Korean War), he returned to California in 1945 and became part of the physical culture scene at Muscle Beach. His physique brought him into the periphery of the acting profession, with a bit roles in movies like The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), The Ten Commandments (1956), and Li'l Abner (1959), and as part of Mae West's stage act during the 1950s.
In December 1960, in the wake of Steve Reeves' international success in Hercules and Hercules Unchained (both 1959), Pendleton was signed to star in an Italian-made sword-and-sandal epic called Atlas Against the Cyclop (1963). Renamed Gordon Mitchell, he flew to Italy and shot the film, which was in theaters in April 1961 and became a hit. His next movie, The Giant of Metropolis (1961), is one of the best-remembered films in the sword-and-sandal genre for its unusual mix of science fiction elements in a setting in the ancient world, and it was also hugely popular. Gordon Mitchell thus began an acting career that kept him in starring roles in Italy throughout the 1960s and beyond. After Brennus, Enemy of Rome (1960, also known as Battle of the Valiant), Vulcan, God of Fire (1961), Fury of Achilles (1962) , Caesar Against the Pirates (1962), and Revenge of the Gladiators (1962), he moved into Westerns, including Three Bullets for Ringo (1965), and spy movies (2+5: Mission Hydra ). Mitchell also worked in one Hollywood production, John Huston's Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as in Federico Fellini's Satyricon (1969).
Mitchell kept busy in roles of various sizes throughout the 1970s in movies as different as Dr. Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks (1973), Frankenstein '80 (1979), and Emmanuelle's Daughter (1979). He was somewhat less active in the 1980s, but appeared in films such as She (1984), starring Sandahl Bergman, Commando Invasion (1987), Blood Delerium (1989, with John Phillip Law), and Private Resort (1985, which he also co-wrote), playing character roles of varying sizes. Outside of movies, Mitchell also turned to painting as a profession, enjoying some respectable exposure at gallery shows in California, New York, and in Europe, and maintaining a fandom that included Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Mitchell's more recent screen credits have included 1987's The Alien Within, in which he worked with his 1960s body builder/actor colleague Richard Harrison, and Bikini Drive-In (1994), with Edward D. Wood Jr. alumnus Conrad Brooks. In 2002, he was reportedly preparing a book and a script dealing with the physical culture scene at Muscle Beach in the 1940s and '50s, and his experiences working with Mae West. He also participated in an interview and supplement for the DVD release of The Giant of Metropolis. In late September of 2003, Mitchell died of natural causes in Marina Del Ray, CA, at age 80.