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James Whitmore

Born October 1, 1921 in White Plains, New York, U.S.
Born on October 1, 1921, just outside New York City in White Plains, New York, character veteran James Whitmore was well regarded in his early years for his award-winning dramatic capabilities on Broadway and in films. Later he conquered TV with the same trophy-winning results. The son of James Allen Whitmore and wife Florence Crane, he was educated at Connecticut's Choate School after receiving a football scholarship. He later earned his BA from Yale University in 1944 before serving with the Marines in World War II. Following his discharge he prepared for the stage under the G.I. bill at the American Theatre Wing, where he met first wife Nancy Mygatt. They went on to have three sons together -- Steve, Dan and actor James Whitmore Jr.. Applause and subsequent kudos came quite swiftly for Whitmore under both the Broadway and film banners. After appearing with the Peterborough, New Hampshire Players in the summer of 1947 participating in the play "The Milky Way," Whitmore made an auspicious Broadway debut as Tech Sergeant Evans in "Command Decision" later that year. His gritty performance reaped the stage acting trifecta -- Tony, Donaldson and Theatre World awards --in one fell swoop. He often remarked that most of his satisfaction came performing on the live stage. While the accolades he received on late 40s Broadway perked up Hollywood's ears, the film version of Command Decision (1948) starred Clark Gable and was filmed without Whitmore. Song-and-dance star Van Johnson, who was looking for straight, serious roles after a vastly successful musical career, was given Whitmore's coveted part. The disappointment didn't last long. Whitmore made his film bow with a prime role in the documentary-styled crime thriller The Undercover Man (1949) alongside Glenn Ford and Nina Foch, and merited equal attention with his second appearance in the war picture Battleground (1949). Following its release, Whitmore was the talk of the town once again at awards time -- this time in Hollywood. Grabbing the Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for "support actor" for his efforts, he went on to find a solid footing in films throughout the early part of the 1950s decade. Hardly the handsome, matinée lead type, he nevertheless primed himself for leading man success. Whitmore's talent, charisma and fortitude earned him a number of starring roles as well as top supports in quality pictures. Gruff on the edges with a softer inner core, he appeared opposite Nancy Davis [Reagan] in the inspirational drama The Next Voice You Hear... (1950) as a religious, morally-minded family man; showed off his saltier side alongside Marjorie Main in Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone (1950); and ably portrayed both a pathetic crook in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and a level-minded security chief in the stoic military drama Above and Beyond (1952) with Robert Taylor. Elsewhere, he played it strictly for laughs as a Runyonesque gangster in the classic MGM musical Kiss Me Kate (1953) partnered with Keenan Wynn; and portrayed a valiant cop fighting off gigantic mutant ants in Them! (1954), one of the more intelligent sci-fi dramas of the 50s. He alternately demonstrated both a gentle and crustier sides in a queue of roles that ranged from a social worker in Crime in the Streets (1956) to Tyrone Power's manager in The Eddy Duchin Story (1956). As his film career began to wane in the late 1950s, the craggy-faced, bush-browed actor turned more and more to TV with memorable roles in "The Twilight Zone," "The Detectives" (again with Robert Taylor), "Ben Casey" and a host of live theater dramas. He also starred in his own series as attorney Abraham Lincoln Jones in "The Law and Mr. Jones" (1960) which lasted two seasons. Every so often a marvelous character turn would rear its head that had him turning back to films. Notable were his white man passing for black in the controversial social drama Black Like Me (1964), his weary veteran cop in Madigan (1968), and his brash, authoritative simian in the classic sci-fi Planet of the Apes (1968). Divorced from wife Nancy after two decades, Whitmore married actress Audra Lindley, Mrs. Roper of "Three's Company" (1977) TV fame, in 1972. The couple forged a strong acting partnership as well, particularly on stage, and maintained a professional relationship long after their 1979 divorce. Whitmore and Lindley were lauded for their appearances together in such plays as "The Magnificent Yankee," "On Golden Pond," "The Visit," "Foxfire" and "Love Letters," among others. In the 70s Whitmore became a magnificent one-man acting machine on stage portraying such inspired notables as Will Rogers, Harry Truman and Theodore Roosevelt. He disappeared into these historical legends so efficiently that even the powers-that-be had the good sense to preserve them on film and TV in the form of Will Rogers' USA (1972) (TV); Give 'em Hell, Harry! (1975), which earned him his second Oscar nomination; and Bully: An Adventure with Teddy Roosevelt (1978). Earning distinction throughout his six-decade career, Whitmore showed worthy Oscar potential once again with his touching role as an aged, ill-fated prison parolee in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and copped an Emmy for a recurring part on "The Practice" in the late 90s. A household face in commercials as well, one of his ultimate passions was gardening and he eventually became the commercial spokesman for Miracle-Gro plant food. Whitmore remarried his first wife Nancy briefly before finding a lasting twilight union with fourth wife, actress-turned-author Noreen Nash, whom he married broaching age 80 in 2001. Whitmore died of lung cancer on February 6, 2009, after having been diagnosed in mid-November 2008.
Actor
as "Grandfather"
as "Stan Keller"
Swing Vote (1999)
as "Daniel Morissey"
The Relic (1997)
as "Dr. Albert Frock"
as "Brooks Hatlen"
as "Leinen Roth"
as "Lester Babbitt"
Nuts (1987)
as "Judge Stanley Murdoch"
as "Mark Twain (voice)"
as "Clifford Casey"
as "Narrator"
as "Dr. Sanford Ferguson"
as "George Wheeler"
as "Teddy Roosevelt"
as "Priester"
as "Capt. James 'Jim' Gutterman"
as "Harry S. Truman"
as "General Oliver O. Howard"
as "Antonio"
as "Grandpa"
High Crime (1973)
as "Commissioner Aldo Scavino"
as "Philip Tenhausen"
as "Joshua Everette"
as "Frank Phillips"
as "Overman"
as "Vice Admiral William F. 'Bull' Halsey Jr."
The Split (1968)
as "Herb Sutro"
Madigan (1968)
as "Chief Insp. Charles Kane"
as "President of the Assembly"
as "Capt. Mike Riley"
as "Captain Shipley"
Chuka (1967)
as "Lou Trent"
as "Captain Ewell"
as "John Finley Horton"
as "Harry Powell"
as "Monk Johnson"
as "Cmdr. Warren Meredith"
as "Rudy Krist"
as "Ben Wagner"
as "Lou Sherwood"
as "Gus"
Oklahoma! (1955)
as "Mr. Carnes"
as "SSgt. / Maj . / Col. Ty 'Dad' Whitman"
Battle Cry (1955)
as "MSgt. Mac"
Them! (1954)
as "Sgt. Ben Peterson"
as "Sgt. Elliott"
as "Mr. Remlick, Lawyer"
as "Slug"
as "Charles 'Chico' Menlow"
as "Maj William M. Uanna"
as "Sergeant 'Bat' Batterson"
as "Lou Hopke"
as "Mr. Stacey"
as "Angel (voice) (uncredited)"
as "Old Bill (uncredited)"
as "John J. Malone"
as "Joe Smith"
as "Gus Minissi"
as "Vincent Maran"
as "Clint Priest"
as "Kinnie"
as "George Pappas"
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