James Whitmore Biography

Birthday: 1921-10-01
Place of Birth: White Plains, New York
Height: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
Wiki Biography: Born on October 1, 1921, just outside New York City in White Plains, New York, veteran character actor 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 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 / director 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 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 from performing on the live stage. While the accolades he received on late-1940s 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 1950s. He alternately demonstrated both his 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 "Twilight Zone" (1959), "The Detectives" (1959) (working again with Robert Taylor), "Ben Casey" (1961) 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" (1976) 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 1970s 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" (1997) in the late 1990s. A household face in commercials as well, one of his 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 his 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.

James WhitmorePhotos & Pictures

James Whitmore James Whitmore James Whitmore James Whitmore James Whitmore James Whitmore

Filmography

TV Title Appeared As Year Genre
Kraft Television Theatre Senator Edmund G. Ross 1947 - 1958
The Asphalt Jungle Gus Minissi 1950 Crime
T.H.E.M. Police Sgt. Ben Peterson 1954 Horror
The Last Frontier 1955 History
The Law and Mr. Jones 1960 Drama
Kraft Suspense Theatre 1963 Crime
A Ring of Endless Light 2002 Drama
The Racing Chef Dr. Vincent Campanelli 2010 Action
Ball Boys Kinnie 2011
Movies Title Appeared As Year Genre
Battleground 1949 Romance, 0
The Undercover Man 1949 Crime, Drama
The Asphalt Jungle Gus Minissi 1950 Comedy, 0, Game Show
The Next Voice You Hear 1951 Drama
Above and Beyond Maj. Uanna 1952 0
All the Brothers Were Valiant 1953 Adventure, Drama, Romance
Kiss Me, Kate 1953 Comedy, Musical, Romance
Them! Police Sgt. Ben Peterson 1954 Sci Fi, Horror
Them Police Sgt. Ben Peterson 1954 Sci Fi, Horror
Battle Cry 1955 0, Biography
Oklahoma! Mr. Carnes 1956 Musical, Romance
Oklahoma Mr. Carnes 1956 Musical, Romance
The Last Frontier 1956 History
The Eddy Duchin Story 1956 Drama, Music
The Deep Six 1958
Who Was That Lady? 1960 Comedy
Black Like Me 1964
Madigan Chief Inspector Charles Kane 1968
Guns of the Magnificent Seven Levi 1969 Fantasy, 0
Tora! Tora! Tora! Vice Adm. William F. 'Bull' Halsey Jr. 1970 0, 0, Romance
The Harrad Experiment 1973
Give 'em Hell, Harry! 1975
The First Deadly Sin 1980 Thriller
Don't Cry, It's Only Thunder Major Flaherty 1982
The Adventures of Mark Twain Mark Twain 1985 Animation, Adventure, Family
Dinosaurs 1989
Old Explorers Leinen Roth 1990 Drama
The Shawshank Redemption Brooks Hatlen 1994 Crime, Drama
The Relic Dr. Albert Frock 1997 Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Here's to Life! Gus Corley 2000 Drama
The Majestic Stan Keller 2001 Drama, Romance
A Ring of Endless Light 2002 Drama, Family
Where the Red Fern Grows Grandpa 2003 0