James Whitmore


Actor
James Whitmore

About

Also Known As
James Allen Whitmore Jr.
Birth Place
White Plains, New York
Born
October 01, 1921
Died
February 06, 2009

Biography

A sturdy and earnest performer on stage, television and in numerous films, James Whitmore was a much-honored character actor and occasional lead whose career stretched from the late 1940s to the early 21st century. Versatile in almost every genre of film, Whitmore was frequently called upon to play can-do, salt of the earth characters like his combat-weary platoon leader in "Battleground...

Photos & Videos

Them! - Lobby Cards
Battleground - Action Publicity Stills
Kiss Me Kate - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Family & Companions

Audra Lindley
Wife
Actor. Second wife; married in 1971; divorced in 1978; died on October 16, 1997.
Nancy Mygatt
Wife
Third wife; married on March 24, 1978; divorced.
Noreen Nash
Wife
Actor, writer. Married on August 7, 2001.

Notes

In February 2000, Whitmore was presented with the Will Rogers Communicator Award.

Biography

A sturdy and earnest performer on stage, television and in numerous films, James Whitmore was a much-honored character actor and occasional lead whose career stretched from the late 1940s to the early 21st century. Versatile in almost every genre of film, Whitmore was frequently called upon to play can-do, salt of the earth characters like his combat-weary platoon leader in "Battleground" (1949) or the heroic state patrolman fighting giant ants in the sci-fi classic "Them!" (1954). Whitmore was a frequent guest star in television series and TV movies, as well as worked extensively on stage throughout his career, including solo performances as Will Rogers, Harry S. Truman and Theodore Roosevelt, which earned him the moniker "King of the One Man Show." In his seventh decade, he enjoyed a career boost with a moving performance as an elderly prisoner in "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994) and a 1999 Emmy Award for "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004). A generation of television viewers also knew him as the on-camera spokesman for Miracle-Gro garden products. The man simply would not slow down, an actor in his soul, performing well into late eighties.

Born James Allen Whitmore Jr. on Oct. 1, 1921 in White Plains, NY, he was the son of park commission official James Allen Whitmore and Florence Crane. He earned a BA from Yale University before joining the United States Marines and serving during World War II. After his discharge, he studied acting on the G.I. Bill at the prestigious American Theatre Wing. While there, Whitmore met the first of his three wives, Nancy Mygott, with whom he had three children, including James Whitmore Jr., who became a prolific television actor and director in his own right.

After making his theater debut in New Hampshire, he quickly graduated to Broadway, where he earned the Tony, Drama Desk and Theatre World Awards for the 1947 play "Command Decision." MGM quickly signed Whitmore under contract for the 1948 film version, but he was replaced by big movie star Van Johnson. Despite the obvious disappointment, he would make his film debut a year later in the crime thriller "The Undercover Man" (1949) and would go on to great demand after his war-weary portrayal in "Battleground" earned him nods for the Oscar and Golden Globe.

Whitmore alternated between featured and character roles and the occasional lead for much of the 1950s and 1960s. He was frequently cast in authoritative roles like the cop in "Them!" or a security officer working on the plans to drop the atomic bomb on Japan in "Above and Beyond" (1952). But he could be enormously sympathetic as well, as his wheel man in noir classic "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950) illustrated, or the bewildered family man (married to future First Lady Nancy Davis) who discovers that God is communicating with him through his radio in the campy "The Next Voice You Hear" (1950). He even proved to be a capable performer in musicals, as demonstrated by his crisp duet with Keenan Wynn - another unlikely song-and-dance man - on "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" in the MGM musical spectacular, "Kiss Me Kate" (1953).

Whitmore was seen largely on television during the 1960s; among his most memorable turns was "On Thursday We Leave For Home," the best of the hour-long episodes of "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1958-1964) as the leader of an interplanetary colony whose strict disciplinary rule unravels with the promise of a return trip to Earth. He also starred in two series during the decade - the first was "The Law and Mr. Jones" (ABC, 1960-62), with Whitmore as a tough but fair lawyer with the unlikely name of Abraham Lincoln Jones. Cancelled after its first season, audiences were so taken by Whitmore's performance that they launched a letter campaign to revive the show, which earned a second season as a result of their response. He was a criminology professor who teamed with an Italian orphan he met during World War II to solve crimes in "My Friend Tony" (ABC, 1969), which lasted less than one season. Whitmore was also onscreen during the decade, most notably in "Black Like Me" (1964) as a Caucasian journalist who disguises himself as a black man to investigate racial prejudice in the Deep South. And his resonant and commanding voice made instantly recognizable, despite layers of make-up, as the President of the Assembly in the original version of "Planet of the Apes" (1968).

Whitmore balanced a busy schedule in films and on television with theater work in the 1970s. He co-starred frequently with his second wife, Audra Lindley, in numerous productions during the decade, but earned greater acclaim for a string of one-man shows which showed his considerable knack for disappearing completely into the complexities of a character. "Will Rogers' USA" found him playing the legendary American humorist, while he tackled American presidents Harry S. Truman and Theodore Roosevelt in "Give 'Em Hell Harry" and "Bully," respectively. All three productions were filmed for theatrical or television release - "Will Rogers' USA" aired on CBS in 1972, while "Give 'Em Hell Harry" and "Bully: An Adventure with Teddy Roosevelt" played in theaters in 1975 and 1978. "Harry" was the most successful of the trio, earning Whitmore his second Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. Whitmore's other notable 1970s appearance included a small role in Ingmar Bergman's "The Serpent's Egg" (1977) and as Civil War general Oliver O. Howard in the 1975 TV movie, "I Will Fight No More Forever," which focused on the U.S. Army's campaign against the Nez Perce Indians.

Whitmore focused his energies on stage work during the 1980s, though there were still quality projects for him during the decade, including the lead in an all-star PBS version of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" (1986) and the judge in Barbra Streisand's overwrought legal drama "Nuts" (1987). His movie career got a well-deserved boost in 1994 with "The Shawshank Redemption," Frank Darabont's affecting drama about a friendship that exceeds the bounds of a draconian prison. Whitmore gave a finely nuanced performance as the jail's resident librarian, whose lengthy incarceration has made the idea of living in the outside world too confusing and painful to bear. His critically acclaimed turn led to more work in films and television; he had a recurring role on "The Practice" as mentor to Dylan McDermott's Bobby Donnell, and earned a 1999 Emmy for a story arc that found his character on trial for murder while suffering from dementia. Another Emmy nod came in 2003 as a retired senator and father to Josh Brolin's freshman politico in the short-lived "Mister Sterling" (NBC, 2003).

Whitmore's final feature film role to date was in Darabont's misguided Jim Carrey vehicle, "The Majestic," though he remained active on television and stage for several more years. In addition to his prolific acting career, Whitmore was a longtime spokesman for Miracle-Gro's garden products - due in part to his passion for gardening in his private life - and appeared in television commercials for the First Freedom First campaign, which advocated religious liberty and the separation of church and state in American politics.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Majestic (2001)
Here's To Life (2000)
Swing Vote (1999)
The Relic (1997)
Dr Albert Frock
Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (1995)
Himself
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Sky High (1990)
Old Explorers (1990)
Nuts (1987)
The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985)
Voice Of Mark Twain
The First Deadly Sin (1980)
Mark, I Love You (1980)
Rage (1980)
Bully (1978)
Theodore Roosevelt
The Serpent's Egg (1977)
I Will Fight No More Forever (1975)
General Oliver O Howard
Give 'Em Hell, Harry! (1975)
Harry S Truman
Where the Red Fern Grows (1974)
Grandpa
The Harrad Experiment (1973)
Philip Tenhausen
Chato's Land (1972)
Joshua Everette
If Tomorrow Comes (1971)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
Adm. William F. Halsey
Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969)
Levi Morgan
The Split (1968)
Herb Sutro
Nobody's Perfect (1968)
Mike Riley
Planet of the Apes (1968)
President of the Assembly
Madigan (1968)
Ch. Insp. Charles Kane
Waterhole #3 (1967)
Captain Shipley
Chuka (1967)
Trent
Black Like Me (1964)
John Finley Horton
Who Was That Lady? (1960)
Harry Powell
Face of Fire (1959)
Monk Johnson
The Restless Years (1958)
Editor Henderson
The Deep Six (1958)
Cmdr. Warren Meredith
The Young Don't Cry (1957)
Rudy Krist
The Last Frontier (1956)
Gus
The Eddy Duchin Story (1956)
Lou Sherwood
Crime in the Streets (1956)
Ben Wagner
Battle Cry (1955)
Sgt. Mac
The McConnell Story (1955)
Ty Whitman
Oklahoma! (1955)
Mr. [Andrew] Carnes
The Great Diamond Robbery (1954)
Remlick
The Command (1954)
Sgt. Elliot
Them! (1954)
Sgt. Ben Peterson
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Slug
All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953)
Fetcher
The Girl Who Had Everything (1953)
Charles "Chico" Menlow
Above and Beyond (1953)
Maj. [Bill] Uanna
Shadow in the Sky (1952)
Lou [Hopke]
It's a Big Country: An American Anthology (1952)
Traveler
Because You're Mine (1952)
Sgt. ["Bat"] Batterson
Angels in the Outfield (1951)
Angel's voice
Across the Wide Missouri (1951)
Old Bill
The Red Badge of Courage (1951)
Narrator
The Next Voice You Hear (1950)
Joe Smith, American
Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone (1950)
John J. Malone
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Gus Minissi
Please Believe Me (1950)
Vincent Maran
The Outriders (1950)
Clint Priest
Battleground (1949)
Kinnie
The Undercover Man (1949)
George Pappas

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (1995)
Other

Cast (Special)

The Roots of Roe (1997)
Narrator
NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT (1993)
Home on the Range (1992)
Voice
All My Sons (1987)
Joe Keller
Chesapeake Borne (1986)
Narrator
Love Those Trains (1984)
Narrator
Parade of Stars (1983)
General Electric's All-Star Anniversary (1978)
Celebration: The American Spirit (1976)
Will Rogers' U.S.A. (1972)
Will Rogers
The Man From Denver (1959)
Joel Begley (Guest)

Music (Special)

You're the Top: The Cole Porter Story (1990)
Song Performer

Cast (Short)

THE HOAXSTERS (1952)
Narrator

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

A Ring of Endless Light (2002)
Glory! Glory! (1989)
Lester Babbitt
Favorite Son (1988)
President Dan Baker
Celebrity (1984)
Clifford Casey
The Word (1978)

Life Events

1942

Served in the US Marines during WWII

1947

Made Broadway debut playing Sergeant in "Command Decision"

1947

TV debut, "Kraft Television Theater"

1947

Made professional acting debut with the Peterborough, New Hampshire stock company

1949

Earned a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination for playing a sergeant in "Battleground"

1949

Film acting debut, "The Undercover Man"

1951

Played featured role in "It's a Big Country"

1953

Teamed with Keenan Wynn as gangsters in the feature version of "Kiss Me Kate"

1954

Had a leading role in the black and white sci-fi film, "Them!"

1955

Narrated and co-starred in the war drama, "Battle Cry"

1955

Played a supporting role in the film musical, "Oklahoma!"

1956

Offered a strong turn as a social worker in "Crime in the Streets"

1960

Cast as the lead in the ABC crime drama, "The Law and Mr. Jones"

1960

Last film for seven years, "Who Was That Lady?"

1967

Returned to features in the Western, "Chuka"

1968

Played the president in the sci-fi classic, "Planet of the Apes"

1969

Played the leading character of Professor Woodruff in the NBC series, "My Friend Tony"

1970

Cast as Admiral Halsey in the Japanese-American production of "Tora! Tora! Tora!"

1970

Portrayed Will Rogers in the one-man show, "Will Rogers' USA"; toured with the show on and off for thirty years; final performance was in 2000

1970

Returned to Broadway in the unsuccessful production of "Inquest"

1972

Cast in the short-lived ABC sitcom, "Temperatures Rising"

1972

Recreated stage role in CBS adaptation of "Will Rogers' USA"

1974

Reprised role in the Broadway staging of "Will Rogers' USA"

1975

Earned a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for recreating his stage role in the one-man show, "Give 'Em Hell, Harry!"

1977

Portrayed US President Teddy Roosevelt in the one-man stage show, "Bully!"; production filmed and released theatrically

1978

Co-starred in the CBS miniseries, "The Word"

1982

Last Broadway appearance (to date) "Almost an Eagle"

1984

Acted in the NBC miniseries, "Celebrity"

1985

Created the role of Henry Pulaski in the stage production, "Handy Dandy"

1987

Portrayed the judge overseeing the trial of a woman (Barbra Streisand) accused of murder in "Nuts"

1987

Starred in the PBS' production of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons"

1988

Played the US president in the NBC miniseries, "Favorite Son"

1989

Portrayed a televangelist in the HBO original movie, "Glory! Glory!"

1990

Appeared in the Off-Broadway production, "Handy Dandy"

1994

Return to feature films after a seven-year absence in "The Shawshank Redemption"; directed by Frank Darabont

1997

Cast as Raymond Oz, the legendary attorney who served as mentor to Bobby Donnell (Dylan McDermott) in the ABC drama, "The Practice"

1997

Had a supporting role in the film, "The Relic"

1999

Co-starred as one of the US Supreme Court justices in the ABC drama, "Swing Vote"

1999

Reprised role of Raymond Oz for two episodes of "The Practice" (ABC)

2001

Guest starred on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS) for his final acting role

2001

Had featured role in "The Majestic"; directed by Frank Darabont

2003

Garnered an Emmy Award nomination for his guest role in "Mister Sterling" (NBC)

Photo Collections

Them! - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Them! (1954). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Battleground - Action Publicity Stills
Here are several action-oriented publicity stills taken for MGM's Battleground (1949). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Kiss Me Kate - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Kiss Me Kate (1953). Look for composer Cole Porter, director George Sidney, and stars Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, and others.
The Next Voice You Hear - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from MGM's The Next Voice You Hear (1950), starring James Whitmore and Nancy Davis. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

First Deadly Sin, The (1980) - What Will They Think Of Next? With Anna Navarro, well-known TV actress and wife of the producer George Pappas, as jailed hooker Sunny, Frank Sinatra, in his last movie, as Lawrence Sanders’ New York detective Edward Delaney, asks what she knows about victim of a murder he’s hoping to resolve, just weeks before his retirement, in The First Deadly Sin, 1980.
First Deadly Sin, The (1980) - I Could Never Refuse A Pretty Face First scene for Frank Sinatra in his last movie, for sure shooting on West 81st St. in Manhattan, outside the Mt. Pleasant Baptist church, as Lawrence Sanders’ New York cop Edward Delaney, consulting with James Whitmore as the coroner, examining a victim, early in The First Deadly Sin, 1980.
Asphalt Jungle, The (1950) - Occupation, None Opening shot in Cincinnati, (the ending was shot on the same production trip, in Kentucky) introducing Dix (Sterling Hayden), Gus (James Whitmore) at the diner, Barry Kelley the cop at the line-up (featuing Strother Martin), Frank Cady the witness, in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle, 1950.
Asphalt Jungle, The - Opening, Dix Opening title sequence from John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle, 1950, sees thug Dix (Sterling Hayden) finding shelter in the diner run by pal Gus (James Whitmore) before the cops arrive.
Madigan (1968) - I'll Meet Your Terms Introducing Henry Fonda as New York police commissioner Russell (title character of the original novel by journalist, playwright and polymath Richard Dougherty), then by voice and phone call James Whitmore as his deputy Kane, and Susan Clark, seems to not be his wife, in director Don Siegel’s Madigan, 1968.
Black Like Me (1964) - Don't Get Yourself Killed James Whitmore as Horton, a white journalist posing as a black man, having taken a room in a neighborhood where blacks are threatened, then flashing back on the pitch he made to publisher Eli (Clifton James), in Black Like Me, 1964, from the non-fiction book by John Howard Griffin.
Face Of Fire (1959) - Stephen Crane's Classic Tales An opening reference to the underlying Stephen Crane stories, as we meet James Whitmore as “Monk,” Miko Oscard as Jimmie, son of his employers, and the parents, Cameron Mitchell and Bettye Ackerman, in Face Of Fire, 1959, filmed in Sweden, released by Allied Artists.
Face Of Fire (1959) - He Don't Know A Pig From A Horse Dr. Trescott (Cameron Mitchell), brings trusted employee Monk (James Whitmore), speaking here for the first time since he was horribly disfigured while rescuing his son from a fire, to stay with puzzled neighbors (Richard Erdman, Lois Maxwell), in Face Of Fire, 1959.
Face Of Fire (1959) - Come On, Pollywog! A fire alarm raised in an American small town ca. 1906, handyman Monk (James Whitmore) trying to rescue the kid he calls “Pollywog” (Miko Oscard), son of his employers, the father, doctor-scientist Trescott (Cameron Mitchell) restrained outside, in Face Of Fire, 1959.
Battle Cry (1955) - They May Look Like Marines James Whitmore as Mac continues narrating as the squad arrives San Diego for training, introducing Wellman (Carleton Young), Ziltch (Tommy Cook) and especially top billed Van Heflin as Maj. Huxley, in producer-director Raoul Walsh’s hit Battle Cry, 1955.
Them! (1954) - -- Chasing The Wind Southern New Mexico troopers Ed (Chris Drake) and Ben (James Whitmore) investigate a report of trouble in the desert, meeting young Sandy Descher, in the opening scene from Them!, 1954, featuring James Arness and Edmund Gwenn.
Them! (1954) - -- The Queen's Chamber Scientist Pat (Joan Weldon) joins cop Ben (James Whitmore) and FBI man Bob (James Arness) on a foray into the giant ants' nest, armed with flame-throwers, in the original Them!, 1954.

Trailer

Guns Of The Magnificent Seven (1969) -- Theatrical Trailer George Kennedy takes over Yul Brynner’s character “Chris,” but there’s no sign of “Vin,” (first Steve McQueen then Robert Fuller, though he survived The Magnificent Seven, 1960 and the first sequel, Return Of The Seven, 1966), and the plot goes a whole different way, in Guns Of The Magnificent Seven, 1969.
Split, The - (Original Trailer) Jim Brown heads an all-star cast in The Split (1968), about a heist planned during an L.A. Rams game.
Girl Who Had Everything, The - (Original Trailer) Elizabeth Taylor is The Girl Who Had Everything (1953) in this remake of A Free Soul (1931).
Because You're Mine - (Original Trailer) After being drafted, an opera star (Mario Lanza) falls for his sergeant's sister in Because You're Mine (1952).
McConnell Story, The - (Original Trailer) A man's plans to settle down and raise a family are upset by the Korean War in The McConnell Story (1955) starring Alan Ladd.
Battleground - (Original Trailer) American soldiers in France fight to survive a Nazi siege just before the Battle of the Bulge in Battleground (1949), directed by William Wellman and starring Van Johnson, John Hodiak and Ricardo Montalban.
Guns of the Magnificent Seven - (Pan-and-scan trailer) In Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), a new team assemble to rescue a captive rebel leader.
Outriders, The - (Original Trailer) Joel McCrea stars in MGM's Technicolor Western, The Outriders (1950).
Please Believe Me - (Original Trailer) Horror movie producer Val Lewton turned to romantic comedy for his last film Please Believe Me (1950).
Battle Cry - (Original Trailer) A group of Marines eagerly await deployment during World War II in Battle Cry (1955).
Across The Wide Missouri - (Original Trailer) Clark Gable plays a fur trapper forced to marry a woman from the Blackfoot Indian tribe in Across the Wide Missouri (1951).
Kiss Me Kate - (Original Trailer) Feuding co-stars reunite for a musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew in Kiss Me Kate (1953), directed by George Sidney and starring Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel.

Family

James Allen Whitmore
Father
Florence Bell Whitmore
Mother
James Whitmore Jr
Son
Actor, director. Born in October 1948.
Steven Whitmore
Son
Daniel Whitmore
Son

Companions

Audra Lindley
Wife
Actor. Second wife; married in 1971; divorced in 1978; died on October 16, 1997.
Nancy Mygatt
Wife
Third wife; married on March 24, 1978; divorced.
Noreen Nash
Wife
Actor, writer. Married on August 7, 2001.

Bibliography

Notes

In February 2000, Whitmore was presented with the Will Rogers Communicator Award.