James Whitmore : biography
- The Majestic (2001)
- A Ring of Endless Light (2002)
- King Kong (2005; Small Role)
- Fun with Dick and Jane (2005; only in excluded scene where he plays a security guard)
Early life, education and military service
Born in White Plains, New York, to Florence Belle (née Crane) and James Allen Whitmore, Sr., a park commission official, Whitmore attended Amherst Central High School in Snyder, New York, before graduating from The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) in Wallingford, Connecticut.
He went on to study at Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones, and had his first taste of radio drama as a member of the student-run WOCD-AM, later renamed WYBC-AM.
Whitmore was later commissioned a second lieutenant and served in the United States Marine Corps in the Panama Canal Zone during World War II.
Following World War II, he appeared on Broadway in the role of the sergeant in Command Decision. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) gave Whitmore a contract, but his role in the film adaptation was played by Van Johnson. His first major picture for MGM was Battleground, in a role that was turned down by Spencer Tracy, to whom Whitmore bore a physical resemblance. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this role. Other major films included Angels in the Outfield (1951 film), The Asphalt Jungle, The Next Voice You Hear, Above and Beyond, Kiss Me, Kate, Them!, Oklahoma!, Black Like Me, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and Give ’em Hell, Harry!, a one-man show for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of former U.S. President Harry S Truman. In the film Tora! Tora! Tora!, he played Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey.
Whitmore appeared during the 1950s on many television anthology series. He was cast as Father Emil Kapaun in the 1955 episode "The Good Thief" in the ABC religion anthology series Crossroads (which can be viewed at ). Other roles followed on Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theater, Lux Video Theatre, Kraft Theatre, Studio One in Hollywood, Schlitz Playhouse, Matinee Theatre, and the Ford Television Theatre. In 1958, he carried the lead in "The Gabe Carswell Story" of NBC’s Wagon Train, with Ward Bond.
In the 1960-1961 television season, Whitmore starred in his own ABC crime drama, The Law and Mr. Jones, in the title role, with Conlan Carter as legal assistant C.E. Carruthers and Janet De Gore as Jones’ secretary. The program ran in the 10:30 p.m. Eastern half-hour slot on Friday. It was cancelled after one year but returned in April 1962 for thirteen additional episodes on Thursday.
In 1963, Whitmore played Captain William Benteen in The Twilight Zone episode "On Thursday We Leave for Home". In 1965, Whitmore guest-starred as Col. Paul J. Hartley in "The Hero", episode 32 of Twelve O’Clock High. In 1967, he guest starred as a security guard in The Invaders episode, Quantity: Unknown. That same year, Whitmore appeared on an episode of ABC’s Custer starring Wayne Maunder in the title role. In 1969, he played the leading character of Professor Woodruff in the TV series My Friend Tony, produced by NBC. Whitmore also made several memorable appearances on the classic ABC western The Big Valley starring Barbara Stanwyck and the classic NBC western The Virginian starring James Drury during the second half of the 1960s. From 1972-1973, Whitmore played Dr. Vincent Campanelli in the short-lived ABC medical sitcom Temperatures Rising. He also appeared in Planet of the Apes. Appeared in an episode of "Combat!" as a German officer masquerading as a Catholic priest.
Whitmore appeared as General Oliver O. Howard in the 1975 television film I Will Fight No More Forever, based on the 1877 conflict between the United States Army and the Nez Percé tribe, led by Chief Joseph. In 1979 Whitmore hosted a talk show of twenty-two episodes called simply Comeback. One of those segments focuses on the helicopter inventor Igor Sikorsky.
In 1986, Whitmore voiced Mark Twain in the first claymation film The Adventures of Mark Twain. Whitmore’s last major film role was that of librarian Brooks Hatlen in the critically acclaimed and Academy award-nominated 1994 Frank Darabont film starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption. Two years later, he co-starred in the 1996 horror/sci-fi film The Relic.
In 2002, Whitmore played a supporting role in The Majestic, a film that starred Jim Carrey. To a younger generation, he was probably best known, in addition to his role in Shawshank, as the commercial spokesman for Miracle-Gro plant food for many years.
In 2003, Whitmore appeared as Josh Brolin’s father on the short-lived NBC drama series Mister Sterling.
One of the founding members of the Actors Studio, Whitmore did extensive theatre work. He won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Newcomer in the Broadway production of Command Decision (1948). He later won the title "King of the One Man Show" after appearing in the solo vehicles Will Rogers’ USA (1970) (repeating the role for TV in 1972), Give ’em Hell, Harry! (1975) (repeating the role in the film version, for which he was nominated for an Oscar) and as Theodore Roosevelt in Bully (1977) although the latter production did not repeat the success of the first two.
In 1999, he played Raymond Oz in two episodes of The Practice, earning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. In 2002, Whitmore got the role of the Grandfather in the Disney Channel original film A Ring of Endless Light. Whitmore has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6611 Hollywood Boulevard. In April 2007, he made his last screen appearance in a C.S.I. episode titled "Ending Happy" as Milton, an elderly man who provides a clue of dubious utility.http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0926235/?ref_=sr_1
← previous next →