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Biography

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Overview (2)

Date of Birth 17 August 1904Ellsworth, Maine, USA
Date of Death 8 February 1982Manhasset, Long Island, New York, USA

Mini Bio (1)

John Hay "Jock" Whitney, the multi-millionaire sportsman, pioneering color-movie producer, soldier, financier, philanthropist, art-collector, diplomat, and newspaper publisher was born in Elsworth, Maine on August 27, 1904. He was a descendant of John Whitney, a Puritan who settled in Massachusetts in 1635, as well as of William Bradford, who came over on the Mayflower, and his two grandfathers, one a Republican and one a Democrat, were presidential cabinet members. So socially secure he was never listed in the Social Register, Whitney denounced it as a form of social arbitration that was undemocratic. John Hay Whitney was a Scion of Society; he needed no one or nothing to tell him that. A stalwart of moderate Republicanism, Whitney was one of the ultimate symbols of the Eastern Establishment that Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan later repudiated with their neo-conservative populism.

Jock's father, William Payne Whitney, a capitalist and philanthropist born in New York City on March 20, 1876, was the son of William Collins Whitney and Flora Payne Whitney. Flora Payne Whitney was the daughter of prominent Democratic politician Henry B. Payne, who represented his Cleveland, Ohio district in the United States House of Representatives for one term from 1875 to 1877, and served one term as United States Senator from Ohio from 1885 to 1891. Henry Payne was descended, through this grandfather, from William Bradford, the Puritan governor of the Plymouth Colony.

Payne Whitney matriculated at Yale College (Class of 1898) and then studied at Harvard Law School, graduating with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1901. Building on his several million dollars worth of inherited real estate assets, Payne Whitney soon became a leading player in New York's financial community. He eventually was appointed director or executive officer of many large corporations, including the First National Bank of New York, the Great Northern Paper Co., the Northern Finance Corp., and the Whitney Realty Co. He married Helen Hay, the daughter of the serving U.S. Secretary of State, in 1902.

Jock Whitney's mother Helen Hay Whitney was the daughter of John Hay, Jock's name-sake, who served as Lincoln's assistant private secretary, Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President McKinley, and as Secretary of State under both McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, acquitting himself quite well during the Spanish-American War. Jock's paternal grandfather William Collins Whitney, the man who helped rid New York City of the deleterious influence of Boss Tweed's gang, was President Cleveland's Secretary of the Navy and was touted as the possible Democratic candidate for president in 1892 before Cleveland himself stood once again for re-election.

The family's New York City residence, located at 972 Fifth Avenue, was designed by Stanford White and is considered one of that great architect's finest mature works. Now the home of the French Embassy's Cultural Services department, White designed and oversaw the construction of the exterior and interiors of the house, which had been commissioned in 1902 by Payne Whitney's uncle Colonel Oliver Hazard Payne as a wedding gift for his nephew and his bride. The Colonel had put up $625,000 to build the five-story mansion, the construction of which was still under White's supervision when he was murdered in 1906. Jock's mother, Helen Hay Whitney, continued to live in the house until her death in 1944. (Jock eventually had her favorite space in the mansion, the Venetian Room, removed and preserved before the house was sold in 1949. In 1997, the room was donated to the French-American Foundation by his widow, who provided funding for its restoration.)

The 1920 census lists the Payne Whitneys as living at 972 Fifth Ave. with their two children and 13 servants. At the time, they lived around the corner from James D. Duke, the cigarette baron, and his wife Natalie and daughter Doris. Payne Whitney's uncle Oliver Hazard Payne had arranged the financial buyout of Duke's competitors to create the American Tobacco Co., though Payne Whitney and James Duke did not do business together. Fifth Avenue along the streets numbered in the 60s and 70s was the place to live for the very rich in the first half of the 20th Century, and many multimillionaires hung their bowler hats in the neighborhood. By the 1930 census, Helen Hay Whitney was listed as living with her son John Hay Whitney and 21 servants at the family's fabulous 438-acre estate Greentree in Manhasset, situated on Long Island's Gold Coast.

Jock was related to the railroad Harriman family through his sister Joan's husband Charles Payson, and to the Vanderbilts through his aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the eldest daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt II. (She was also related to the Harrimans.) He was also related by marriage to Columbia Broadcasting System founder William Paley, who was married to his wife's sister, the former Barbara Cushing. Jock's cousins included his aunt Gertrude's son Cornelius Vanderbilt ("Sonny") Whitney, the chairman of Pan American Airways (Prescott Bush, father of the 41st President of the United States and Grandfather of the 43rd, was a Pan Am director), and his wife's brother-in-law was Vincent Astor, the son of slumlord John Jacob Astor IV, who went down with the Titanic, perishing in the North Atlantic.

Jock Whitney attended Yale College, where his major pursuits were drama and rowing. His father, grandfather and great-uncle had all been oarsmen at Yale, and his father Payne had been captain of the crew in 1898. Payne Whitney followed the Yale rowing team all his life and helped finance the team, including donating financing to build a dormitory for the crew. While at Yale, John Hay Whitney allegedly coined the term "crew cut" for the haircut that now bears the name. Yale lore holds that young Jock went to a local tonsorial palace and asked for a short "Hindenburg" military cut. It was not long after the First World War, and anything German was still unpopular. (sauerkraut had been renamed "liberty salad" during World War I.) The barber suggested to Jock that the hair-style should have a new name. They called it the "crew cut" in honor of Yale oarsmen.

After graduating in 1926 (the Yale Yearbook listed Jock's ambition as being the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom), Whitney went on to Oxford, but the death of his father at the family's Greentree estate on May 25, 1927 necessitated his returning home. He inherited a trust fund of $20 million from his father (approximately $210 million in 2005 dollars, when factored for inflation), and would later inherit an estimated four times that amount from his mother. The money came from his paternal grandfather, William Collins Whitney, a traction magnate who consolidated New York City's street and railway lines, and his uncle, Colonel Oliver Hazard Payne, a business partner of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Jock Whitney also inherited his mother and father's love of horses, a predilection he shared with his sister, Joan Whitney Payson, who went on to be the first owner of the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club from the Mets' founding in 1961 until her death in 1975. Payne Whitney had been interested in horse racing, and he had established a racing stable of his own to raise thoroughbred horses. After Payne's death, Jock's mother Helen owned the famous Kentucky horse-breeding farm Greentree Stables, which Jock and his sister ran for her. In 1928, Jock became the youngest member ever elected to the Jockey Club.

A master horseman, he almost won Britain's Grand National steeplechase in 1929. Jock was enjoying a commanding and apparently safe lead when Easter Hero, his horse, twisted a plate and was beaten by a nose at the finish by a 100-to-1 long shot. Though Whitney entered the Grand National annually after his heartbreaking loss, he never again came so close to winning.

He entered four horses in the Kentucky Derby in the 1930s, Stepenfetchit, which finished 3rd in 1932, Overtime, which finished 5th in 1933, Singing Wood, which finished 8th in 1934, and Heather Broom, which finished 3rd in 1939. Jock was an outstanding polo player, with a four-goal handicap, and it was as a sportsman that John Hay Whitney made the cover of the March 27, 1933 issue of `Time' magazine.

Other horse races he was involved in were the 1952 and '56 presidential elections, where he was the major financial backer of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. As president, Ike appointed Jock ambassador to the Court of St. James, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and realizing the ambition he had mentioned in the Yale yearbook. Whitney played a major role in improving Anglo-American relations, which had been severely strained during the 1956 Suez Crisis, when Eisenhower demanded that the British, French and Israelis terminate their invasion of Egypt.

But that lay in the future. First, Hollywood beckoned.

In 1929, Jock was hired as a clerk at the princely sum of $65 per month at the firm of Lee, Higginson, where he met Langbourne Meade Williams, Jr., the son of the founder of Freeport Texas Co., the sulfur mining company that was responsible for one-third of domestic output. Williams enlisted Jock's aid in ousting the chairman of his family's company, and the two and some of their friends began buying shares of the company. Jock soon was Freeport' biggest shareholder, and with his support, Williams sacked the chairman and his senior management team in 1930. Three years later, Williams became Freeport's president and Whitney was appointed Chairman of the Board, at the age of 29. Jock remained involved with Freeport for the rest of his business days.

The straight business world didn't prove fulfilling to the young multi-millionaire, whose personal fortune was estimated at $100 million. Seeking somewhere to park those tens of millions of dollars, Jock Whitney invested in several Broadway shows, including Peter Arno's 1931 revue "Here Goes the Bride," a failure that cost him $100,000. Although Jock indulged his interests, he did not do so with the idea of losing money. Eventually, he'd achieve spectacular success as one of the angels of "Life with Father," one of the all-time longest running Broadway shows.

According to a October 1934 `Fortune' magazine article on the Technicolor Co., which he had invested in, Jock had been interested in the movie industry for quite some time:

"John Hay (Jock) Whitney, long nursing an itch to get into pictures, but needing some special advantage to make up for his late arrival, decided that color was the `edge' he was looking for."

Whitney had met Technicolor head honcho Dr. Herbert Kalmus, a racing aficionado like himself, at the Saratoga Springs race track. In 1932, Technicolor had achieved a breakthrough with its three-strip process that recreated the entire visible spectrum of color. When R.K.O. producer Merriam C. Cooper, a color movie enthusiast, broached the idea of investing in Technicolor to Jock, he, too, was enthusiastic.

Kalmus, had been dedicated to developing true color photography in motion pictures since soon after his firm was founded in 1914. Since it first marketed its early two-color process to the movie industry in the early `20s, Technicolor had been expected to assume much of the financial risk of color movie production, as the technology and its audience appeal was unproven. The first feature to be entirely filmed in two-color Technicolor, "Toll of the Sea," (1922), an adaptation of Puccini's opera "Madame Butterfly" written by future Oscar-winning screenwriter Frances Marion and starring Anna May Wong, was produced by the Technicolor Co. and released by by Metro Pictures. At that time, studios had been quite content to release "color" films that consisted of scenes shot on tinted Kodak stock, including blue for night (the other colors available from Eastman Kodak were green, red, pink, lavender, yellow, orange, light amber, and dark amber), or using hand-stenciling, in which colors were painted onto the individual frames of motion pictures.

Other movie studios, such as the newly conglomerated Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with "Ben-Hur" (1925) and "The Big Parade" (1925), and Paramount with Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" (1925), added two-color Technicolor sequences to films shot primarily in black and white, but the process was imperfect. Aside from not producing the full color spectrum (the process only registered red and green, so blues were impossible to recreate on-screen), two-color Technicolor was based on the use of two film stocks of a half-thickness each on which the red and green colors were printed, then cemented together. Prints would buckle as the strip of celluloid nearest the light would contract from the heat, and a LOT of light was needed to project an early Technicolor film. Technicolor had to print up replacement reels that were constantly being shipped between its Boston, Massachusetts plant and exhibitors, with the buckled prints being ironed out by Technicolor employees before being shipped back on the exhibition circuit. It was a highly impractical state of affairs, but Kalmus was always improving the process.

Technicolor did not become popular with producers until 1928, when it introduced in an improved two-color subtractive system that allowed a single print to be struck, thus eliminating the problem with film buckling. Technicolor produced the first feature film shot in the process, "The Vikings," that year. Warner Bros., which had vaulted from an extremely minor exhibitor to a major studio by its introduction of the talkies, latched onto Technicolor as the next big thing. Other producers followed the Warner Bros. example by making features in color, with either Technicolor or one of its competitors such as the inferior bipack Cinecolor system, but audiences grew bored with the limited palette of colors two-color processes could produce. They were content with talkies for the moment. That, and the Depression that severely strained movie studios' finances, spelled the end of the first Technicolor boom.

The production of color films had virtually ceased when Technicolor introduced its first three-color process in 1932. Shot on three strips of black and white negative film simultaneously through cyan, magenta and green filters, prints that accurately reproduced the full color spectrum were optically printed using a dye-transfer process. Kalmus had convinced Walt Disney to shoot one of his Silly Symphony cartoons, "Flowers and Trees," in the new "three-strip" process, and it was a big hit with audiences and critics alike. One of the next Silly Symphonies to be shot with the process, "The Three Little Pigs," engendered such a positive audience response, it overwhelmed the features it played with. Hollywood was buzzing about color film again. According to `Fortune' magazine, "Merian Caldwell Cooper, producer for RKO-Radio Pictures, saw one of the Silly Symphonies and said he never wanted to make a black and white picture again."

The studios were willing to adopt three-color Technicolor for live-action feature production, if it could be proved viable. Shooting three-strip Technicolor required vast quantities of light, as the film had an extremely slow speed of ASA 5. That, and the bulk of the cameras and a lack of experience with three-color cinematography, equated to skepticism in the studio board rooms.

Again, the financial risk devolved unto Technicolor, but in the new, more expensive motion picture industry of the 1930s, it could not afford to finance a feature. A financial "angel" was needed, similar to a Broadway investor.

`Fortune' magazine's October 1934 article stressed that Technicolor, as a corporation, was rather remarkable in that it kept its investors quite happy despite the fact that it had only been in profit twice in all of the years of its existence, during the early boom at the turn of the decade. A well-managed company, half of whose stock was controlled by a clique loyal to Kalmus, Technicolor never had to cede any control to its bankers or unfriendly stockholders. In the mid-`30s, all the studios with the exception of M.G.M. were in the financial doldrums, and a color process that truly reproduced the visual spectrum was seen as a possible shot-in-the-arm for the ailing industry. As the Warner Bros. had shown with their talkie revolution declared by "The Jazz Singer" (1927), a great deal of money could be made in a very short time in the film industry. Jock's future business partner, David O. Selznick, would soon produce the most popular and most profitable motion picture in history, in Glorious Technicolor.

Seeing his chance, Jock Whitney joined forces with Merian C. Cooper and founded Pioneer Pictures in the spring of 1933, with a distribution deal with R.K.O. John Hay Whitney was Pioneer's president. Jock had importuned his cousin, Cornelius Vanderbilt "Sonny" Whitney, into sharing the financial risk, and the two bought a 15% stake in Technicolor as well. While there was no official corporate connection between Pioneer and Technicolor, the idea was that any initial financial losses generated by Pioneer would be made up by the appreciation of the Whitneys' stake in Technicolor, whose product they would showcase.

Jock was determined to turn out quality pictures in order to avoid the fate of the two-color process at the height of the 1929-30 Technicolor boom, when color movies got a bad name due to inferior motion pictures. Warner Bros. had gone from $30,000 in revenues in 1927 to $17,271,000 in 1929, all due to talking pictures. Hot for another innovation, Jack Warner had decided in 1929 to add two-color Technicolor sequences to his picture "Desert Song." He then made the first all-color talkie, " On With the Show," and followed that up with "Gold Diggers of Broadway" (1929), which was a huge hit, grossing $3.5 million, an amount that ranked it #6 all-time at the box-office. It seemed like Warner Bros. had another technical marvel on its hands, and other producers jumped on the bandwagon. Technicolor received over $1.5 million in down payments for future deliveries of color film. In 1929, Technicolor did $5 million in business.

The sudden vogue for color, and the resulting demand, doomed two-strip Technicolor as the firm's labs were not equipped to handle such a volume. In 1929 and `30, Technicolor produced 76.7 million feet of two-color film, ten times their labs' capacity. The sensitive development process was compromised when the lab space had to be quickly expanded, hurting the quality of the finished product. At first used in prestigious, carefully made, high-quality pictures, the boom soon led to the release of mediocre and even bad color movies. Lacking experience with color production, movie-makers continued to use B+W production techniques, using sets, makeup and lighting that were woefully inappropriate for color. Few filmmakers had the sense to correctly match color to the mood of the scenes they were shooting. In addition, two-color red-green process could not replicate all the colors of the visible spectrum, which yielded some questionable color effects. Most blues could not be shot, meaning that the sky typically could not be part of the mise-en-scène. If a bold filmmaker did include a shot of the sky, the results were ghastly.

The studios and movie producers quickly turned on Technicolor and canceled their contracts. Now reduced to supplying film primarily for short subjects, revenues plummeted to $500,000 in 1932, generating a $235,000 loss, followed the next year by a $250,000 loss on revenues of $630,000. Worse of all, due to the sins of the producers during the brief Technicolor boom, color movies, unlike talkies, were considered passé and a busted gamble.

The success of Pioneer Pictures' early product was necessary to spark a color renaissance in Hollywood, which would boost demand for Technicolor's new three-strip, three-color film, with the result that the value of Jock and Sonny's 100,000 Technicolor shares would appreciate handsomely. `Fortune' magazine observed, "[A]lthough Mr. Whitney does many things for fun he also does them for money and has never been interested in putting portions of the Whitney fortune down any sewers. But with two horses in the color-picture stakes, he can afford to use one as a pacemaker for the other.

Jock Whitney proceeded cautiously, determined to not make any mistakes that would besmirch his new baby. Pioneer produced the first short film shot in Technicolor's three-strip process, "La Cucaracha" (1934), a two-reel musical comedy that cost $65,000, approximately four times what an equivalent B+W two-reeler cost. Released by R.K.O., the short was a success in introducing the new Technicolor as a viable medium for live-action films. The three-strip process also was used in some short sequences filmed for several movies made during 1934, including the final sequence of "The House of Rothschild" (1934) over at 20th Century-Fox.

The industry was impressed. Three-color Technicolor did work and yielded spectacular, glorious results. But the studios and producers were atypically twice-shy, having been burned during the two-color Technicolor boom. Then, audiences had quickly become bored with color films, and the producers reasoned that it was color itself, not the poor films they had foisted onto the public in hopes of turning a quick buck that had been the culprit. Sound had added something fundamental to motion pictures, and had been enthusiastically, even wildly accepted by the movie-going public, essentially allowing the studios to distribute talkies of questionable quality in the marketplace and still turn a profit. Color was not seen to be in the same league as sound. But the real question for the studios came down to one consideration: Was it worth it?

The problem with Hollywood adopting Technicolor's three-strip process for feature film making, and the reason it took 30 years for color to completely chase B+W out of the movie industry versus the less-than-three for the Philistines of silence to be slain by the jawbone wielded by Al Jolson's Jazz Singer, was that the three-strip Technicolor process was expensive. The Depression had financially sapped every studio, with the exception of M.G.M. `Fortune' magazine estimated that shooting a film in three-strip Technicolor would add $135,000 to a film's production costs, $85,000 in added photographic expenses and another $50,000 in lost time due to the laborious task of learning how to make films properly in the new process. According to `Fortune', the average cost of a picture in 1934 was in the $200,000-$250,000 range. with an additional distribution cost of $200,000. "Many companies would prefer to spend the extra $135,000, if necessary, in order to get big names in the cast. For they know that names have a box-office draw and they are not at all sure about color."

In late 1934, Pioneer produced the first feature film shot in three-strip Technicolor, "Becky Sharp" (1935), which was based on the novel "Vanity Fair" by William Makepeace Thackeray. Also released by R.K.O., where David O. Selznick had been chief of production in the early `30s, it was not a large box office success, but it did show that Technicolor was now a viable medium. Pioneer also produced "The Dancing Pirate" (1936), the first musical shot in three-strip Technicolor. Selznick's own independent Selznick International Pictures, which he formed after leaving M.G.M. in 1935, used Technicolor for its `event' films such as the 1936 feature film "The Garden of Allah" (which won a special Academy Award for its color cinematography), and "A Star I Born Sacred" (1937), starring Frederic March and Janet Gaynor (which was also similarly honored with a special color cinematography Academy Award).

Jock Whitney was the major investor in Selznick International Inc., putting up $870,000 and serving as Chairman of the Board. Jock also put up half the money for the $50,000 option on Margaret Mitchell's novel "Gone With the Wind," then invested more money for the production of both "Gone With the Wind" and "Rebecca," Selznick's back-to-back Oscar winners for Best Picture of 1939 and '40. After an unprecedented run of success for an independent, Selznick International was dissolved in 1940 in order to liquidate the profits from the two pictures.

In his early years, Jock was renowned as a playboy, and though he was married to Mary Elizabeth Altemus Whitney, he was romantically linked to actress Tallulah Bankhead in New York, and to Paulette Goddard and Joan Crawford in Hollywood. It was at a lavish costume party he held in Hollywood that Clark Gable got together with Carole Lombard, the love of his life. Jock divorced his wife in 1940 after 10 years of marriage, and in 1942, he married Betsey Cushing Roosevelt, the ex-wife of James Roosevelt, the eldest son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Betsey Maria Cushing was born on May 18, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland to the famous neurosurgeon Dr. Harvey Cushing and his wife Katherine Crowell Cushing, who hailed from a socially prominent Cleveland family. Dr. Cushing served as professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Yale Universities, and the family established itself in Boston. Betsey had two brothers, but it was her two sisters and herself who became well-known, heralded for their charm and beauty from their debutante days onward.

Mary (Minnie) Cushing, her older sister, married first husband Vincent Astor, the inheritor of $200 million in 1912 (approximately $4 billion in 2005 dollars), then divorced him and married artist James Whitney Fosburgh. Her younger sister Barbara (Babe) Cushing was first married to Standard Oil heir Stanley Mortimer, Jr., before divorcing him and marrying CBS founder William S. Paley. Babe Paley was often short-listed as one of the world's best-dressed women and became a doyenne of New York society, heralded by the likes of Truman Capote. (Both of Betsey's sisters died within several months of each other in 1978.)

Betsey Cushing Roosevelt was rumored to be FDR's favorite daughter-in-law, but she and her mother-in-law Eleanor did not care for one another. Her husband served his father as an aide at the White House, and Betsey often stood-in as hostess at the White House when Eleanor was absent. When FDR entertained King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at a picnic at the Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park, New York in 1939, Betsey was prominent at the affair. FDR asked her to accompany him as he drove the King and Queen along the Hudson River. However, Betsey was a private person, and she shielded her two children by James, Sara and Kate, from publicity.

James Roosevelt left his father's side to take a job as an aide to movie producer Samuel Goldwyn in 1938, and moved his family to Hollywood. Betsey and James Roosevelt eventually separated, and they divorced in March 1940, Betsey obtaining a decree on the grounds of desertion and cruelty. Betsey Cushing Roosevelt was granted custody of their two daughters, child support, a settlement, and alimony until her eventual remarriage. That remarriage was two years off. Having divorced his first wife the same year Betsey obtained hers, Jock eventually wooed Betsey, marrying her on March 1, 1942. They would remain husband and wife until Jock's death in 1982, and he would adopt her two daughters in 1949.

Jock Whitney served in the Army Air Force as an intelligence officer during World War II, assigned to the Office of Strategic Services. He was taken prisoner by the Germans in southern France, but he escaped within a fortnight when the train transporting him to a POW camp came under Allied fire. A patriot, he was shocked when his interactions with soldiers revealed that they had little patriotic feeling, but were serving in the war because it was something they had to do. This revelation, that other Americans did not have as bountiful a view of their country as he did, profoundly changed him.

The Whitney family had a long history of both public service and philanthropy. Payne Whitney had been a benefactor of educational and charitable institutions, making substantial gifts to Yale, to the New York Hospital, and to the New York Public Library, to which he made a $12,000,000 gift in 1923. After his death in 1927, the family financed the construction of the Payne Whitney athletic complex at Yale in his honor. The family also financed the establishment of the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic at New York Presbyterian Hospital in 1932.

Jock Whitney became a noted philanthropist, creating the John Hay Whitney Foundation for educational projects in 1946. The Foundation provided fellowships to the racially and culturally deprived and had a large impact on the evolution of higher education in post-war America. He continued the family tradition by becoming a major contributor to Yale University, where he served as a trustee. An art collector specializing in French and American works, he generously gifted the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Washington's National Gallery of Art. (A Rose Period Picasso he had bought for $30,000 in 1950, "Boy With a Pipe," would be auctioned off in 2004 for a record $104.2 million, the proceeds left over from the $93 million bid price to fund the charitable Greentree Foundation established by his wife after his death).

After the war, Jock he forsook Hollywood for Wall Street, founding J.H. Whitney & Co., a highly successful investment company that is the oldest venture capital firm in the U.S. In 1958, while he was still ambassador to the United Kingdom, his company Whitney Communications Corp. bought the `New York Herald Tribune,' a bastion of liberal Republicanism and the-then paper of record of the United States. After returning to the U.S. in 1961, he became its publisher until it folded in 1966. Whitney Communications also owned and operated other newspapers, plus magazines and broadcasting stations.

John Hay Whitney survived two severe heart attacks in his life due to his great strength, but after a long illness, he died on February 8, 1982. He was survived by his wife Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney, and their two children, Sara and Kate Roosevelt Whitney. Betsey Whitney, who died in 1998, had an estimated personal fortune of $700 million in 1990 (approximately $1 billion in 2005 dollars), according to `Forbes' magazine. After her death on March 25, 1998, she bequeathed eight major paintings to the National Gallery of Art, including "Self-Portrait" (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, "Marcelle Lender Dancing the Bolero in `Chilperic'" (1895-1896) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, "Open Window, Collioure" (1905) by Henri Matisse, "The Harbor of La Ciotat "(1907) by Georges Braque, and "The Beach at Sainte-Adresse" (1906) by Raoul Dufy. After Jock's death in 1982, the National Gallery similarly had been gifted with eight paintings from his collection, including works by Edward Hopper and James McNeill Whistler.

His friend, ABC News Vice President Richard Wald, said upon his death that Jock's major interest in life was the proper organization of society and how to provide for the disadvantaged in a fiscally responsible way. Wald said his friend went to sleep at night a Democrat and would wake up a Republican. Wald also said that Jock Whitney had a marvelous time and lived a marvelous life, happy and rich in a time when Americans liked the rich. And, it might be added, in a time when the rich knew in their souls that they owed an obligation to society at large, and to the disadvantaged in particular, and tried to fulfill that obligation for the betterment of the society that had given them so much.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (2)

Betsey Maria Cushing Roosevelt Whitney (1 March 1942 - 8 February 1982) (his death) (2 children)
Mary Elizabeth Altemus (1930 - 1940) (divorced)

Trivia (11)

In 1949, he adopted the two daughters his second wife, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney, had with James Roosevelt, the eldest son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor. Betsey sometimes played the hostess at the White House when she was married to James, on those occasions when her mother-in-law was away. They divorced in 1940, and she married Jock in 1942.
An art collector, specializing in French and American paintings, he gave generously to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Washington's National Gallery of Art. He bought Pablo Picasso's Rose Period masterpiece "Boy With a Pipe" for $30,000 in 1950. When the picture from his late wife Betsey's estate was auctioned off in 2004, it fetched a record $104.2 million, which represented a bid of $93 million and a commission for the auction house Sotheby's. Funds from the sale would go to the charity the Greentree Foundation, which was set up in 1983 by Betsey Cushing Whitney after Jock's death.
Was the Chairman of the Board of David O. Selznick's independent production company, Selznick International Inc., in which he was a major investor. He helped finance "Gone With the Wind" (1939) and "Rebecca" (1940), Selznick's back-to-back Best Picture Oscar winners.
His paternal grandfather William Collins Whitney helped rid New York City of Boss Tweed's gang and helped Buffalo, New York mayor Grover Cleveland to the presidency in 1884. He served as Cleveland's Secretary of the Navy, and after Cleveland was defeated for reelection in 1888, Whitney was a favorite for the 1892 Democratic presidential nomination, until Cleveland stood for re-election.
Was the grandson and namesake of John Hay, Abraham Lincoln's assistant secretary and the Secretary of State of the United States from 1898-1905. Before being named to head the State Department by President McKinley, Hay was the ambassador to the Court of St. James, a position his grandson Jock would fill under Eisenhower from 1956 to 1961.
Made the cover of Time Magazine's March 27, 1933 issue, as a champion polo player.
Was the president of Pioneer Pictures, which was created to advance the use of Technicolor, a company he was invested in. Pioneer made the first three-strip Technicolor short, "La Cucaracha" (1934) and the first three-stripe Technicolor feature, "Becky Sharp" (1935).
Chairman of the Board of Selznick International Pictures and a close friend of David O. Selznick, Jock Whitney reportedly put up half of the money for the $50,000 option for Margaret Mitchell's novel "Gone With the Wind." Katherine (Kay) Brown, SIP's literary agent, had come across Margaret Mitchell's novel in 1936, before it was published, and sensed a winner. The publishers, Macmillian, had already turned down a $25,000 offer. The negotiations dragged on from May 21, 1936, when Brown first notified David O. Selznick and Whitney about the book, through the publication of the book, until July 7th, when Brown closed the deal for $50,000, the price she had predicted it would go for back in May.
According to the 2005 Louis B. Mayer biography, "The Last Lion," Mayer's son-in-law David O. Selznick sold off his interest in "Gone With the Wind" (1939) to John Hay Whitney for $200,000, which was the stupidest thing Selznick ever did as the classic movie continued to make massive amounts of money in re-release through the 1970s.
His sister, Joan Whitney Payson became the co-founder and majority owner of the New York Mets baseball team.
Was good friends with producer, screenwriter, and U.S. Naval Officer, Gene Markey.

Personal Quotes (2)

To be fair is not enough any more. We must be ferociously fair.
The role we can play every day, if we try, is to take the whole experience of every day and shape it to involve American man. It is our job to interest him in his community and to give his ideas the excitement they should have.

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