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James Whitmore Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (4)  | Trivia (21)  | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (4)

Born in White Plains, New York, USA
Died in Malibu, California, USA  (lung cancer)
Nickname Jimmy
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Born on October 1, 1921, in White Plains, New York, gruff veteran character actor James Whitmore earned early and widespread respect with his award-winning dramatic capabilities on Broadway and in films. He would later conquer 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 honorable discharge he prepared for the stage under the G.I. bill at the American Theatre Wing, where he met first wife Nancy Mygatt. They married in 1947 and went on to have three sons together -- Steve, Dan and actor/director James Whitmore Jr..

Applause and kudos came swiftly for Whitmore while under both the Broadway and film banners. After appearing with the Peterborough, New Hampshire, Players in the summer of 1947 in "The Milky Way," Whitmore made a celebrated Broadway debut as Tech Sergeant Evans in "Command Decision" later that year. His gritty performance swept the stage acting trifecta -- Tony, Donaldson and Theatre World awards. In later years Whitmore would often comment that most of his satisfaction came from performing on the live stage.

Hollywood soon took notice of Whitmore. Clark Gable happened to be starring in the film version of Command Decision (1948), and it was hoped that Whitmore would get to recreate his award-winning role. But it was not to be. Song-and-dance star Van Johnson, who was looking for straight, serious roles after a vastly successful musical career, was given the coveted part. The disappointment didn't last long, however, and Whitmore made an auspicious film bow the following year with a prime role in the documentary-styled crime thriller The Undercover Man (1949) starring Glenn Ford and Nina Foch. Whitmore scored brilliantly with his second film as well. Battleground (1949), another war picture, was highly praised and the actor became the talk of the town upon its initial release, grabbing both the Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for "supporting actor" for his efforts.

Hardly the handsome, matinée lead type, Whitmore nevertheless primed himself up for leading roles in a character vein and found a fine range of material come his way. He showed off his soft inner core as a religious, moral-minded family man opposite Nancy Reagan [Reagan] in the inspirational drama The Next Voice You Hear... (1950); featured his usual saltier side alongside Marjorie Main in Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone (1950); ably portrayed a hunchbacked crook in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and displayed customary authority as a security chief in the stoic military drama Above and Beyond (1952) starring Robert Taylor. Elsewhere, he played it strictly for laughs as a Runyonesque gangster partnered with Keenan Wynn in the classic MGM musical Kiss Me Kate (1953); portrayed a valiant cop fighting off gigantic mutant ants in the intelligent sci-fi thriller Them! (1954); a hard-hitting social worker in Crime in the Streets (1956) and even made the most of his small role as Tyrone Power's manager in The Eddy Duchin Story (1956).

By 1959, the craggy-faced actor known for his trademark caterpillar eyebrows, turned more and more toward the small screen, with memorable roles in The 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 would rear its pretty head and interest him back to the big screen. Notable of these 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 more than two decades, Whitmore married actress Audra Lindley, best known on TV as Mrs. Roper of Three's Company (1976) 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 the actor transformed into a magnificent one-man-show machine playing such celebrated and inspiring historical/entertainment icons 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); Give 'em Hell, Harry! (1975), which earned him his second Oscar nomination; and Bully: An Adventure with Teddy Roosevelt (1978).

In his twilight years, Whitmore showed he still had what it took to touch movie audiences, most notably as the fragile prisoner-turned-parolee who cannot adapt to his late-life freedom in the classic film The Shawshank Redemption (1994). On TV he continued to win awards, copping a TV 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 spokesman for Miracle-Gro plant food.

Whitmore remarried (and re-divorced, 1979-1981) his first wife Nancy briefly before finding a lasting 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.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (4)

Noreen Nash (7 August 2001 - 6 February 2009) ( his death)
Nancy Richmond Mygatt (24 March 1979 - 28 October 1982) ( divorced)
Audra Lindley (1971 - 16 March 1979) ( divorced)
Nancy Richmond Mygatt (9 August 1947 - 2 December 1970) ( divorced) ( 3 children)

Trivia (21)

Whitmore (the youngest of four children)'s father was the Executive Secretary for the White Plains, New York Park Commission.
Earned a football scholarship at Yale University but extensive knee injuries led him to give the sport up.
First job in the entertainment field was as a radio director for the Yale University station.
Met and married first wife Nancy Mygatt while studying at the American Theatre Wing. She was their press agent at the time.
Well known for his role as Capt. Benteen in The Twilight Zone: On Thursday We Leave for Home (1963), considered by many fans to be the best hour-long entry in the show's history.
Is a member of Yale University's exclusive Skull & Bones club, an undergraduate secret society famous for the post-graduation accomplishments of its members. Other living members include President George W. Bush and his father, former President George Bush, Sen. John Kerry and Pulitzer-Prize winning historian David McCullough. Deceased members include President William Howard Taft, political commentator William F. Buckley and President Bush's own grandfather, Prescott Bush, a U.S. Senator and partner in the Wall St. white shoe brokerage firm of Brown Bros., Harriman.
Served in the US Marine Corps during World War Two.
In the early 1950s Whitmore conducted an acting workshop in Hollywood; one of his pupils was a struggling young actor, then unknown, James Dean. Whitmore helped Dean get some jobs in LA but encouraged Dean to go to New York to audition for the Actors Studio. Dean was one of the few accepted the year he auditioned.
Was married to Noreen Nash, mother of Lee Siegel and grandmother of actor Sebastian Siegel.
Went to the Choate School Wallingford, Connecticult on a football scholarship. Was a pre-law collegiate at Yale University but quit playing football after suffering two knee injuries. While at Yale he set up the campus radio station and starred in a nightly sports news show called "Jim Whitmore Speaks".
Performed his one-man stage show on and off for thirty years (1970-2000). He had nearly eight hours of various comments about the topics of the day memorized, changing the show each time he performed it. His costume is now housed at the Smithsonian Institute.
Father, with Nancy Mygatt, of sons James Whitmore Jr., Steve Whitmore and Dan Whitmore.
He is survived by eight grandchildren, including James Whitmore III.
Remains the only actor ever nominated for an Oscar for a one man show for Give 'em Hell, Harry! (1975).
He appeared in The Twilight Zone (1959) while his son James Whitmore Jr. appeared in The Twilight Zone (1985).
Appeared at the Peterborough Players Theater in Peterborough, New Hampshire in the play "Tuesdays With Morrie" with his son, James Whitmore Jr.. [June 2006]
Reprised his role as the Stage Manager in "Our Town" at the Peterborough Players in Peterborough, New Hampshire. [August 2008]
Has twice played a character who was incarcerated but didn't want to go home for fear of change, in The Twilight Zone: On Thursday We Leave for Home (1963) he was marooned on a planet and was the only colonist who wanted to stay because going back to Earth would mean he would lose his authority. In The Shawshank Redemption (1994) he didn't want to be released from prison.
Years after losing the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor to Dean Jagger in Twelve O'Clock High (1949), he appeared twice on the television series based on that film: 12 O'Clock High (1964).
Twice played a in incarcerated character who feared release: The Twilight Zone: On Thursday We Leave for Home (1963) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994).
He was a lifelong Democrat.

Personal Quotes (4)

I have no regrets, real regrets about any darn thing . . . I think second-guessing one's self and your life is the most futile thing in the world.
I certainly wasn't the idol of millions. I just happened to get good parts. And so I wasn't worried . . . because I could see these character parts stretching on into the, you know, dim days of the future.
[regarding his acting talent] I never thought I was good. I've touched the hem of the garment a few times but never grabbed it full-hand.
[about his preference for the theater] The stage is human beings sharing something together -- flesh and blood together -- and the others are mechanical and shadows on the screen.

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