James Whitmore

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James Whitmore
James Whitmore.jpg
James Whitmore, November 1955
Born James Allen Whitmore, Jr.
(1921-10-01)October 1, 1921
White Plains, New York, U.S.
Died February 6, 2009(2009-02-06) (aged 87)
Malibu, California, U.S.
Cause of death
lung cancer
Resting place
Cremated, Ashes scattered into the Pacific Ocean
Alma mater Yale University
Occupation Actor
Years active 1949–2005
Spouse(s) Nancy Mygatt (1947-1971, divorced)
Audra Lindley (1972-1979, divorced)
Nancy Mygatt (1979-1981, divorced)
Noreen Nash (2001-2009, his death)

Three sons from first marriage:
James Allen Whitmore, III

Steve Whitmore
Daniel Whitmore
Relatives Matty Whitmore (grandchild)

James Allen Whitmore, Jr. (October 1, 1921 – February 6, 2009) was an American film, theatre and television actor.[1] He won a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award, and was nominated for two Academy Awards.

Early life, education and military service[edit]

Born in White Plains, New York, to Florence Belle (née Crane) and James Allen Whitmore, Sr., a park commission official,[2] Whitmore attended Amherst Central High School in Snyder, New York, before graduating from the Choate School 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.[3][4]

Whitmore was later commissioned as 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, 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 archive.org). 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.[5]

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.[6]

In 1986, Whitmore voiced Mark Twain in the first claymation film The Adventures of Mark Twain. Whitmore's 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,[7] 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.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Whitmore, Nancy Mygatt, and their three sons in 1954. The boys are, from left-Stephen, James and Danny.

Whitmore was twice married to Nancy Mygatt, first in 1947. The couple had three sons before their divorce in 1971. One of those sons, James, III, found success as a television actor and director under the name James Whitmore, Jr. Another son, Steve Whitmore, became the public spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. His youngest son, Daniel, was a Forest Service Snow Ranger and firefighter before he launched his own construction company.

Whitmore was married to actress Audra Lindley (died 1997) from 1972 until 1979. He later remarried Mygatt, but they divorced again after two years.

In 2001, he married actress and author Noreen Nash.

Whitmore is the grandfather of Survivor: Gabon contestant Matty Whitmore. In his later years, Whitmore spent most of his summers in Peterborough, New Hampshire, performing with the Peterborough Players.[9]

Although not always politically active, in 2007, Whitmore generated some publicity with his endorsement of Barack Obama for U.S. President. In January 2008, Whitmore appeared in television commercials for the First Freedom First campaign, which advocates preserving "the separation of church and state" and protecting religious liberty.[10]


Whitmore was diagnosed with lung cancer in November 2008, from which he died at the age of 87 in February 2009, at his Malibu, California, home.[11]

Partial filmography[edit]








Theatre work[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Berkvist, Robert (February 7, 2009). "James Whitmore, Character Actor Skilled in One-Man Shows, Dies at 87". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "James Whitmore Biography". FilmReference.com. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  3. ^ Yale.edu
  4. ^ Robbins, Alexandra (July 2004). "Powerful Secrets". Vanity Fair. p. 116. 
  5. ^ "James Whitmore". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Comeback". tvguide.com. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  7. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Birth of The Actors Studio: 1947-1950". A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 52. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. "Among the original twenty-six actors that Kazan selected were Jocelyn Brando, Joan Copeland, Betsy Drake, Lou Gilbert, Julie Harris, Steven Hill, Cloris Leachman, Nehemiah Persoff, and James Whitmore." 
  8. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0926235/?ref_=sr_1
  9. ^ Peterboroughplayers.org
  10. ^ [dead link] "First Freedom First Launches First-Ever Ads in a Presidential Campaign to Protect Religious Liberty". First Freedom First.
  11. ^ McLellan, Dennis (February 7, 2009). "James Whitmore Dies at 87; Veteran Award-Winning Actor Brought American Icons to Life – An Avid Gardener, He Also Was Known as the TV Pitchman for Miracle-Gro". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 14, 2012.

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