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|Born||Whitner Nutting Bissell
October 25, 1909
New York City, New York, USA
|Died||March 5, 1996
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Parkinson's disease|
|Resting place||Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles|
|Spouse(s)||Adrienne Marden (1938-1954, divorced) 2 children
Dilys Mary Shan Jukes (1954-1958, her death) 1 child
Jennifer Raine (1967-1993, her death)
Born in New York City, Bissell was the son of prominent surgeon Dr. J. Dougal Bissell. He trained with the Carolina Playmakers, a theatrical organization associated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He had a number of roles in Broadway theatre, including the Air Force show Winged Victory, when he was a private.
In a career that began in 1943 with the film Holy Matrimony, Bissell appeared in hundreds of films and television series episodes as a prominent character actor. Viewers of 1950s low-budget science fiction, horror films and B movies know him as one of "those actors" (perhaps the actor) that always shows up somewhere in such movies. Some of the most well-known of these roles were as a mad scientist in the 1957 film I Was a Teenage Werewolf and as Professor Frankenstein in I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957). He also played the doctor who treats Kevin McCarthy's character in the 1956 classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and in the original 1954 Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Bissell appeared as a guest star in many dramatic television series that aired between the early 1950s and the mid-1970s, with more sporadic appearances after that. In 1955, he guest-starred on Rod Cameron's syndicated City Detective series and in episode 177 of The Lone Ranger. He also appeared on other syndicated series, including Sheriff of Cochise, Whirlybirds, and The Brothers Brannagan. He was cast too in the religion series, Crossroads and Going My Way, and in the NBC education drama series, Mr. Novak. He also appeared as Lt. General Heywood Kirk in 30 episodes of ABC's sci-fi series "Time Tunnel" during the 1967-68 season.
Bissell played General George Armstrong Custer, with Jean Byron as newspaperwoman Fay Kirby and Frank DeKova as Chief Sitting Bull in the 1957 episode "The Broken Pledge" of the ABC/Warner Brothers western series, Cheyenne, starring Clint Walker in the title role. The episode focuses on the betrayal of the Sioux. Also in the cast William Fawcett, Gary Vinson, and John Dehner.
Bissell played murderer Larry Sands on CBS's Perry Mason in the 1957 episode, "The Case of the Crooked Candle". He made three other Perry Mason appearances, including the role of Max Pompey in the 1960 episode, "The Case of the Lavender Lipstick", and Laurence Barlow in the 1964 episode, "The Case of the Nautical Knot". In 1957, he also appeared in "The Man on the 35th Floor" of Fireside Theater, hosted by Jane Wyman, with fellow guest stars Macdonald Carey and Phyllis Avery, and as brutal television critic Otis Elwell in Playhouse 90's The Comedian, with Mickey Rooney and Mel Tormé. In 1958, he was cast as Dr. Haley in the episode "Pipeline" of the NBC western series, The Californians.
In 1959, Bissell appeared on the NBC science fiction series, The Man and the Challenge. He guest starred on the CBS western series, The Texan, starring Rory Calhoun, and Johnny Ringo, with Don Durant in the title role. He played different roles in multiple episodes of the ABC series The Rifleman.
In 1960, Bissell portrayed Judge Seward in the episodes "Brother's Keeper" and "Judge Seward's Secret" on the ABC/WB crime drama, The Roaring 20s. In the story line, the judge tries a case against a mobster named Rossi, played by Herman Rudin, despite threats on his life and his family. In 1960, he was cast on an episode of another ABC/WB crime drama, Bourbon Street Beat, and on the CBS anthology series, The DuPont Show with June Allyson.
In 1961, he guest starred in the episode "A Fool for a Client" on James Whitmore's The Law and Mr. Jones legal drama on ABC. He also appeared in the ABC adventure series, Straightaway. He was cast three times on the long-running NBC western series, The Virginian and once on the short-lived ABC/WB The Dakotas. He portrayed "Clement Samuels" in "Kiz", an episode of the Western comedy series Maverick starring Roger Moore and Kathleen Crowley.
Bissell's most prominent television role came when he co-starred as General Heywood Kirk in the 1966-1967 science-fiction television series The Time Tunnel. He often played silver-haired figures of authority, here as in many other roles (as described by Allmovie), "instantly establishing his standard screen characterization of fussy officiousness", leavened in many instances with a military bearing. Other examples of such authoritative roles as military or police officials, include appearances in The Caine Mutiny, The Manchurian Candidate, The Outer Limits (1963), Hogan's Heroes (1966), and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1966).
In 1978 and 1980, Bissell appeared in episodes of The Incredible Hulk, first in the second season episode "Kindred Spirits", and next (and lastly) in the second part of the fourth season two-parter "Prometheus". He played a different professor in both episodes.
Bissell portrayed the undertaker (who sees every man, no matter his race, as "just another future customer") in the film The Magnificent Seven (1960).
In 1960, Bissell had appeared in George Pal's production of The Time Machine, as Walter Kemp, one of the Time Traveller's dining friends. He also appeared in a 1978 TV movie adapting the H.G. Wells novel for a more modern setting. Thirty-three years later, in 1993 the documentary film Time Machine: The Journey Back (which featured Bissell, Rod Taylor and Alan Young), he recreated his 1960 role as Walter in the opening sequence. It was Bissell's last acting performance.
Bissell received a life career award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films in 1994. He also served for many years on the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild, and represented the actors' branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board of governors.
Wives: Jennifer Raine (24 November 1967 - 5 January 1993) (her death); Dilys Mary Shan Jukes (5 December 1954 - 11 January 1958) (her death) 1 child; Adrienne Marden (23 November 1938 - 1954) (divorced) two children.
- The Star-Wagon (1937) as Park
- The American Way (1939) as Karl
- Two On An Island (1940) Frederic Winthorp
- Cafe Crown (1942) as Walter
- Winged Victory (1943) as Lt. Jules Hudson
- The Shanghai Story (1954)
- Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954)
- Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
- The Atomic Kid (1954)
- Not as a Stranger (1955)
- The Desperate Hours (1955)
- The Naked Street (1955)
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
- The Proud Ones (1956)
- I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)
- Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
- I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957)
- The Young Stranger (1957)
- The Defiant Ones (1958)
- Monster on the Campus (1958)
- The Black Orchid (1958)
- Never So Few (1959)
- Warlock (1959)
- The Magnificent Seven (1960)
- The Time Machine (1960)
- The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
- Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)
- Spencer's Mountain (1963)
- Hud (1963)
- Seven Days in May (1964)
- Where Love Has Gone (1964)
- The Hallelujah Trail (1965)
- Fluffy (1965)
- A Covenant with Death (1967)
- 5 Card Stud (1968)
- Once You Kiss a Stranger (1969)
- Airport (1970)
- The Salzburg Connection (1972)
- Pete 'n' Tillie (1972)
- Soylent Green (1973)
- Psychic Killer (1975)
- The Lincoln Conspiracy (1977)
- Casey's Shadow (1978)
- Whit Bissell at the Internet Movie Database
- Whit Bissell at AllMovie
- Whit Bissell at the Internet Broadway Database
- Whit Bissell at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)