Whit Bissell

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Whit Bissell
Whit Bissell.jpg
Born (1909-10-25)October 25, 1909
New York City, New York, USA
Died March 5, 1996(1996-03-05) (aged 86)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Parkinson's disease
Resting place
Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles
Years active 1940-1984
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)

Whitner Nutting Bissell (October 25, 1909 – March 5, 1996), better known as Whit Bissell, was an American actor.

Early life[edit]

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.

Career[edit]

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.

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.

From 1959 to 1961, Bissell was a regular for the third and fourth seasons of the television series Bachelor Father, costarring John Forsythe, Noreen Corcoran, and Sammee Tong.

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), and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1966).

Bissell appeared in the classic episode "The Trouble With Tribbles" of Star Trek, footage of which was re-used in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Trials and Tribble-ations".

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 Traveler's dining friends. Thirty-three years later, in 1993 the documentary film Time Machine: The Journey Back, reunited Bissell with Rod Taylor and Alan Young from the original film, he recreated his 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.

Bissell died in 1996 in Woodland Hills, California from the effects of Parkinson's disease. He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Personal life[edit]

Bissell was married three times and had three daughters and a stepson, Brian Forster. Forster was the second actor to play the role of Chris Partridge on The Partridge Family TV series.[3]

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.

Broadway roles[edit]

  • 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

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Broken Pledge, June 4, 1957". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved August 18, 2014. 
  2. ^ ""Judge Seward's Secret", November 26, 1960". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  3. ^ http://www.cmongethappy.com/interviews/bf/index.html/ "An Interview with Brian Forster" at cmongethappy.com

External links[edit]