Monday, October 1, 2012


On this day, October 1st in 1921 great character actor James Whitmore was born. In my opinion, especially as he aged, he bore a striking resemblance to Spencer Tracy. Like Tracy, Whitmore was a truly great actor whose career spanned decades.

Born in White Plains, New York, to Florence Belle (née Crane) and James Allen Whitmore, Sr., a park commission official, Whitmore attended Amherst Central High School in Snyder, New York, before graduating from The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) 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 part of other broadcasting experience as a member of the student-run WOCD-AM, later renamed WYBC-AM. He later was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and served in the United States Marine Corps in the Panama Canal Zone during World War II.

Following World War II, Whitmore appeared on Broadway in the role of the Sergeant in Command Decision. MGM hired Whitmore on contract, but his role in the film adaptation was played by Van Johnson. Whitmore's first major picture was Battleground, in a role that was turned down by Spencer Tracy, and for which Whitmore was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Other major films included Angels in the Outfield (1951 film), 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!, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of former U.S. President Harry S Truman. Whitmore never one the Academy Award, but he did win an Emmy and a Tony.

My personal favorite movie he appeared in was in the prison drama The Shawshank Redemption in 1994. His last movie was made in 2002, although he did appear as a security job in the comedy Fun With Dick And Jane (2005). Unfortunately, all of his scenes were cut. In April 2007, he also appeared in C.S.I. in an episode titled "Ending Happy" as Milton, an elderly man who provides a clue of dubious utility. Whitmore was married four times to three women, and he had three sons. He died of cancer on February 6, 2009 at his Malibu home in California. He was 87. His ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean, and although he is gone now on this his birthday I hope he can be remembered for the countless memories he left for us on film...


  1. He was definitely one of the busiest actors in television. My favorite of Whitmore's performances may have been in a TWILIGHT ZONE episode called "On Thursday We Leave for Home." He plays the leader of a group of people stranded on another planet. After living there for years, they are rescued--only Whitmore doesn't want to leave his new home. He can't convince the others and stays behind by himself. As the ship leaves for Earth, he realizes the horror of what he has done.

  2. I agree. That's a great episode. I always forget that one. It's so sad...

  3. Love Whitmore in just about everything I've ever seen him in. He could make you laugh like a loon (Kiss Me, Kate) or break your heart (The Twilight Zone: On Thursday We Leave for Home). The man never lacked for work. My feet start to ache whenever I think of him in "Battleground".