James Whitmore

Active - 1949 - 2002  |   Born - Feb 6, 2009 in White Plains, New York, United States  |   Died - Feb 6, 2009   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Western, Crime, Adventure

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Leading American character actor James Whitmore specialized in giving tour de force solo performances on stage, screen, and television, notably with his Oscar-nominated solo turn as President Truman in Give 'Em Hell Harry! Whitmore is short and thickset with a well-aged face and gentle smile; he is known for portraying outwardly tough but inwardly caring men. Born in Buffalo, NY, Whitmore attended the private school Choate in Connecticut and then studied pre-law at Yale. While there he was a member of the Yale Drama School Players and co-founded the Yale radio station. He was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps where during boot camp, he finished his degree and became an officer. Following his discharge, Whitmore joined the U.S.O. and also spent time studying at the American Theater Wing. Before making his Tony-winning debut on Broadway with a supporting role in Command Decision, Whitmore gained experience in summer stock. He made his film debut in The Undercover Man in 1949. That year, he also appeared in Battleground and his performance as a battle-scarred sergeant earned him his first Oscar nomination. Though primarily a supporting player, Whitmore occasionally played leads, notably in films like Them! (1954) and Black Like Me (1964). In addition to his film and stage work, Whitmore also performed on television as a guest star and as the star of the series The Law and Mr. Jones (1960-1962). Between 1972 and 1974, Whitmore co-starred on the series Temperatures Rising. During the '80s, Whitmore often appeared in television miniseries. His career slowed dramatically in the '90s, though in 1994, he offered a memorable performance as an old lifer who finds himself unable to cope outside of prison in The Shawshank Redemption. He died in February 2009 at the age of 87.

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