James Whitmore, Tony Winner Who Was Master of the Solo Show, Dead at 87

Obituaries   James Whitmore, Tony Winner Who Was Master of the Solo Show, Dead at 87
James Whitmore, the Tony Award-winning, Oscar-nominated character actor with a thug's face and a way with words, died Feb. 6 after a battle with lung cancer.

Mr. Whitmore, 87, a White Plains, NY, native, landed a memorable late-career role as a grizzled prison librarian in the movie "The Shawshank Redemption." He leaves behind decades of film, TV and stage work. He died at his home in Malibu, CA, his son, Steve, announced.

His Tony Award in 1948 was in a category that no longer exists — Outstanding Performance by a Newcomer, for the play military Command Decision.

Mr. Whitmore was widely respected for the one-man plays that he starred in on Broadway and around the country. Samuel Gallu's bio play, Give 'Em Hell, Harry, about President Harry S. Truman, was filmed live on stage and released as a motion picture. The actor was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for his turn as Truman.

On Broadway, he also played Teddy Roosevelt and humorist Will Rogers in, respectively, Bully (1977) and Will Rogers' USA (1974), which also had lives on tour.

As late as 2000 he appeared in Will Rogers' USA at Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC. It was his eighth engagement of the show there. A fan of history, Mr. Whitmore also toured in the play The Magnificent Yankee, about Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

His other Broadway credits include Almost an Eagle (1982), Inquest (1970) and Winesburg, Ohio (1958).

In 1953, he was Slug, one of the gangsters in the movie Kiss Me, Kate, singing "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." He also played Andrew Carnes in the 1955 movie "Oklahoma!"

Two years after his Broadway debut, Mr. Whitmore was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe as Supporting Actor in the war picture "Battleground."

His screen credits include "The Last Frontier," "Chato's Land," "Planet of the Apes," "Them," "Tora! Tora! Tora!," "The Asphalt Jungle," "The Great Diamond Robbery" and many more.

He appeared on many TV shows over the decades, from the golden age of "Studio One" to "The Practice," for which he received an Emmy in 1999 as guest actor in a series, and "CSI."

Mr. Whitmore won a football scholarship to Yale and enrolled there in pre-law. He suffered knee injuries and would change his career to theatre, after mulling it over while serving in the Marines, in the South Pacific, in World War II.

On the G.I. Bill, in New York, he studied at the American Theater Wing.

He married Nancy Mygatt in 1947, and they had three sons, James Jr., Steven and Daniel. They later divorced. In 1971 he married actress Audra Lindley. They divorced in 1979 but continued acting together. He remarried his first wife in the 1980s; that ended in divorce again. In 2001, Mr. Whitmore married actress-writer Noreen Nash.

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