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James Whitmore

James Whitmore

Veteran stage-and-screen star James Whitmore reunites with director Frank Darabont after his memorable performance as the institutionalized inmate, Brooks Hatlen, in The Shawshank Redemption.

Whitmore, a two-time Academy Award nominee, initially set out to become a lawyer when he enrolled at Yale University in 1938. The Buffalo, N.Y. native interrupted his college education to join the U.S. Marine Corps at the outbreak of WWII, earning his degree while in boot camp. During his tour of duty, he began his performing career with a USO tour through the South Pacific. After his discharge from the Marines, he returned to New York to study acting at the American Theatre Wing and the Actors Studio, which he helped found in 1947.

That same year, he made his professional acting debut with the Peterborough Players stock company in New Hampshire. He debuted on Broadway soon thereafter, garnering the Tony, Theatre World and Donaldson Awards for his compelling performance as Sgt. Evans in Command Decision. Two years later, he earned his first Academy Award nomination (and a Golden Globe), as Best Supporting Actor, for his tough platoon sergeant, Kinnie, in William Wellman's epic, Battleground, only his second motion picture role.

Once described as the supporting players' Spencer Tracy for his reliability as a performer, Whitmore has commanded the screen in over 75 feature films. His credits include The Asphalt Jungle, The Next Voice You Hear, Kiss Me Kate, Them!, Battle Cry, The McConnell Story, Oklahoma!, The Eddie Duchin Story, All the Brothers Were Valiant, Because You're Mine, The Red Badge of Courage (as narrator only), The Restless Years, Face of Fire, Black Like Me, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, Madigan, Planet of the Apes, Tora! Tora! Tora!, The Serpent's Egg, Bully, The First Deadly Sin, Nuts, The Relic and Give 'Em Hell, Harry, for which he won his second Academy Award nomination, this time as Best Actor. He also earned his second Golden Globe nomination for the role. He recently completed roles in Old Hats and Ring of Endless Light.

Over the past three decades, Whitmore has worked frequently in the theatre, performing one-man shows in the characters of Will Rogers in Will Rogers, USA, Teddy Roosevelt in Bully and President Harry Truman in Give 'Em Hell, Harry, the latter two which he also played on the big screen. He has also essayed such roles as Oliver Wendell Holmes in The Magnificent Yankee, Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner and Norman Thayer in On Golden Pond. He appeared with Audra Lindley in regional theatre productions of Handy Dandy, About Time, Death of A Salesman and Foxfire. Yearly appearances at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts have included The Visit, Inherit the Wind, Our Town, Horse Heaven, Love Letters and the premiere of Dirt.

Whitmore is also a veteran of the small screen, starring in three TV series - Temperatures Rising, The Law and Mr. Jones and My Friend Tony. He guest-starred on some of the medium's most acclaimed anthology series in the 1950s, including Alcoa Premiere, The Desilu Playhouse, Playhouse 90, Kraft Television Theatre, Zane Grey Theatre and The Twilight Zone, among several other episodic series. He collected his first Emmy Award last year for his guest-starring role on ABC's The Practice, a role he created during the series' first season, and one written specifically for him by producer David E. Kelley.

His miniseries credits include The Word, Favorite Son and Celebrity, and he was also seen in such telefilms as The Challenge, If Tomorrow Comes, I Will Fight No More Forever, Mark, I Love You, All My Sons, Swing Vote and HBO's Glory! Glory!

Note: This profile was written in or before 2003.

James Whitmore Facts

BirthdayOctober 1, 1921 (101)
BirthplaceWhite Plains, New York, USA
Height5' 10" (1m78)  How tall is James Whitmore compared to you?
Awards2000 Emmy Awards: Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series (for The Practice)
1950 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Motion Picture (for Battleground)

Selected Filmography

Guns of the Magnificent Seven
The Shawshank Redemption
The Relic
King Ralph
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Where the Red Fern Grows
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