James Whitmore, the veteran Tony- and Emmy-winning actor who brought American icons Will Rogers, Harry Truman and Theodore Roosevelt to life in one-man shows, died Friday. He was 87.
He graduated from Yale and served in the Marine Corp. Upon his return he began a 50 year career as an actor, winning a Tony for his Broadway role in Command Decision. He starred in the 1960-1961 television series The Law and Mr. Jones and his film work included several classic westerns. He won a Golden Globe in 1950 for his supporting role in Battleground. His last major role was in the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption.
Whitmore was best known for his one man shows. He entertained audiences with his portrayals of former president’s Harry Truman and Teddy Roosevelt with his solo performances of Give ‘em Hell Harry!, Bully and delighted the crowd with his stand-up Will Rogers USA.
He cared about acting; his whole life was dedicated to the theater and to movies," said actor David Huddleston, a longtime friend who appeared in Whitmore's 1964 movie "Black Like Me" and did a couple of plays with him. "I asked James Cagney one time to tell me the best thing you can about acting. He said never to get caught at it. That's kind of how I'd sum up Jim Whitmore."
One of his best film roles was that of the Science Academy Chairman in 1968's Planet Of The Apes. It is the best acted scene of the movie where Taylor(Charleton Heston) has to defend himself as a man with no rights in a courtroom where only Apes are protected by laws