Saturday, February 7, 2009

R.I.P. James Whitmore

I’m a little late on this one, having seen the veteran actor’s passing mentioned at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings yesterday afternoon. Whitmore, renowned for his portrayals of Americans like Will Rogers, Harry S Truman (a role that earned him a Best Oscar nom in the 1975 film Give ‘em Hell, Harry!) and Theodore Roosevelt, succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 87.

Since I don’t watch too much of today’s TV programming, I would honestly have to say that the last thing I’d seen Whitmore in was those Miracle-Gro fertilizer commercials that seem to perpetually dot the landscape of TV Land. This, of course, would do the actor a great disservice; he appeared in scores of my favorite classic films, including The Undercover Man (1949), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Them! (1954), Oklahoma! (1955), Crime in the Streets (1956) and Madigan (1968). (Whitmore also served as the uncredited narrator of The Red Badge of Courage [1951] and the voice of the “angel” in the sprightly baseball comedy-fantasy Angels in the Outfield [1951].)

Whitmore also had a lengthy C.V. of television credits, including three series he appeared on regularly: The Law and Mr. Jones (1960-62), My Friend Tony (1969) and Temperatures Rising (1972-73). He did all the biggies, from Gunsmoke to Rawhide…from Combat to 12 O’Clock High. But for some reason, the TV role for which I remember him best was an appearance in one of the better hour-long Twilight Zone efforts, “On Thursday We Leave For Home.”

R.I.P., Jimmy. You’ll never know how much you’ll be missed.

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