Friday, February 6, 2009

James Whitmore (1921-2009)

Whitmore had a character actor's longevity. This generation most likely knows him best from The Shawshank Redemption, but he was a yeoman presence in films and TV from the late 1940s forward. Like many of his peers, he went back and forth between the media and was thus able to take part in the golden age of television. Although he worked beyond it, Shawshank was pretty much his cinematic valediction, and it's really the first thing that comes to my mind. The other is the Twilight Zone episode he starred in, "On Thursday We Leave For Home," in which he plays the pathetic commander of a space colony who sees the colonists' return to Earth as the loss of everything that gave his life meaning. I guess the two performances have something in common, though I didn't think of it until I was writing this.

Three stars of Battleground dead in two months' time. That's harsh. I just convinced a friend to watch it for the first time when TCM ran it to honor Ricardo Montalban. It was a hard sell at first but once the battle started he became a convert. Whitmore was a big part of that. Here's a sendoff for all of them.

1 comment:

hobbyfan said...

Most people will remember James Whitmore not for his movie career, but for the zillion ads he did for Miracle-Gro. TV Land, or whomever has the rights, may do a marathon of the one series he did in the 70's, "Temperature's Rising". Now, if someone were to release his 1-man show, "Give 'em Hell, Harry", on DVD, that might be another benchmark worth looking into.