Stuart Whitman

Stuart Whitman

Stuart Whitman (Wikipedia)

Stuart Whitman an American actor. He is known for playing Marshal Jim Crown on the Westerntelevision series Cimarron Strip (1967). Whitman also starred with John Wayne in the Western film entitled The Comancheros (1961), and received top billing as the romantic lead in the film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965).

Stuart Maxwell Whitman was born on February 1, 1928, in San Francisco, California, the eldest of two sons of Cecilia (née Gold) and Joseph Whitman. In the 1950s, Whitman described himself to Hedda Hopper as “a real American – have a little bit of English, Irish, Scotch and Russian – so I get along with everyone.”

His parents had married in their teens and traveled frequently during his childhood – his father was a lawyer who moved into property development. Whitman started his education in New York, in Manhattan and Poughkeepsie.  “I went to so many schools—26 in all!—that I was always an outsider,” he later recalled. “It wasn’t until high school that I could REALLY read . . . I always sat in the back of the room.”

He was interested in acting since he was five and did three summer stock plays in New York when he was 12, but “nobody took that seriously,” he said. His uncle Ben thought he had potential as a boxer and secretly trained him for that.[8] When World War II broke out, Joseph Whitman moved to Los Angeles to run oil-cracking plants for the government. His family settled in Los Angeles and Whitman graduated from Hollywood High School in 1945.

After school, he enlisted in the United States Army and served in the Corps of Engineers for three years at Fort Lewis, Washington. During this time, he occasionally boxed, winning 31 of his 32 bouts. Whitman had a difficult time with US Army fighter “Denny Dennison” (né Archibald Dennison Scott III) with whom he had had bouts at Hollywood High School. Denny, who had gone into active duty in January 1944 after five months of the delayed-entry program, had won against his third opponent, who was considered his toughest matchup. Whitman was honorably discharged in 1948, while his close friend Scott went on the following year to officer candidate school, ending his service with the rank of colonel.

He originally intended to follow his father into the law and used the G.I. Bill to enroll in Los Angeles City College. He did a minor in drama. During his first year, he “figured that law was a real bore”  and began to develop ambitions to be an actor.

Stuart Whitman
Stuart Whitman

“I reached a point where I said, ‘What are you going to do with your life? You got to get something going.'” he said. “I decided I wanted to spend most of my time on me. So I decided to develop me and educate me.”

“My father wanted me to come into his law firm and dabble in real estate on the side,” recalled Whitman. “There was a family row about boxing, but nothing like the battle when I told my father I was going to be an actor. He said, ‘If that’s the case you’re on your own.’ No money from him. And he kept his word.”[3]

His father did sell Whitman a bulldozer which his son used to support himself in college. Whitman would hire it (and himself) out to others to clear lots, uproot trees, and level off rugged terrain.  This work earned him up to $100 a day. His father and he later went into real estate development together, purchasing various lots in and around Los Angeles.

Whitman joined the Michael Chekhov Stage Society and studied with them at night for four years. He was considering a career in professional football, but injured his leg at college, which put an end to that dream.

He joined the Ben Bard Drama School in Hollywood. He debuted in the school’s production of Here Comes Mr Jordan, which ran for six months.

He was spotted by a talent scout while at City College. He made his screen debut in a bit in When Worlds Collide (1951). He followed this with other small parts in films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Barbed Wire (1952), and One Minute to Zero(1952).[citation needed] In December 1952, he signed a contract with Universal, which put him in All I Desire and The All American (both 1953).[9] He appeared on stage in Venus Observed by Christopher Fry for the Coast Theatre in 1954.[10] He had a decent role in Rhapsody (1954) at MGM, then made Silver Lode (1954); Brigadoon (1954), back at MGM; Passion (1954); King of the Carnival (1955), a serial at Republic; Diane (1956); and Seven Men from Now (1956). His roles gradually grew in size – Crime of Passion (1957), Hell Bound(1957), War Drums (1957), and The Girl in Black Stockings (1957).

He had his first leading role in Johnny Trouble (1957), produced by John Carroll, who had Whitman under contract for one film a year for seven years; the Los Angeles Times said he “reminds of both Robert Ryan and James Dean.”[11] He made China Doll (1958).He frequently appeared as police officer Sgt. Walters on the television series Highway Patrol.

One of his early roles came in 1957 in the syndicated military dramas, Harbor Command, a drama about the United States Coast Guard, and The Silent Service, based on true stories of the submarine service of the United States Navy.[citation needed] When Charlton Heston, who had originally been signed to play the lead in Darby’s Rangers (1958) left the film, James Garner was given the lead and Whitman wound up with Garner’s original role in the film.[12]

By this time, his side career as a real estate developer was thriving. He developed hundreds of acres in such places as AnaheimBenedict Canyon, and Panorama City, often in partnership with his father. “Because of it, I’ve never worked as an extra,” he said in 1958. “I’ve never accepted a part that I wouldn’t thought advance my career. I’ve never taken an acting job, in movies or TV, which paid less than $250 a week.”

In the late 1950s, 20th Century Fox was on a drive to develop new talent. Head of production Buddy Adler said, “We must bring young people back into film theatres and the best way is to develop young stars as a magnet. While stories have become more important than ever, we must seek our fresh, youthful talent to perform in them.”[13] Whitman was one of a number of new names signed to Fox by Adler as part of a $3–4 million star-building program.[13][14]

Whitman’s contract was for seven years. He later said he did this to get a choice small part in Ten North Frederick (1958) and “many good things came from that”.

In March 1958 the contract with Fox became exclusive. Whitman followed it with These Thousand Hills (1958) for Fox, then got star billing at MGM in The Decks Ran Red (1958), in which he shared an interracial kiss with Dorothy Dandridge. It was made by Andrew L. Stone, who wanted Whitman to appear in The Last Voyage (1960)  but Robert Stack played the role, instead. He got another good role at Fox when he replaced Robert Wagner in The Sound and the Fury (1959), supporting Joanne Woodward and Yul Brynner.

In 1958, Hedda Hopper wrote a piece on Whitman which said he could be the “new Clark Gable“:

At Fox, Whitman graduated to leading-man parts. He had an excellent role co-starring with Fabian Forte in Hound-Dog Man (1959), playing his “fourth heel in a row… I had a ball because the character was a real louse, everything hanging off him and no inhibitions. I like those kind of guys, I suppose because I can’t be that way myself.”[19] He had a change of pace when he replaced Stephen Boyd as Boazin a Biblical drama, The Story of Ruth (1960). He followed this with a gangster tale, Murder, Inc. (1960). “I’ve done lots of different parts since I left Hollywood High School and City College”, said Whitman in a 1960 interview, “so the sudden switch didn’t bother me too much. I hope 20th Century Fox will keep the roles varied and interesting.”

The Los Angeles Times did a profile on Whitman around this time, calling him “an actor of growing importance in a business, motion pictures, that needs stalwarts to follow in the steps of the Clark Gables, Gary Coopers, and John Waynes… Whitman is like a finely trained athletic champion – a modest but self assured chap who seems to know where he is going.”

Nonetheless, Whitman was frustrated with the sort of roles he was getting. “I had been knocking around and not getting anything to test my ability”, he said. When Richard Burton turned down the role of a child molester in The Mark to do Camelot on stage, Whitman accepted. “I wanted to find out if I was in the right business.” The film was shot in Ireland. Whitman’s performance earned him his best ever reviews and an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He said the film “doubled my rating as an actor”. However, he later said, “I had a tough time breaking my image in that movie… it blocked my image as a gutsy outdoorsman.”

Whitman starred alongside John Wayne in The Comancheros, a hit 1961 Western Deluxe CinemaScope color film directed by Michael Curtiz, based on a 1952 novel of the same name by Paul Wellman. The film stars John Wayne and Stuart Whitman. The supporting cast includes Ina BalinLee MarvinNehemiah PersoffBruce CabotJack Elam, Patrick Wayne, and Edgar Buchanan. Also featured are Western film veterans Bob Steele, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, and Harry Carey, Jr. in uncredited supporting roles. Whitman said in 1961, “I’ve had to battle and say what is an actor? It’s a fellow who plays someone else. But now I realize it’s the image that makes a star. John Wayne is a great example of a super actor. Gary Cooper is another one. My image? I think it’s being free and easy and all man. I say to myself I want to become an actor, I want to lose myself in each role. But that’s not the way to become an actor.”

Whitman went to South Africa to make The Fiercest Heart (1961), then Italy to shoot the religious epic, Francis of Assisi (1961). Jerry Wald announced Whitman for The Hell Raisers, about the Boxer Rebellion, but it was not made.[21] He lobbied unsuccessfully to play the lead in Sanctuary (1961),[8] and announced he would form his own production company to make Mandrake Route by Frederick Wakeman. In 1961, he said his bulldozer had “developed into quite a sideline. I’m sure I still wouldn’t be in the picture business without it.”

None of Whitman’s films for Fox had been a particular success at the box office. However, he starred with John Wayne in The Comancheros (1961), which was a hit. After Convicts 4, Whitman appeared in a lengthy cameo with John Wayne in the all-star World War II epic The Longest Day (1962).

By early 1962, Whitman had earned his Oscar nomination and was in much demand – some said he might do Mandrake RootThe Victors(1963), or a film with Marilyn Monroe or one with Lewis Milestone.

Instead, he played an American pilot in a French film, The Day and the Hour (1963), shot in Paris with Rene Clement. He enjoyed the experience, saying, “I busted through at last and can now get an honest emotion, project it and make it real. You become egocentric when you involve yourself to such an extent in your role; your next problem is in learning how to turn it off and come home and live with society. It took a lot of time and energy to break through, so I could honestly feel and I’m reluctant to turn it off. Now I know why so many actors go to psychiatrists.”

He was mentioned as the lead in Cardinal (1963), and he lobbied to play Jimmy Hoffa in an adaptation of The Enemy Within by Robert F. Kennedy, but lost the first to Tom Tryon and the latter was not made. He adjusted his contract with Fox to make it for one film a year for five years.

After several months off, he announced plans to produce his own film, My Brother’s Keeper, based on a novel about the Collyer brothers. Instead, he made a film for Fox, Shock Treatment (1964) as Dale Nelson / Arthur and British thriller Signpost to Murder then. He appeared in a television play written by Rod SerlingA Killer at Sundial.

After a Western, Rio Conchos (1964), he had the lead in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965), which was a massive hit. He replaced George Peppard in Sands of the Kalahari (1965). It was not popular at the box office; neither was An American Dream(1966), from a novel by Norman Mailer. He played a stuntman for television in “The Highest Fall of All” for The Bob Hope Theatre(1965).

According to John Gregory Dunne’s “The Studio,” Whitman was suggested for the title role in The Boston Strangler by John Bottomly, the Massachusetts assistant attorney general who prosecuted Albert DeSalvo. Instead, the role went to Tony Curtis.

Whitman had turned down a number of offers to star on television series over the years, including Mannix and Judd for the Defense. “I wanted more diversity in acting,” he said. “I felt it would limit myself.”

He changed his mind when offered the role of U.S. Marshal Jim Crown in Cimarron Strip (1967). At $350,000-$400,000 per episode and with a broadcast time of 90 minutes, it was the most expensive drama series made to that time. “A lot of big people told me I was the number one man the networks wanted,” said Whitman.  The series was produced by Whitman’s own company. “I always wanted to play a cop with a heart, a guy who would use every possible means not to kill a man,” he said. “TV has needed a superhero… and I think Crown can be the guy.” However, the series only lasted one season, a combination of being scheduled against a raft of hit shows, including Batman in its heyday, and the fact that each episode of Whitman’s cinematic Western cost so much to produce compared to other television series.

Appearing in costume as Marshal Jim Crown, he was featured on the November 4, 1967 cover of TV Guide and in an internal article.

Whitman admitted, “I’m the type who must work constantly.”  He appeared in such films as The City Beneath the Sea (1971), The Last Escape (1970), and The Invincible Six (1970). In the early 1970s, he worked increasingly in Europe. “I left Hollywood because it was getting to be a mad mess!” he said. “There are only about two really good scripts going around and they always go to the industry’s two top stars. I thought that in Europe, something better might come my way—and it did! I’ve made mistakes in the past, but I kept bouncing back. I always thought that an actor is destined to act, but I now realize that if you do one role well, you get stuck with it!”[6]

The quality of his films did not increase, however: Captain Apache (1971), Revenge! (1971), Run, Cougar, Run (1972), The Woman Hunter(1972), Night of the Lepus (1972) (about killer rabbits), The Man Who Died Twice (1973), Welcome to Arrow Beach (1974), Crazy Mama(1975), Shatter (1974), Strange Shadows in an Empty Room (1976), Ruby (1977), The White Buffalo (1977), Eaten Alive (1977), Run for the Roses (1977), and Treasure Seekers (1979). He played a character based on Jim Jones in Guyana: Crime of the Century(1979).[citation needed]

Whitman’s private fortune continued to grow on a combination of his property developments and acting income. “I didn’t need to act to make a living, but had a real passion for it – I just loved to act,” said Whitman.

The quality of Whitman’s credits did not improve during the 1980s, which included roles in Cuba Crossing and The Monster Club (both 1980). In November 1981, he played Frank Elgin in a Los Angeles stage revival of The Country Girl by Clifford Odets. His film roles were less distinguished: Butterfly (1982), Deadly Intruder (1985), Omega Cop (1990), Mob Boss (1990), Improper Conduct (1995), Second Chances (1998), and The President’s Man (2000).

For television, he appeared in episodes of Dr. ChristianZane Grey TheatreThe Roy Rogers ShowDeath Valley DaysTime TraxSuperboy (playing  Jonathan Kent), Murder, She Wrote (in four episodes), HotelHardcastle and McCormickTales from the DarksideFantasy IslandThe A-TeamSimon & SimonMost WantedQuincy, M.E.Harry OEllery QueenSWAT (the two-part episode “The Running Man”), The FBINight GalleryCannonHec RamseyGhost Story (1973), Police StoryThe Streets of San Francisco (1972), Mr. Adams and EveHave Gun – Will TravelKnots Landing, and Walker, Texas Ranger.


Stuart Whitman, best known for his role in the TV western series Cimarron Strip and his Oscar-nominated turn in the drama The Mark, died in his home in Montecito, California. He was 92.

According to TMZ, Whitman had been in and out of the hospital as a result of skin cancer seeping into his bloodstream. He was surrounded by family at the time of his death.

Whitman was born on February 1, 1928 in San Francisco before his family would move to Brooklyn. He went on to graduate from Hollywood High School and served in the United States Army in the Corps of Engineers. He was a boxer and a football player, but also had an interest in acting which he studied at Los Angeles City College.

While at the Ben Bard Drama acting school, Whitman appeared in a production of Here Comes Mr. Jordan which could be considered a spark that started his acting career. After making his big-screen debut in Rudolph Maté’s When Worlds Collide, he went on to appear in Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still and starred as the title character in Johnny Trouble in 1957. He also appeared in TV series Boston Blackie and Lux Video.

In 1958, James Garner tapped Whitman to take over his role in the Warner Bros. war film Darby’s Rangers when Garner took over Heston’s role after the latter stepped down. His resume started to fill up with credits in a variety of films from many genres including Ten North Frederick (1958), Hound-Dog Man (1959), These Thousand Hills (1959) The Story of Ruth (1960), Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965), Night of the Lepus (1972) and many others. He also starred opposite John Wayne in The Comancheros (1961) and The Longest Day (1962). In 1961, Whitman was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for his role in The Mark where he played a man battling his inner demons after he served time for intent to commit child molestation.

On the TV side, Whitman had a flood of credits including Highway Patrol, Cimarron Strip, Superboy, The Streets of San FranciscoKnight RiderA-Team, S.W.A.T., Fantasy Island, Tales of the Unexpected, Murder, She Wrote, Knots Landing, among others. His last onscreen appearance was alongside Chuck Norris in the CBS movie The President’s Man.

Whitman is survived by wife Yulia as well as his children Justin, Anthony, Michael, Linda and Scott and his grandchildren.

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