Veteran Actor Whitmore Dead at 87
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2009 8:12 PM CST
In this Feb. 27, 2000 file photo originally provided by Ford's Theatre, actor James Whitmore plays Will Rogers in "Will Rogers' U.S.A."   (AP Photo/Ford's Theatre, Joan Marcus, file)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Down-to-earth stage and screen actor James Whitmore died of lung cancer in Malibu today, the Los Angeles Times reports. He was 87. Known for his supporting roles and leads in films such as Battleground, Planet of the Apes, and The Shawshank Redeption, the Emmy and Tony Award winner preferred theater. "The stage is human beings sharing something together—flesh and blood together," Whitmore said.

Theater-goers knew him best for his one-man shows portraying American icons like Harry Truman and Will Rogers. The latter show ran on and off for 30 years. Still, Whitmore "never thought" he was good, he once said. "I've touched the hem of the garment a few times but never grabbed it full-hand." A Yale graduate and early student of the Actors Studio in New York, Whitmore was married three times—twice to his first wife—and had three children.