Movie News

Frank Darabont Eulogizes The Departed Great... James Whitmore...

Published at: Feb. 7, 2009, 3:18 a.m. CST

Hey folks, Harry here... I was going to write up a farewell to Mr Whitmore, but figured Mr Darabont should do it...

Damn. I'm heartbroken that James Whitmore has died. I know age makes these things inevitable, but still...damn. He was one of the loveliest men I've ever met, and one of the most professional and dedicated actors I've ever worked with. He was the gold-standard of his profession. The people who were privileged to work with him loved him. To all of us, he was an icon, a living legend. But when anybody tried to call him 'Mr. Whitmore' on the set, he'd say in that lovely growl of his: "Aw, hell, son, just call me Jim." While filming SHAWSHANK, I was always struck by the fact that he'd sit in his chair as close to the set as possible so he could be the first one in when the actors were called. When cameras were ready and we summoned first team, Jim was always the first actor to hit his mark and wait for "action." He'd beat all the younger guys by a mile. One day while filming THE MAJESTIC, the conversation came around to World War Two (not surprising given the themes of the film). Jim told me something I hadn't known: that he'd been a Marine who'd fought in the Pacific and survived the battles of both Saipan and Tinian. The Marines were always the first ones on the beaches and the longest in the fighting. I was humbled that day to realize that my sweet old pal Jim was one of those 'greatest generation' heroes we hear so much about. He didn't make a big deal out of it, none of those guys ever do, but he did mention in passing that he almost died of dysentery on Tinian before being pulled off the front lines. Basically, Jim was a tough little son of a bitch who went through the meat grinder of an unspeakable war and survived it. And then he came home and quietly set about doing what he loved doing most, which was acting. What amazed me then...and what has stayed with me since...was that the ugliness of that wartime experience had never embittered him or shaken his faith in humanity. He was a humanist and an optimist to his core, the warmest and kindest of men, and a hell of a raconteur besides. To me, he'll always be the guy from my childhood who saved the world from giant radiation-spawned ants in THEM. And the orangutan before whose court Taylor was brought in filthy rags for judgment in PLANET OF THE APES. And the father-figure who led a group of survivors and kept everybody's hopes alive (and broke my heart) with his unforgettable tour-de-force performance in Rod Serling's hour-long TWILIGHT ZONE episode, "On Thursday We Leave For Home." The fact that I grew up to work with this great man twice, and to know him, is an honor that is hard to articulate. I'll miss him and treasure the memory of him always. I'm very sad today. I'm going to go watch that TWILIGHT ZONE again. Frank Darabont

Readers Talkback

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  • Feb. 6, 2009, 9:41 p.m. CST

    Brooks? NOOOOOO!

    by blindambition238

    He had the most moving arc and scene in Shawshank by farrrrrrrrrr.....

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 9:45 p.m. CST

    RIP

    by blackhole4140

    Great job Frank. James Whitmore will be missed by a lot of generations.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 9:49 p.m. CST

    Brooks was here.

    by DarthSiskel

    Get busy living, or get busy dying.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 9:54 p.m. CST

    i remember him..

    by nolan bautista

    ..doing those commercials (Alpo?)..RIP Jim..i mean Mr.Whitmore

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:02 p.m. CST

    The world's gone and got itself in a big damn hurry

    by Atticus Finch

    I could kill the manager, kind of as a bonus

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:08 p.m. CST

    Bummer

    by Ted Brautigan

    I just re-read "Shawshank", and now I wish his character had a bigger role in that version of the story. Thanks for giving him a meatier role in the film Mr. Darabont. RIP, Jim Whitmore

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:09 p.m. CST

    Goddamnit...

    by 24200124

    I brought home "The Shawshank Redemption" on laserdisc in 1995, and my folks came home while I was watching it. My dad said, "Is that guy named James Whitmore?" while pointing at one of the men onscreen. I said, "Yes. Why?" He said, "I met him in DC once. He's a very nice guy. And he's in this movie? I had no idea..." <br> "Shawshank" is one of my favorite films of all time, and to hear this news about the man who played one of my favorite characters in the film saddens me greatly. He will be missed.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:20 p.m. CST

    Frank, make the goddamned DOC SAVAGE movie already!!!

    by Bob Cryptonight

    And, also, rest in peace, Mr. Whitmore. I have loved so many of your roles over the years...

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:21 p.m. CST

    Great Actor. Thanks for the entertainment!

    by uberman

    I loved him in THE RELIC-one of the most overlooked GREAT monster movies of all time.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:25 p.m. CST

    RIP Brooksie

    by bluebalrog

    Don't know much about Mr. Whitmore, but sounds like a class act. And anyone who can break Frank Darabont's heart, must be one of the greats.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:30 p.m. CST

    Rest in peace Jim

    by MonkeyLord

    :(

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:30 p.m. CST

    Will rewatch SHAWSHANK this weekend...

    by TheBLIGHT

    Had more whit, and charisma than most actors he shared screen with... RIP. Nice of Frank to write, send this out, and share his thoughts.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:31 p.m. CST

    Christian Bale, take note!

    by Fa Fa Fooey

    You aren't that fucking important next to guys like James.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:34 p.m. CST

    Thanks man

    by Melvin_Pelvis

    Thanks for all the great performances<br> Thanks for all your work

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:39 p.m. CST

    I am gonna pour some Miracle Gro on the ground for Ma Homie...

    by DarfurOnTheRocks

    Excellent actor

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:41 p.m. CST

    Yep, Miracle-Gro...

    by ericinwisconsin

    ...with the no-clog feeder. <br /><br /> But Whitmore was a class act and should always be remembered for the great roles he did.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:59 p.m. CST

    Wow. Sorry to hear that.

    by SkidMarkedUndies

    That's sad stuff right there. James Whitmore had a vision that I think that comes around once every two or three generations. Rare talent. RIP.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:01 p.m. CST

    Twilight Zone and Them

    by cgccomics

    James Whitmore was great in everything he did. I just remember "On Thursday we leave for home" being one of the best Zones ever, with a great but sad ending. Them was a clasic too. He will be missed.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:06 p.m. CST

    QUALITY HUMAN BEING, QUALITY ACTOR

    by Mullah Omar

    A close friend of mine did an extended run on a theater production with Whitmore several years ago and could not stop great things about him, both as a performer and as a human being. <br> <br> For my part, I was impressed at how he took a side character in SHAWSHANK and nearly managed to upstage the whole film with his arc. Quality.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:18 p.m. CST

    Mr. Darabont

    by BadMrWonka

    many of us were introduced to James Whitmore through his masterful performance in Shawshank, so although it may humble you to have worked with him, you are truly a big part of his legacy. <p>RIP Brooks! and thank you Mr Darabont for such a touching remembrance.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:34 p.m. CST

    He was awesome in BATTLEGROUND

    by jrb

    The scene at the end when he leads the battered remnants of his platoon off the line is just great. His guys are limping and all shot up. When they see a bunch of fresh replacement troops approaching, they straighten up and march out like men. They don't make 'em like that anymore. RIP, Mr. Whitmore.<BR><BR>Final scene from BATTLEGROUND:<BR> http://tinyurl.com/b3tu47

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:37 p.m. CST

    RIP Mr. Whitmore...This guy was NOT..

    by conspiracy

    Fucking Amateur. Just look at his career...Decades of quality work. Not many honest to God professionals like this left in Hollywood.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:50 p.m. CST

    An actor's actor...an icon

    by darthliquidator

    He is forever a piece of my childhood, as I watched, horrified, his sacrificial rescue of the two little boys in "Them!" You young 'uns should know he also starred in a briefly aired but much beloved TV series, "The Law and Mr.Jones"...one of the first times that viewers lobbied a Network to save a show it had scheduled for cancellation. And if you ever see it pop up on cable, check him out in "The Death Merchant" episode of "The Big Valley"...in which he played 'Handy Random', a smilin', folksy cowboy who was actually a murderous frontier psycho. RIP, Mr.Whitmore...how you will be missed.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:56 p.m. CST

    Sad to hear

    by blackwood

    Rest in peace.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 12:19 a.m. CST

    Whitmore was great in many, many roles.

    by ExcaliburFfolkes

    One of my personal favorites was in "Kiss Me Kate" where he played a surprisingly literate mob collector. He and his partner had a fantastic little song and dance number that uncluded a chorus of, "Brush up on your Shakespeare; start quoting him now. Brush up on your Shakespeare; and the ladies you will wow."

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 12:29 a.m. CST

    The Great James Whitmore

    by Latauro

    Even though he is perfect in Shawshank (my favourite film, I must confess), I love him the most in Kiss Me Kate. His tapdance routine during "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" is just about the greatest thing ever. Nice to hear he was as great offscreen as on. Thank you for the eulogy.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 1:26 a.m. CST

    Peace to JW

    by Dingbatty

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 1:36 a.m. CST

    Brooks Was Here

    by ThePilgrim

    Rip James Whitmore.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 2:06 a.m. CST

    Classic

    by DeweyOxburger

    I've jokingly had him as a morbid "death pool" candidate for a good long while, but today I feel terrible for ever having bet on him, as i've lost one of my favorite actors...long live James Whitmore, as we've lost one of the GREATEST.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 2:15 a.m. CST

    GIVE EM HELL, JIM

    by bacci40

    cant believe that frank missed talking about mr whitmore's seminal performance<p> there was an actor who aged more than gracefully, and knew how to touch an audience...

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 2:35 a.m. CST

    Captain Benteen

    by Skraggo

    What a fine actor. Recently, I was reminded how much I liked him when I caught his Twilight Zone episode again. When he's telling the little boy what Earth was like... Man, that's about as good as it gets.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 3:04 a.m. CST

    Easy Peasy Japanese-y

    by delatao

    Just watched my blu-ray with the Darabount commentary on. Right after flipped over to the net and I read this. RIP Mr. Whitmore.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 3:08 a.m. CST

    R.I.P.....

    by closeencounter

    Mr. Whitmore...I mean, Jim. R.I.P.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 3:36 a.m. CST

    Beautiful Eulogy

    by christian66

    Gave me chills. Thanks Frank!

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 5:23 a.m. CST

    It's not just the economy that's suffering at the moment

    by IAmMrMonkey!

    Hollywood seems to be going through its own crisis as quality actors seem to be dying in ever increasing numbers!<p>RIP Mr Whitmore

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 6:03 a.m. CST

    Ants!

    by Clumzor

    I'll always remember him from Them!.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 6:11 a.m. CST

    I doubt they'll kick up any fuss...

    by LlGHTST0RMER

    ...not for an old crook like me. <p> Rest in peace, sir.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 6:21 a.m. CST

    James Whitmore was here

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    Quality actor. RIP

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 6:28 a.m. CST

    An Old School Gent and a fine actor R.I.P JW

    by KillaKane

    I hope James Whitmore get's the postumous recognition he deserves.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 6:55 a.m. CST

    I am shocked and saddened & as a lost fan, pissed!

    by Bill Brasky

    Now we will NEVER know why he hates Desmond so much! What the Fuck, JJ? Lead us around by our noses for all these years and then kill off your characters like this?!?! Just when we find out that he was a young man on the island back in the 50's! Fuckin' FUCK!!!!

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 6:57 a.m. CST

    You say Widmore, I say Whitmore...

    by Bill Brasky

    You say Penny, I say Hot, smokin' peice of ass!<p>Here's to Bill Brasky!!!

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 7 a.m. CST

    I forgot about that TZ episode

    by ballyhoo

    Man, that really was an incredible performance.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 7:11 a.m. CST

    Glad some remember Kiss Me Kate...

    by pilotgrl

    I was just thinking about him the other day and how long his career was. He was a classic.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 7:17 a.m. CST

    Great words

    by The_Skook

    Great words for for a man who sounds as modest about his acting career as he was about his military one. It's funny, but when you watch movies like 'THEM', they seem to be from a different time and place. People like James Whitmore connected you with those times. Made them real. RIP sir! Thanks Frank!

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 7:53 a.m. CST

    Asphalt Jungle to Planet of the Apes

    by Coma Baby

    What a long and interesting career - glad he was able to stay working at the top of his craft for as long as he did. I've seen him in one of the greatest films of all time (committing himself to a vital but unglamourus role), Asphalt Jungle, and what turned out to be a geek milestone (but must've seen totally random at the time), Planet of the Apes. Both movies are what being a film lover is all about.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 7:55 a.m. CST

    Twilight Zone

    by Coma Baby

    Also, Mr. Darabont is right - he's awesome in that Twilight Zone episode and anybody who hasn't seen it should check it out.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 8:13 a.m. CST

    R.I.P.

    by Genre_Baby

    I'll have to watch Apes and my favorite of Mr. Whitmore's performances. Whitmore as the corrupted, put-upon Commissioner Aldo Scavino in Enzo Castellari's High Crime. He made every scene he and Franco Nero were in even better. Whitmore's performance allowed Nero to really shine. R.I.P. sir, thank you.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 8:29 a.m. CST

    Brooks was here

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    Man this sucks. One of my first memories of Saturday afternoon monster movies on TV was Them! It's on DVD now thank goodness. And Shawshank....what more can be said . Two great movies in two different genres. In one he a young tough cop fighting killer ant. In the other he an old man at the end of his life. Two entirely different performances and both were great. I didn't know he was in Apes. I'll have to watch that again.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 8:30 a.m. CST

    If anyone suggests remaking Them with CGI

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    I will have to hurt them. If you want a CGI bug fix go see Starship Troopers. Leave Them alone.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 8:57 a.m. CST

    THEM! (spoiler!)

    by Catbarf the 12th

    God, I love that movie, and the Arness-Whitmore casting had a lot to do with that. Whitmore's character got a great death-by-mandible scene in that one! I actually wish Them would be remade, in a worthy fashion, with more convincing ants. And I wish Whitmore could have made an homage cameo in it. Guess I can't get that part of the wish. Hang in there James Arness!

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 8:58 a.m. CST

    Good work Frank. Class act.

    by Stuntcock Mike

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 8:59 a.m. CST

    A Truly Authentic Man...

    by Kal Reeve

    capable of warm, vulnerable performances. A great, great actor. May he rest in peace.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 9 a.m. CST

    I keep forgetting to put the exclamation point

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    in THEM! and I think you guys are right. I think it's all caps.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 9 a.m. CST

    Sad 2 Hear

    by Broseph

    He Was such a sweet man in shawshank that scene made me cry when he killed himself.Rest In Peace Sir

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 9:05 a.m. CST

    As someone mentioned in the novella

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    the Brooks characters was a minor footnote. It was expanded for the big screen, and in this case taking some minor liberties with the story actually made a big difference in a positive way.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 9:06 a.m. CST

    Okay THEM is all caps according to the

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    movie posters, but no exclamation point. Geek nitpickiness at its worst, but I had to know.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 9:07 a.m. CST

    CGI Them could be OK...

    by Catbarf the 12th

    I'm one of the first to decry CGI but with a subject like giant bugs, I'll keep an open mind. It could be very effective. Perhaps something like a toned-down version of Peter Jackson's "Spider Pit" sequence with truck-sized ants? Play it a bit more like a "shrunken humans" movie instead of a "giant bugs" movie, and have the ants move more naturally, like regular ants. It could be terrifying, just like Them was when I was a kid (in the 1970s, the 50s monster movies were still pretty scary to youngsters on TV)

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 9:08 a.m. CST

    And the funniest CSI

    by zinc_chameleon

    About the flatulent over-the-hill boxer who drowns in the pool (the chair did it). At first you think Jame's character is a witless old fool, but the writers have a few surprises for you. For my money, the most memorable CSI episode. And come to think of it, THEM could use a remake.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 9:28 a.m. CST

    A Really Fantastic Actor

    by Sparhawk38

    There are a few actors of that generation who acted in so many different things that they just become part of your life. Because of this it is easy to miss the talent behind all of that work. Mr. Whitmore was a fantastic artist. I am really sorry to hear of his passing. r.i.p.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 10:18 a.m. CST

    He was old school. He was great.

    by brock landers baby

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 11:54 a.m. CST

    Harry is the biggest name dropper EVER!

    by batzilla

    Unreal. Every chance he gets he just HAS to mention how he "knows" the actor. And what's this "...and one of the most professional and dedicated actors I've ever worked with." ??? Give me a break. Harry ALWAYS has to turn it into something about HIM. What gives?

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 12:35 p.m. CST

    batzilla

    by Geveeso

    This was written by Frank Darabont, not Harry...

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 1:41 p.m. CST

    batzilla

    by Kal Reeve

    While there are reasons to have issues with Harry Knowles, don't try to use Mr. Whitmore's passing as one of them. Harry didn't even write the piece; he selflessly handed off to Darabont.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 1:47 p.m. CST

    Oh here it is!

    by Orionsangels

    My simple search was looking for James Whitmore in the front of the sentence, not this Frank Darabont character.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 1:51 p.m. CST

    Whitmore was a truly great actor...

    by thegreatwhatzit

    Like so many character actors, he was rather unappreciated (the media prefers to focus on p.r. whores, e.g., George Clooney Pam Anderson, et al. None of these parasites can approximate Whitmore's talent).

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 2:46 p.m. CST

    DARABONT to rock the SHIT OUT of FAHRENHEIT 451

    by Stengah

    can I get a FUCK YES? sorry to hear about whitmore.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 2:56 p.m. CST

    Great actor.

    by mrfan

    Wish there were more like him in the world. RIP.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 4:18 p.m. CST

    Nicely put, Mr. Darabont

    by TinkerTIW

    Beautiful remembrance. In addition to James Whitmore's other work, I've also enjoyed a little fantasy from the 50's he did that turns up on TCM every so often called THE NEXT VOICE YOU HEAR about the voice of God being heard all over the world via radio. His co-star was the future first lady, Nancy Davis.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 6:47 p.m. CST

    CHARLES WHIDMORE?!

    by zom-bot.com

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 7:26 p.m. CST

    RIP

    by veritasses

    (T_T)

  • Feb. 8, 2009, 12:29 a.m. CST

    So Was Red

    by Kortan Askew

    can't believe it took two days for someone to followup Darth Siskel's comment..

  • Feb. 8, 2009, 5:23 a.m. CST

    get busy living or get busy dying...

    by hiperaktiv

    A wonderful performance in Shawshank, so sad to see a great actor pass.

  • Feb. 8, 2009, 9:17 a.m. CST

    Too sad...

    by HulkSmashNow

    Mr. Whitmore was a damn fine actor and his passing is a real loss. He'll always be "Brooks" to me. My grandfather was also a Marine who served in Saipan, Tinian, and Guadacanal.

  • Feb. 8, 2009, 10:46 a.m. CST

    James Whitmore - Best of the Best Actors

    by Khan Singh

    Back in 1975 my High school class took our Senior class trip to Washington DC. While there we went to see a play at Fords Theater. That Play was "Give 'em Hell Harry". A one man show where James Whitmore played Harry Truman. It was the Best show live or on film I have ever seen. Mr. Whitmore made you believe that he was Harry Truman. But more than that, he made it feel like he was talking to you as a friend, and there was no script. I have never forgotten that performance, and I never will. Unfortunately for his fellow actors it became the yardstick I use for all other actors. Few have ever come close to measuring up. He will be sorely missed!

  • Feb. 8, 2009, 2:13 p.m. CST

    Thanks, Mr. Darabont...

    by Roguewriter

    Lovely remembrance; proof Whitmore was as class an act off-screen as he was on. There's nothing better about SHAWSHANK than Brooks' final voiceover; for me, more than anything else, that's a defining moment of the movie, the thing that compels Red to make the journey he makes, and thus gives the movie its well-earned finale. A tip of my cap to you, sir, for giving James Whitmore that critical bit of story -- and that sad, elegiac farewell. Even now, the real thing comes too early... R.I.P., Mr. Whitmore.

  • Feb. 8, 2009, 8:21 p.m. CST

    He had a long life and distinguished career.

    by DDMAN26

    May he rest in piece, but he was one of those actors who always looked older to me.

  • Feb. 9, 2009, 10:32 a.m. CST

    And then there were none. RIP, James Whitmore.

    by Snake Foreskin

    We have fewer and fewer of that generation among us. The Greatest Generation, indeed. And Mr. Whitmore was among the finest of that generation's actors. His stage performance as Harry Truman in "Give 'Em Hell, Harry!" is one of the finest I have seen. It is on DVD. Seek it out.<p> There was a wonderful character written in the 1980s specifically with James Whitmore in mind, but alas it was not meant to be. Nevertheless, he will always be the Ozark Fox to me.<p> R.I.P., Mr. Whitmore. You were a great actor and a great man, and you will sincerely be missed.