Stuart Whitman, the TV and film actor whose screen credits included roles between the 1950s and 2000, among them “The Comancheros” and “The Mark,” has died.
Whitman died Monday at his home in Montecito after complications from skin cancer, his son told the New York Times. He was 92.
“Old Hollywood lost another one of its true stars,” his son told TMZ. “Stuart Whitman was known for his rugged roles and handsome charm. We were proud of him for his TV, film roles and his Oscar nomination, but what we will really remember is his exuberant love of his family and friends.”
The California native had more than 180 credits to his name between the early 1950s and 2000. But he was perhaps best known for his westerns alongside Hollywood heavyweight John Wayne, most notably in “The Comancheros,” a 1961 film directed by “Casablanca” director Michael Curtiz.
Whitman earned a best actor Oscar nomination that same year for this starring role in the “The Mark,” a controversial movie about a pedophile. He was cast in the 1965 aviation comedy “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” and played the leading character in the 1972 sci-fi horror flick “Night of the Lepus,” a cult classic about mutated rabbits.
On TV, Whitman was just as prolific.
In the mid 1950s, he played a recurring role as Sgt. Walters in the crime drama series “Highway Patrol,” which featured budding actors including Clint Eastwood, Robert Conrad and Barbara Eden.
The following decade, Whitman starred as Marshal Jim Crown in the western TV series “Cimarron Strip.” It premiered on CBS with much attention, as the western was enjoying its last heyday with the likes of “The Big Valley,” “The High Chaparral” and others. And even though it only lasted one season, that was all it took to typecast its star.
“I got stamped as a cowboy,” Whitman told The Los Angeles Times in 1996.
He was also known for playing Clark Kent’s father in the series “Superboy” (1988-1992).
In 2000, Whitman retired after being featured in the TV movie “The President’s Man,” which starred Chuck Norris.
Whitman’s decades-long career was steady, if bumpy. “I was bankable for a while,” he told The Times in 1991. “Then I did a couple of shows that didn’t make any money. Then I wasn’t bankable.”
But that never stopped him from working steadily. “As an actor you’ve got to keep working. You’ve got to do something to feed the family, put the kids through school, things like that.”
Born Feb. 1, 1928, in San Francisco, Whitman once admitted that he was a juvenile troublemaker before he attended Hollywood High. “I went to 26 different schools before” high school, he told told gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. “My parents married while in their teens and were always traveling around.”
As a young adult, his uncle secretly trained him as a fighter and encouraged him to become a heavyweight boxer, but his father wanted his son to join his law firm. Whitman’s heart wasn’t in either.
He pursued acting instead shortly after serving in the Army Corps of Engineers and landed a small role in the 1958 American drama “Ten North Frederick” that launched his career.
“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,” he told The Times in 1961. “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.”