Born in October 1921, James Whitmore grew up in White Plains, New York and went on to have a long and varied career as a character actor. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War Two and received his degree from the prestigious Yale University but once this stage of his life was over he began pursuing acting, joining the American Theatre Wing. It was here he met his first wife Nancy Mygatt with whom he had three children.
His profile as an actor was raised in 1947 when he made his Broadway debut in the play Command Decision for which he won a Tony Award and attracted the attention of Hollywood. He won a role in the film Battleground and his hard work paid off when he was nominated for an Oscar in 1950 for his performance in the movie.
James became known his roles in war movies and crime dramas, starring in movies such as Above and Beyond, Battle Cry, Madigan and Crime in the Streets but managed proved his range as an actor with roles in film versions of musicals like Oklahoma! and Kiss Me Kate. Whitmore also gained roles on TV, appearing in one of the most popular episodes of the cult show The Twilight Zone in 1963. In 1968, he again dipped into the sci-fi genre in the hit movie Planet of the Apes.
James married his second wife Audra Lindley in 1972 and in 1976 he received another Oscar nomination, this time for his leading role in the film Give 'Em Hell Harry. For the rest of the 1970s, Whitmore's acting mainly took place in the theatre, even appearing in plays with his new wife such as On Golden Pond and Love Letters. They continued working together even after their 1979 divorce.
In more recent times his most notable work has been his role as Brooks Hatlen in the 1994 critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated prison movie The Shawshank Redemption and his Emmy nominated performance in his recurring role in TV show The Practice.
In 2001, James married his current wife Noreen Nash and has since returned to the stage. In June 2006, he started a run of the play Tuesdays With Morrie in New Hampshire, in which his co-star is his son James Whitmore Jr.