Stuart Whitman, Star of 'Cimarron Strip' and 'The Mark,' Dies at 92

CBS/Photofest
Stuart Whitman on 'Cimarron Strip'

The leading man also stood out in 'The Comancheros' and 'Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.'

Stuart Whitman, the rugged actor who starred on TV's Cimarron Strip and received an Oscar nomination for playing a convicted child molester trying to rid himself of psychological demons in The Mark, has died. He was 92.

Whitman died Monday of natural causes at his home in Montecito, California, his son Justin told The Hollywood Reporter.

In his big-screen heyday, Whitman also wooed Joanne Woodward in The Sound and the Fury (1959), starred opposite Simone Signoret as an American pilot downed in Nazi-occupied France in The Day and the Hour (1963) and portrayed the heroic American Orvil Newton in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965).

He starred twice opposite John Wayne, first as the New Orleans gambler Paul Regret in The Comancheros (1961), Michael Curtiz's final feature, and then as an army lieutenant in the all-star World War II epic The Longest Day (1962).

Though CBS' Cimarron Strip lasted just one season (1967-68) and 23 original episodes, Whitman remains known for his turn as Marshal Jim Crown on the ambitious series, one of the first on television to run for 90 minutes. He produced and had a financial interest in the period Western, as well.

Whitman also played a patrolman on the Broderick Crawford series Highway Patrol in the 1950s and appeared as "Pa" Kent on the 1988-92 syndicated series Superboy. In Guyana: Crime of the Century (1979), he starred as a despicable leader of a cult.

In recent years, Whitman showed up as an old friend of Chuck Norris' on Walker, Texas Ranger.

In the British film The Mark (1961), directed by Guy Green, Whitman stepped in for Richard Burton, who was busy doing Camelot on Broadway, to star as a child molester who gets out of prison, enlists the help of a psychiatrist (Rod Steiger) to try to lead a normal life and then is outed — wrongly — by a reporter after another kid is reported as a possible abuse victim.

In its review, The Hollywood Reporter noted that "Whitman turns in a superbly shaded performance as one who subtly, slowly emerges from a deeply felt insecurity to some semblance of virile dignity."

"Near the end of the film I got a call from the writer [Sidney Buchman] on it, and he said, 'You might get an Oscar out of this role,'" Whitman recalled in a 2013 interview with Alan K. Rode. "I said, 'Yeah, sure, right.'"

Whitman did get nominated for best actor but lost out to Judgment at Nuremberg's Maximilian Schell — whose sister, Maria, played Whitman's love interest in The Mark. "Maria told me she didn't know who to vote for that year!” he said.

The field in 1962 also included heavyweights Spencer Tracy, Paul Newman and Charles Boyer.

Stuart Maxwell Whitman was born on Feb. 1, 1928, in San Francisco. When he was 3, he and his family moved to Brooklyn, and he eventually graduated from Hollywood High in 1945.

During a three-year stint with the U.S. Army Engineer Corps, the brawny Whitman won all but one of his 24 boxing matches as a light heavyweight, then played football and studied acting at Los Angeles City College. To help make ends meet, he bought, operated and hired out his own bulldozer.

At the Ben Bard Drama acting school, Whitman appeared as a prize fighter in a production of Here Comes Mr. Jordan and attracted the attention of Hollywood talent scouts.

Whitman had his movie debut in When Worlds Collide (1951), appeared on TV shows like Boston Blackie and Lux Video Theatre and made an impression opposite Ethel Barrymore and Carolyn Jones as the wild title character in Johnny Trouble (1957).

When Charlton Heston bowed out of the high-profile Warner Bros. war movie Darby’s Rangers (1958), James Garner replaced him and Whitman took on Garner's role, playing the soldier Hank Bishop.

He portrayed a trumpet player who impregnated a young girl (Diane Varsi) in Ten North Frederick (1958), and signed a contract with 20th Century Fox. He shared an interracial kiss with Dorothy Dandridge in The Decks Ran Red (1958) and went on to star in Hound-Dog Man (1959), The Story of Ruth (1960), Murder, Inc. (1960), Convicts 4 (1962), Shock Treatment (1964), Rio Conchos (1964) and Sands of the Kalahari (1965).

In the 1970s, Whitman was a stout presence on such shows as The F.B.I., Night Gallery, S.W.A.T. and Quincy M.E. and starred on the big screen in Run, Cougar, Run (1972), Shatter (1974), Jonathan Demme's Crazy Mama (1975) and Eaten Alive (1976), directed by Tobe Hooper.

Whitman made his last onscreen appearance on the 2000 CBS movie The President's Man, starring Norris. He reportedly made a fortune in real estate and retired in 2000 to his 35-acre ranch in Santa Barbara.

Survivors include his third wife, Yulia, whom he married in 2006; children Justin, Anthony, Michael, Linda and Scott; brother Kipp and sister-in-law Beth; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. 

"He loved Jack Daniel's, Padron cigars, getting his hands dirty with work on his ranch, watching the birds and gazing out upon the Pacific Ocean," his family said in a statement. "He adored people and embraced everyone equally, whether it was his longtime colleague Frank Sinatra, his ever-growing collection of friends or a repairman in his home. He took daily tennis lessons in preparation for heated matches and was gracious in both victory and defeat. An avid storyteller, he was forever the center of attention, living by his mother's creed, which he took joy in repeating, 'Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes.'"

Donations in his memory can be made to the Boys & Girls Club of America.

Duane Byrge contributed to this report.