Stuart Maxwell Whitman (February 1, 1928 – March 16, 2020) was an American film and television actor, known for his lengthy career in both media. Whitman played major roles in a large variety of genres. Some of these credits include the dramatic The Mark for which he was nominated for best actor at the Academy Awards, the Western film The Comancheros (1961) with John Wayne, the lavish aviation comedy Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965), or the horror film Night of the Lepus (1972). On television, Whitman is known for roles in Highway Patrol (1955–1957), the 90-minute weekly Western Cimarron Strip (1967), and Superboy (1988–1992). Whitman was born in San Francisco, and raised in New York until the age of twelve. His family relocated to Los Angeles. Whitman finished high school in 1945 and was honorably discharged from the Corps of Engineers in the United States Army in 1948. Afterwards, Whitman started studying acting and appearing in plays and had bit roles in the films Rudolph Maté's When Worlds Collide and Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still (both 1951). Until 1957, Whitman had a streak working in mostly bit parts in films directed by leading directors. On television Whitman guest starred in series such as Dr. Christian, The Roy Rogers Show, Death Valley Days and also had a recurring role on Highway Patrol. This led Whitman to play the role in John H. Auer's Johnny Trouble starring Ethel Barrymore.
In the late 1950s, 20th Century Fox was on a drive to develop new talent. Head of production Buddy Adler chose Whitman to be one of the new names signed to Fox as part of a $3–4 million star-building program. For the next couple of years Whitman continued working with prominent directors, but in the lead cast. These are William A. Wellman's Darby's Rangers (1958) with James Garner, Frank Borzage's China Doll (1958), Philip Dunne's Ten North Frederick (1958), Andrew L. Stone's The Decks Ran Red (1958), Don Siegel's Hound-Dog Man (1959), Richard Fleischer's These Thousand Hills (1959), Henry Koster's The Story of Ruth (1960), Stuart Rosenberg's directorial credit shared with Burt Balagan for Murder, Inc. with Peter Falk, Michael Curtiz's The Comancheros (1961), and Guy Green's The Mark (1961) for which he was nominated for Best Actor.
Whitman, now an established actor, continued appearing in both film and television from 1962 to 1972. His films were met with variable degrees of success, the standout roles of that era were the all-star World War II epic The Longest Day (1962), René Clément's The Day and the Hour (1962), and Ken Annakin's Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965). The latter was a British period comedy film about a race in the early days of aviation, released theatrically on 70 mm, and it was a success at the box office. Whitman took the lead role in the western series Cimarron Strip which first aired in 1967. The show, which had a major production budget and proved costly in light of its ratings, was not renewed. In 1972, Whitman acted in the horror film Night of the Lepus. According to Whitman, the poor quality of the film put a dent in his reputation. From that point to 1987, Whitman would regularly appear on the major television shows of that time period, some of these include The Streets of San Francisco, Love, American Style, Quincy, M.E., The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Knight Rider, Matt Houston, among many others. He acted in several episodes of the A-Team, S.W.A.T., Fantasy Island, and Murder, She Wrote. He appeared in television-films and mini-series such as The Pirate, Condominium, Once Upon a Texas Train, etc. During this time he appeared in many genre films including Fred Williamson's Mean Johnny Barrows, Jonathan Demme's Crazy Mama, and several collaborations with director René Cardona Jr.. In 1988, he was featured on Superboy, the comic book adaptation, which lasted until 1992. Until the very end, Whitman played Jonathan Kent, the superhero's adoptive father. In 1990, he was seen playing a recurring role in Knots Landing. During this time, he acted twice in two hour western specials . First was the 1993 debut of Bruce Campbell's The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. The second, in 1994, was Chuck Norris' Walker, Texas Ranger episode The Reunion. He was seen in several television films and series as well as the big screen for other projects until the year 2000, but was reported to be retired from acting after that.
He is also known as Stuart Maxwell Whitman.