Classic Cinema: Black Like Me (1964)

My names is Jason Lockard and I love classic cinema. The best place to get the idea for a good movie is from a good book and no doubt we have all heard of the novel Black Like Me. Well, in 1964 it was made into a movie featuring star of the month James Whitmore.

James Whitemore was born in White Plains, New York, to Florence Belle and James Allen Whitmore, Sr., a park commission official. Whitmore graduated from The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) in Wallingford, Connecticut and then studied at Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones, and had his first taste of radio drama as a member of the student-run WOCD-AM, later renamed WYBC-AM.

Whitmore was commissioned a second lieutenant and served in the United States Marine Corps in the Panama Canal Zone during World War II. After the war he on Broadway and then moved to movies as MGM signed him to a contract. His first major picture for MGM was Battleground, in a role that was turned down by Spencer Tracy. He would go on to perform in such notable films as; Angels in the Outfield, The Asphalt Jungle, Them!, Oklahoma!, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and Give ’em Hell, Harry!, a one-man show for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of former U.S. President Harry S Truman.

In 1964 James Whitemore took the lead role ‘Black like me’ He stars as John Finley Horton a white journalist who darkens his skin and lives in the Deep South as a black man, encountering a great deal of racism from both white and black people. The film also boasts a great cast of including Roscoe Lee Browne, Clifton James and Will Geer.

James Whitemore would appear on many TV shows during in his illustrious career including; The Twilight Zone, The Virginian, The Big Valley and Planet of the Apes just to name a few. Later in his career Whitmore would play the role of Brooks in Shawshank Redemption and a supporting role in Jim Carrey’s The Majestic.

In November 2008 Whitmore was diagnosed with lung cancer and on February 6, 2009 at the age of 87 James Whitemore died, but he left a legacy of great performances that will live on. So until next month this is Jason Lockard reminding you if you want to see a good movie, check out a classic!

Moral Rating: Hate speech, adult language.
Audience: May not be suitable for young children.
Genre: Drama
Length: 105 min.
Released: 1964
Our Rating: A+