MALIBU, Calif. -- Veteran character actor James Whitmore, who appeared in films ranging from "The Asphalt Jungle" to "Planet of the Apes" to "The Shawshank Redemption," died Friday at his Malibu home at age 87.
Whitmore died of lung cancer, which he was diagnosed with a week before Thanksgiving, his son, Steve, said.
"My father was a great man and it gives me great joy to speak about a father that always had my back," Steve Whitmore said. "He always said the most important thing in life was family. He loved his work, but he always saw it as a way to provide for the most important thing, and that's family."
A New York native, James Whitmore earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University, then served with the Marines in World War II. After his military service, Whitmore began appearing in stage productions in New Hampshire in the late 1940s.
He made his Broadway debut in "Command Decision" in 1947, winning a Tony Award.
Two years later, Whitmore was appearing on the big screen opposite Glenn Ford in "The Undercover Man." He earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations with his follow-up performance in "Battleground."
He made a string of film appearances through the 1950s, then began appearing in television shows such as "The Twilight Zone," "Rawhide," "Dr. Kildare," "The Law and Mr. Jones" and "The Detectives."
He portrayed veteran Chief Inspector Charles Kane in "Madigan" and played the president of the simian assembly in the original "Planet of the Apes."
He returned to the stage in the 1970s, appearing in one-man shows portraying Will Rogers, Harry Truman and Theodore Roosevelt. He moved his Harry Truman role to the silver screen in "Give 'em Hell, Harry!," a role that earned him a second Oscar nomination.
Whitmore tugged on movie-goers' heart-strings when he played inmate Brooks Hatlen in "The Shawshank Redemption."
He won an Emmy Award in 2000 for his recurring role on the drama "The Practice."
"I know my father leaves a large footprint. So many in the motion picture business and the acting business loved and admired him, and we, the family, share in that admiration and love," Steve Whitmore said.
"He was nominated for the Academy Award twice. He's an Emmy Award winner, but that was all a means to an end to him -- to provide for those he loved and cared for," he said. "He was glad to be able to do what he loved and provide.
"We appreciate everybody and thank you all for your thoughts and prayers."
In addition to his son, Whitmore is survived by his wife Noreen, sons James Jr. and Dan, eight grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.