Stuart Whitman RIP: "The Man Who Could Have Been in Psycho"(And the Great Roles He Did Get")
Actor Stuart Whitman has passed away at the age of 92, I think. That's a nice long life.
Whitman is relevant among other reasons because, somewhat famously now, it is known that Hitchcock wanted Whitman to play Sam Loomis in Psycho -- but Lew Wasserman pressured Hitchcock into using his client John Gavin instead.
A lot of people don't like Gavin in Psycho. I'm' NOT one of them. He's rather "in the Hitchcock tradition" -- tall, handsome, dark-haired, good body(like Cary Grant, even though Gavin was a Rock Hudson clone.) And I personally like how "scared" Gavin plays Loomis -- scared of LIFE, of marriage, of Marion -- and a bit scared by the Bates Motel at the end. He's nervous for a big, strapping man.
Gavin was also very tall, tall enough to believeably subdue Norman in the fruit cellar. And -- John Gavin rather looked LIKE Anthony Perkins -- doubles facing each other across a motel counter.
But Hitchcock liked Stuart Whitman, who was just coming up in 1960, and about to get a good lead opposite John Wayne in "The Commancheros" in 1961 that made Whitman a movie star for...less than a decade. And then a TV star.
Whitman was a handsome guy(everybody Hitch looked at for Sam Loomis was a handsome guy) with a great, sexy-growly sandpaper voice...he was a Western kind of guy, a man's man. HIS Sam Loomis might have seemed more appropriate to rural Fairvale.
As it turned out, Stuart Whitman got to work with Janet Leigh 12 years after Psycho -- he played her husgand, even. But the movie was terrible -- "Night of the Lepus" -- about GIANT KILLER BUNNIES(simply blown-up footage on the big screen). You aren't supposed to make your B-movie monster movie INTENTIONALLY stupid and funny. Night of the Lepus was sad proof that the best of movie actors sometimes have to take a job "for the paycheck." (I also seem to remember Whitman opposite Leigh in a sexy thriller called An American Dream, in the 60's. I guess they made a good pair -- Hitch thought so. UPDATE: Also called, here at movie chat: "See You In Hell, Darling." Hah.)
Back in the 60's, Whitman got an Oscar nomination for the very controversial role of a child molester(recovering) in The Mark; so he has that historic role on his record.
But the rest of the time, Whitman was good in Westerns. He's Wayne's handsome partner in The Commancheros. He's the American Westerner lead in the international "Those Magnificent Flying Machines" (1965).
And he's in one of my favorite Westerns of all time: "Rio Conchos"(1964) in which a four-man team goes on a mission. Two of them are cool dudes(Richard Boone, Tony Franciosa), the other two are straight arrows(Stuart Whitman, NFL star Jim Brown.) In 2020, now only Jim Brown is still alive of the four men -- but together, they are great in Rio Conchos. I do believe I'm going to watch it in honor of Stuart Whitman.
In 1967, Whitman saw the writing on the wall and accepted a Western TV series called "Cimarron Strip." It was 90 minutes long, a bit bigger than most TV shows -- and Richard Boone memorably took a guest role on one("The Roarer") . It was fun to see Boone and Whitman together again. Its on YouTube -- and a colorless Robert Duvall is in that episode , too.
In 1971, in "real life," I went to a screening and reception in Los Angeles for a documentary called "Directed by John Ford." I was a teenager, and I got to meet the film's director -- newly hot Peter Bogdanovich, and I got to SEE two big stars, sitting together in the theater (John Wayne, a bit drunk, and James Stewart, in eyeglasses.)
But, looking around, I also saw a few lesser actors and one of them was ..Stuart Whitman.Which was great -- I mean, he was in "Rio Conchos." But I do remember that Whitman looked a little nervous, a little "on" -- he was clearly trying to make job connections, to see and be seen. Its a memory of Hollywood that bothered me a bit.
But this: I wonder, WHEN did Stuart Whitman learn he could have been Sam Loomis? Was an offer extended and then pulled back? Did somebody tell him? Or did he have to wait until it was revealed in whatever book did so(I'll guess the Rebello book in 1990.) Its worth wondering about.
And this: Whitman may have lost the Loomis role in Psycho, but he GOT the role in The Commancheros when he personally asked John Wayne for it. Wayne reportedly gave Whitman the role and the actor who had it was removed. So -- you lose a role, you win a role. Its Hollywood, Jake.
And the man who lost the role in "The Commancheros" was...Anthony Perkins.