Image: The Everett Collection
In the late Sixties, the creators of Gunsmoke looked to bring another tough marshal to the small screen. Cimarron Strip followed the law-keeping of U.S. Marshal Jim Crown on the borderlands beyond the Kansas Territory. The Western cast an Oscar-nominee in the lead as Crown.
Stuart Whitman had earned a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his work in The Mark (1961), a psychological drama about an ex-con. The following year, Whitman appeared in The Longest Day, a role he fatefully stumbled into after delivering some cigars to producer Darryl F. Zanuck. Zanuck cast him in the picture.
The San Francisco native was a familiar face in Westerns and War World II films of the era, titles like The Decks Ran Red, The Day and the Hour and Rio Conchos. A onetime boxer and Army man himself, Whitman slid into tough-guy roles with ease.
On television, Whitman landed his first significant recurring role as Sergeant Walters on Highway Patrol. Series lead Broderick Crawford enjoyed the company of Whitman and invited him onto the show whenever his buddy needed the paycheck.
Cimarron Strip at last gave Whitman a headlining role on the level of a James Arness, though the series only lasted one season. It faced competition from Batman, Bewitched and Daniel Boone.
In the Seventies, Whitman appeared in cult B-movies like Crazy Mama and popped up several times on Fantasy Island. A decade later, he landed another regular role as comic book icon Jonathan "Pa" Kent on Superboy.
Whitman passed away on Monday after a battle with skin cancer, a longtime friend told TMZ. He was 92.