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Whit Bissell - Was He in Every Noir Ever Made ?


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Character actor Whit Bissell was just made his appearance in the noir " He Walked by Night ", off the top of my head Mr. Bissell also made an appearance in such noirs as " Raw Deal ", and " Brute Force ", Last nigh and today here was in " The Manchurian Candidate ", which has noirish elements.

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I'll say one thing for old Whit. The man was always working. There are times when I think he was in every sci-fi film of the 1950's too, not to mention westerns and just about every tv series of the time.

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[nobr]I think that Whit Bissell was memorable because of the sheer number of films in which he popped up in, as well as his ability to put his own unique spin on dubious authority figures who appeared in film noirs, sci-fi movies and straight dramas, (wasn't he often the murderer exposed in the last five minutes of numerous Perry Mason shows, or does it just seem that way?). Doctor, military officer, respectable businessman--you name it, Whit played it, and always with that underlying subtext that implied that you were a fool to judge things simply as they appeared to be in everyday life. My most recent movie discovery featuring Whit Bissell: Impact (1949) starring Brian Donlevy and Ella Raines in a kind of Noir meets Americana. It's available on dvd separately and as part of a noir boxed set called The Ultimate Film Noir Collection for less than $10 on some websites.[/nobr]

 

I think that Bissell was at his morally queasy best in He Walked by Night, playing the businessman caught in the middle between Basehart and the cops. In Brute Force he may have played his most sympathetic part, though his good work in that film seems to have been overshadowed by the flashier performances by such dynamic actors as Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn and Charles Bickford. Never a hero, but always a recognizably flawed human being--that's our Whit.[/nobr]

180px-Whit_Bissell.JPG

Whit Bissell, contemplating walking that ethical tightrope, in He Walked by Night

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Ken,

 

With only a couple of days left in January, this thread wins my award for..."funniest subject line, TCM forum, January of 2007".

 

Ken...I read your "Whit Bissell". I laughed.

 

About Whit's name. Not such a bad name, particularly if Whit was a scion of the Bissell carpet cleaning empire.

 

Rusty

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Ken, I don't think he was merely in every noir ever made, I think he was in just about every film and TV drama ever made from the 40s through the 80s

 

I think whatever Ol' Whit wasn't in, Harry Morgan and/or Kennan Wynn was.

 

I always liked Mr. Bissell, especially his melifluous and instantly recognizable speaking voice.

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He was in "A Double Life" too.

 

I associate him most, however, with sci-fi horror of the Fifties. He was in "Creature from the Black Lagoon," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" and, as mentioned, "The Manchurian Candidate." He also showed up on "Star Trek" in "The Trouble With Tribbles."

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moirafinnie6: In that photo of Whit Bissell he looks an awful lot like JOHN CARRADINE, the famous character actor of the '40s and '50s, especially with that mustache.

 

I saw HE WALKS BY NIGHT and the scenes with Bissell and Richard Basehart were chilling.

 

Neil

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I see what you mean about Whit's resemblance to Carradine in that photo of him, Neil. Yet, unlike the otherworldly John Carradine, Whit Bissell's bland exterior made his actual, underlying deceit and/or weakness more arresting. Whit looked like the kind of guy who'd run the local pharmacy for decades, being a pillar of the community, member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary, only to be revealed eventually as someone who was selling adulterated drugs on the side! On the other hand, his familiarity as a closet nogoodnik to audience members made his mere presence in any story seem to be a nice red herring/maguffin when he did occasionally play a good guy.

moira

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