Whit Bissell

Whitner Nutting Bissell (October 25, 1909 – March 5, 1996) was an American character actor.

Whit Bissell
Whitner Nutting Bissell

(1909-10-25)October 25, 1909
New York City, New York, United States
DiedMarch 5, 1996(1996-03-05) (aged 86)
Resting placeWestwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles
Alma materUniversity of North Carolina
Years active19331984
Adrienne Marden
(m. 1938; div. 1954)

Dilys Mary Shan Jukes
(m. 1954; died 1958)

Jennifer Raine
(m. 1967; died 1993)

Early life

Born in New York City, Bissell was the son of surgeon Dr. J. Dougal Bissell and Helen Nutting Bissell. He was educated at the Alan Stevenson School and the Dalton School in New York City.[1] He was related to Daniel Bissell, who was awarded a Purple Heart by George Washington.[2]

He trained with the Carolina Playmakers, a theatrical organization associated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in drama and English.[1]


Bissell had a number of roles in Broadway theatre, including the Air Force show Winged Victory,[3] when he was an airman serving in the United States Army Air Corps.

In a film career that began with Holy Matrimony (1943), Bissell appeared in hundreds of films and television episodes as a prominent character actor. Regularly cast in low-budget science fiction and horror films, his roles include a mad scientist in the film I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and Professor Frankenstein in I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (also 1957).

He played the attending psychiatrist who treats the protagonist, Dr. Miles Bennell, played by Kevin McCarthy, in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and appeared in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).

Bissell appeared as a guest star in many television drama series between the early 1950s and the mid-1970s, with more sporadic appearances after that. He guest-starred in a couple of episodes of The Lone Ranger. He appeared on other syndicated series, including Sheriff of Cochise, Whirlybirds, Peyton Place and The Brothers Brannagan. He was cast in the religion series Crossroads and Going My Way, and in the NBC education drama series Mr. Novak.

Bissell played murderer Larry Sands on CBS's Perry Mason ("The Case of the Crooked Candle", 1957). He made three other Perry Mason appearances, including the role of Max Pompey in "The Case of the Lavender Lipstick" (1960), Laurence Barlow in "The Case of the Nautical Knot" (1964) and Dennison Groody in "The Case of the Carefree Coronary" (1965). He appeared in an episode of Peter Gunn. (1958) He played different roles in multiple episodes of the ABC series The Rifleman.

From 1959-61, Bissell was a regular for the third and fourth seasons of the television series Bachelor Father, costarring John Forsythe, Noreen Corcoran, and Sammee Tong. He was cast three times on the long-running NBC western series The Virginian.

Bissell's most prominent television role came when he played as General Heywood Kirk in 30 episodes in the 1966–1967 season of the science-fiction television series The Time Tunnel. He often played silver-haired figures of authority, here as in many other roles (as described by AllMovie), "instantly establishing his standard screen characterization of fussy officiousness", leavened in many instances with a military bearing. Other examples of such authoritative roles as military or police officials, include appearances in The Caine Mutiny, The Manchurian Candidate, The Outer Limits (1963), Hogan's Heroes (1966), and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1966).

Bissell appeared in the classic episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" of Star Trek, footage of which was re-used in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Trials and Tribble-ations".

In 1978 and 1980, Bissell appeared in episodes of The Incredible Hulk, first in the second-season episode "Kindred Spirits", and next (and lastly) in the second part of the fourth season two-parter "Prometheus". He played a different professor in both episodes.

Bissell portrayed the undertaker (who sees every man, no matter his race, as "just another future customer") in the film The Magnificent Seven (1960).

In 1960, Bissell had appeared in George Pal's production of The Time Machine, as Walter Kemp, one of the Time Traveller's dining friends. He also appeared in a 1978 TV movie adapting the H. G. Wells novel for a more modern setting. Bissell's Time Tunnel co-star, John Zaremba, also appeared in the telemovie. Thirty-three years later, in 1993 the documentary film Time Machine: The Journey Back (which featured Bissell, Rod Taylor and Alan Young), Bissell recreated his 1960 role as Walter in the opening sequence. It was Bissell's last acting performance.

Bissell received a life career award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films in 1994. He also served for many years on the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild, and represented the actors' branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board of governors.

Personal life

Bissell was married three times and had three daughters (Kathy Marden, Victoria Brown and Amanda Whiteley) and a stepson, Brian Forster.[4] Forster was the second actor to play the role of Chris Partridge on The Partridge Family TV series.[5]

Wives: Adrienne Marden (23 November 1938 – 1954) (divorced), two children. Dilys Mary Shan Jukes (5 December 1954 – 11 January 1958) (her death), one child. Jennifer Raine (24 November 1967 – 5 January 1993) (her death).


Bissell died in 1996 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California[6] from the effects of Parkinson's disease. He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Broadway roles

  • The Star-Wagon (1937) as Park
  • The American Way (1939) as Karl
  • Two On An Island (1940) Frederic Winthorp
  • Cafe Crown (1942) as Walter
  • Winged Victory (1943) as Lt. Jules Hudson

Selected filmography


  1. Goldrup, Tom and Jim (2012). The Encyclopedia of Feature Players of Hollywood, Volume 1. BearManor Media. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  2. "Bissell Writing Story". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. November 9, 1947. p. Part III - 3. Retrieved October 5, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  3. "Whitner Bissell". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 6 October 2018. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  4. "Whit Bissell, Stage and Screen Actor, 86". The New York Times. March 11, 1996. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  5. "An Interview with Brian Forster" at CmonGetHappy.com
  6. Oliver, Myrna (March 7, 1996). "Whit Bissell; Movie, TV Character Actor". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. p. A 18. Retrieved October 5, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
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