Born: February 1, 1928;

Died: March 16, 2020

STUART WHITMAN, who has died from complications of skin cancer aged 92, was a star of television and movie westerns back in the 1960s and 1970s and made several films with John Wayne. Rugged, dark and handsome, a classic leading man, he put his career on the line when he played a convicted paedophile in The Mark (1961). It was controversial at the time, but it won him glowing reviews and an Oscar nomination as Best Actor.

Whitman appeared in about 200 films and TV shows, but it is probably with westerns that he is most readily associated. He teamed up with Wayne in The Comancheros (1961), co-starred with Lee Van Cleef in Captain Apache (1971) and in between played the lead role of lawman Jim Crown in the series Cimarron Strip (1967-68). “I got stamped as a cowboy,” he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1996. “People forget I was nominated for The Mark.”

He also appeared with Wayne in the big-budget Second World War epic The Longest Day (1962) and starred in Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines (1965) and Night Of The Lepus (1972), the most misjudged menacing-animal movie in cinema history, in which the world is terrified by giant rabbits.

He was born Stuart Maxwell Whitman in San Francisco in 1928. The family was Jewish, with Russian, Scottish, Irish and English antecedents. His father was a lawyer and wanted him to become one too, though Whitman claimed to have been a “juvenile delinquent” and that an uncle was secretly training him to be a professional boxer. Hollywood publicists simply made up a lot of nonsense about their stars back in the glory days of the studios, so such information might need to viewed with some scepticism.

After school Whitman spent three years in the Army, during which he did box. Subsequently he began a law course, but found it boring and switched to drama, much to his father’s disgust. His father told him he would get no financial support, but apparently gave him a bulldozer. Whitman hired it and himself out to pay his way through college.

He began acting in theatre then had small roles in two 1951 science-fiction films,When Worlds Collide and The Day The Earth Stood Still. He played several different characters on The Roy Rogers Show (1952-53) and he began his association with John Wayne when he appeared in the western 7 Men from Now (1956). Although Wayne was not in it, it was made by his company, Batjac.

The Mark brought critical acclaim, The Comancheros box-office success and Cimarron Strip maintained his profile, and for a while in the 1960s Whitman was a genuine star. He also had a sharp business brain and according to the LA Times owned “a consider­able chunk of his series”, which was to prove fortuitous with the later arrival of video.

“I was bankable for a while,” Whitman said, “Then I did a couple of shows that didn’t make any money. Then I wasn’t bankable.” But he kept on working steadily in film and particularly television, appearing in seven different roles in Fantasy Island between 1978 and 1984, and he was the hero’s father in Superboy (1988-92). “You’ve got to do something to feed the family,” he said. He also invested in property and his personal wealth was estimated at $100 million in the late 1990s.

He is survived by his wife, Julia, and five children from two earlier marriages that ended in divorce.