Whit Bissell [AKA Whitner Nutting Bissell] (1909-1996) was born in New York City, the son of a prominent surgeon Dr. J. Dougal Bissell, and attended the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill where he became an alumnus of the Carolina Playmakers, the prestigious amateur-theatrical arm of UNC. He came to Hollywood in the 1940s, and entered films with 1943's Holy Matrimony, instantly establishing his standard screen characterization of fussy officiousness. Overall he made more than 200 movies and was in scores of TV series. Lovers of low-budget 1950s horror films have a special place in their hearts for Whit Bissell's brace of "mad scientist" portrayals. He is best known for I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) in which he turned Michael Landon into a half beast and for I was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957) in which the admirably straight-faced Bissell uttered the immortal line: "Answer me! I know you have a civil tongue in your mouth-I sewed it there myself!" Mr. Bissell specialized in playing doctors and other figures of authority. Reliable and likable, Bissell became a favorite of directors ranging from Irwin Allen to John Frankenheimer, who gave Bissell some rare upscale exposure in The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May. Twice as busy on TV as he was in theatrical films, Bissell was a regular on Bachelor Father (1957), starred as Woodrow Wilson on a 1965 episode of the Profiles in Courage anthology and was co-starred on the futuristic adventure series Time Tunnel (1966). For his contributions to science fiction films, Bissell received a life career award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films in 1994. Behind the scenes, Bissell was a major figure in the Screen Actors Guild, and after retiring from acting in the 1980s, he moved into a home for elderly Hollywood actors and emerged as a leader in their community -surely not because he sought recognition, but only because he felt obliged, as always, to respond to a need. After his death in 1996, manipulated footage from the Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” allowed him to reprise a characteristic role as a bland bureaucrat in “Trials and Tribble-ations,” an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -even from the grave, he dutifully managed to come back to the set and do Whit Bissell one more time.
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