James Whitmore adds poetry to Advent service

With his experienced face, his sincerity and wry smile, actor James Whitmore brought a dramatic charm to Malibu United Methodist Church’s Christmas Cantata. Most know Whitmore from “The Shawshank Redemption” or his one-man show “Give ‘Em Hell Harry,” but this Malibuite has worked on stage and screen for more than half a century, and is able to bring vibrancy to any material.

The unique Sunday morning service attracted about 120 worshipers-a full house for the intimate sanctuary-for a program abundant with song and poetry. The mellifluous choir punctuated the verse written by Rev. Larry Peacock and Ann Weams.

The program visibly moved the congregation and many gathered for pictures and autographs after the service.

Whitmore moved to Malibu more than 20 years ago and resides in a home overlooking the ocean in West Malibu with his new wife and their two dogs. He married former actress Noreen Nash last August and the newlyweds share 17 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

“We have a lot of fun with the family,” says the star. “A lot of presents at Christmas, a lot of fun.”

The couple spends most of their time in Malibu, but Whitmore still enjoys a busy career. He stars in “The Majestic” with Jim Carrey and Martin Landau, due out Dec. 21, and shot another film this year: “Ring of Endless Fire.”

“My mother used to say it’s God’s greatest gift to man-work, even show business.” Whitmore says he’ll never give up working. “Not until they throw the dirt in my face,” he jokes.

Peacock says the church was honored to have Whitmore enliven their Advent celebration. “He took the words and turned it into poetry,” said Peacock. “He connected the images.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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