Born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, John Robert Whiting was the son of an army officer who later became a lawyer. Whiting was educated at Taunton, a public school at Somerset, where he was considered an unremarkable student. When the time came to choose a career, a university education was not even considered an option because his academic standing, as well as his interest, was too low. On the advice of his father and his headmaster, Whiting decided to train to be an actor. As a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Whiting was painfully self-conscious and shy, and thus his work suffered in the beginning. While on vacation from school, he was cast in a small part in a provincial theater, and he returned to the academy with much more skill, self-confidence, and determination. He completed his training in 1937 with a positive report of his abilities and chances as an actor. Although acting jobs were scarce, Whiting survived with occasional jobs in radio plays until World War II interrupted his career.
Originally, Whiting registered as a conscientious objector. Shortly after he registered, however, he changed his mind, having been exposed to pacifist groups that he regarded as collections of snobs and aggressive intellectuals. Whiting was also torn by the conflict between loyalty to his father’s soldiering tradition and loyalty to his own feeling of repugnance toward war. Finally, Whiting became a reluctant soldier. When he registered in the army, he requested an infantry regiment because his father had been an infantry officer, but...
(The entire section is 635 words.)