Actor, television writer, and pop-culture figure James Lipton died from bladder cancer on March 1 at the age of 93. Best known for his Inside the Actors Studio interview series, the Michigan native also wrote for several soap operas and played Dr. Dick Grant on Guiding Light in the 1950s.
Lipton attended Wayne State University for one year in the mid-1940s and enlisted in the United States Air Force before turning to acting to help him finance his law studies in New York. However, studying law took a backseat once he got his foot in the entertainment world, where he quickly found success in both acting and writing. Guiding Light served as a jumping-off point for both; he had a stint as the CBS soap's head writer in 1952 and played the role of Springfield doctor Dick Grant in 1953.
After leaving GL, Lipton went on to write for The Edge of Night in 1956 and for The Doctors in 1963 before becoming head writer of Another World in 1965 and later taking the head writing position at Capitol from 1984 to 1987. Some of his other soap opera writing credits include The Best of Everything and Return to Peyton Place, but he also wrote Broadway plays and produced TV specials -- including several that featured comedy legend Bob Hope.
Lipton was very versed in the subject of acting, having studied for two and half years with Stella Adler, four years with Harold Clurman, and two years with Robert Lewis. He also had plenty of experience in the field, racking up lots of Broadway credits in shows like The Autumn Garden, and television credits like Arrested Development, Suburgatory, and According to Jim. He also studied voice and dance, and choreographed a ballet for the American Ballet Theatre.
In 1994, Lipton rose to pop-culture fame when he founded Inside the Actors Studio, a television series that had him conducting one-on-one discussions with high-profile actors in front of student audiences as a collaborative effort between the Actors Studio and the New School. As reported by CNN, the "high-minded showcase of the acting craft attracted a who's who of Hollywood over the years," including Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, and Anthony Hopkins. In fact, the Los Angeles Times called Lipton "the interviewer who could book pretty much everybody."
Inside the Actors Studio ran on Bravo until 2018, when it segued to Ovation TV. Lipton stepped aside that same year, and the program began employing rotating hosts.
After the initial success of Inside the Actors Studio, Lipton became dean of the Actors Studio Drama School, which offered degrees in acting. The Actors School is now affiliated with Pace University.
In addition to acting, writing, and interviewing, Lipton wrote several books. Some of his titles include An Exaltation of Larks, Mirrors, and Inside Inside. He also wrote the book and lyrics for the Broadway musical Nowhere to Go but Up and for Sherry!, a musical adaptation of The Man Who Came to Dinner.
Upon his death, Lipton's wife, Kedakai Mercedes Lipton, told the Hollywood Reporterthat her husband "lived each day as if it were his last. His work was his passion, [he] loved what he did and all the people he worked with. He empowered people to do their best, and hopefully his spirit, curiosity and passion will live on."
Said Frances Berwick, president of NBCU Lifestyle Networks and home to Bravo, in a statement: "James Lipton was a titan of the film and entertainment industry and had a profound influence on so many. I had the pleasure of working with Jim for 20 years on Bravo's first original series, his pride and joy Inside the Actors Studio. We all enjoyed and respected his fierce passion, contributions to the craft, comprehensive research and his ability to bring the most intimate interviews ever conducted with A-list actors across generations. Bravo and NBCUniversal send our deepest condolences to Jim's wife, Kedakai, and all of his family."
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