James Lipton, the erudite host of the long-running Inside the Actors Studio, has died at the age of 93. The cause of death was bladder cancer, according to his wife, Kedakai Mercedes Lipton.
Best known for hosting 22 seasons of Inside the Actors Studio, Mr. Lipton had an eclectic career that included serving as head writer on the long-running soap opera Guiding Light—while also appearing on it—performing as the Lone Ranger's nephew on a radio serial, on Broadway in Lillian Hellman's The Autumn Garden, producing television specials for Bob Hope, and writing the book and lyrics for two Broadway musicals: Nowhere To Go But Up and Sherry!.
Though Sherry!—a musical adaptation of The Man Who Came to Dinner that starred Clive Revill and Dolores Gray—proved to be unsuccessful, the score eventually received a 2004 recording that included Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, and Carol Burnett. The title song also proved to be a 1967 hit for Marilyn Maye. The score (with music by Laurence Rosenthal) was thought lost for over three decades before it was discovered at the Library of Congress, resulting in the studio recording.
Born September 19, 1926, in Detroit, the child of beatnik poet Lawrence Lipton and teacher-librarian Betty, Mr. Lipton began performing at a young age. "When your father's a poet and your mother's a teacher, there's not much money, not much food in the larder," he told Playbill in 2004. "I became an amateur actor at 13 in Catholic theatre in Detroit. When I came to New York, I acted to support myself and my mother, who was then retired."
But it was Inside the Actors Studio that brought Mr. Lipton lasting fame, earning 21 Emmy Award nominations and one win for Outstanding Nonfiction Series or Special. Himself once a student of Stella Adler (he eventually turned to acting instead of a planned career in law) as well as Harold Clurman and Robert Lewis, Lipton wanted to bring audiences inside the craft—and to revive the Actors Studio on the East Coast. As the school struggled with more actors moving to California to pursue film and TV work, Lipton brought the Actors Studio and the New School together to form the Actors Studio Drama School, a three-year program.
"I began this insane training: two-and-a-half years with Stella Adler, four years with Harold Clurman, two years with Bobby Lewis. I also studied voice, modern dance, Russian technical ballet, jazz technique; for 12 years, I studied full time," LIpton told Playbill. "The Actors Studio Drama School [at New School University] is essentially those 12 years of my life compacted into a Master of Fine Arts in three years. I invented [the series of courses] then, and reinvented it for the school."
Mr. Lipton is survived by his wife.