James Goldman, the playwright and librettist who penned The Lion in Winter and the book to Follies, died in Manhattan Oct. 28, 1998. He was 71. The cause was a heart attack, according to the New York Times. James Goldman, the playwright and librettist who penned The Lion in Winter and the book to Follies, died in Manhattan Oct. 28. He was 71. The cause was a heart attack, according to the New York Times.
Goldman's death comes at a time of renewed interest in his work. Follies was subject to a major revival this past spring at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse. The production was long rumored to transfer to Broadway, but never made the move. Furthermore, The Lion in Winter is scheduled for a major revival next spring at New York's Roundabout Theatre Company. Stockard Channing and Laurence Fishburne will star in the story about English King Henry II and his estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitane. Michael Mayer will direct.
The Roundabout production will mark the first Broadway mounting of the play since it premiered in 1966. The play first opened March 3, 1966, at the Ambassador Theatre, and closed May 21. It starred Robert Preston as Henry II and Rosemary Harris as Eleanor. It was later made into a successful movie starring Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn. Goldman won an Academy Award for his adapted screenplay for the movie.
Just prior to Lion, Goldman, a Chicago native who attended the University of Chicago, began work on the book for a new Stephen Sondheim musical. Inspired by a newspaper story about a reunion of Ziegfeld girls, he wrote what eventually became Follies, one of the seminal works in the Sondheim catalogue. Follies opened on Broadway in 1971. Though the critics were torn and the lavish production was not a commercial success, the musical eventually achieved the status of a classic. During the 1980's Follies was given a famous concert reading at Lincoln Center. A subsequent London mounting won the Olivier Award for best musical.
Goldman previously worked in the musical theatre in 1962, when he and his brother, writer William Goldman, wrote the book and James co-wrote the lyrics to John Kander's musical A Family Affair. James and Williams also collaborated on the play Blood, Sweat & Stanley Poole. Other James Goldman plays include They Might Be Giants. His screenplays include "Nicholas and Alexandra," "Robin and Marian" and "White Nights."