James Arnold Doolittle, who brought the finest dance companies to Los Angeles and was a producer of opera, theater and dance, has died. He was 83.
Doolittle was found dead from an apparent heart attack on Saturday morning at his home in West Hollywood, said Serena Tripi, director of productions for the Southern California Theatre Assn., Doolittle’s presenting company.
Doolittle was also well known for the Hollywood theater that bears his name.
Born in Salt Lake City on July 8, 1914, Doolittle briefly worked at a golf shop before moving into drama when in 1945 a customer asked him to help raise money for a musical about Tchaikovsky.
“I’d never read a script before, but I was fascinated by the whole thing,” he later recalled. “So everybody who came in, from the janitor on up, I tried to sell an interest in the show.”
When he had raised most of the money, organizers asked him to produce it.
Over the next 50 years, Doolittle presented hundreds of different performers and companies to L.A. auds. He leased and ran the Greek Theater from 1952 until 1975, and presented there and at other L.A. venues some of the world’s elite dance companies: the New York City Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Ballet, Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project and the San Francisco Ballet.
He also presented theater at downtown’s Biltmore Theater and Hollywood’s Huntington Hartford Theater, which was renamed the James A. Doolittle theater in 1985.
Two weeks ago, he entered into a long-term agreement with the Los Angeles Music Center to present an annual dance season at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Ahmanson Theatre.
The fate of the project wasn’t clear.
Doolittle is survived by his sister and a niece. Funeral services were pending.