James Prideaux, a prolific playwright and television writer, died on Wednesday, November 18, in West Hills, California, as a result of a major stroke. He was 88.
Early in his career, Prideaux became a member of off-off Broadway’s Barr-Wilder-Albee Playwrights Unit, where his first play, “Postcards,” had the rare distinction of going from off-off Broadway to Off Broadway and then to Broadway.
He earned his first television credits writing for soap opera “The Secret Storm,” and the adaptation of his play “Lemonade” for “Hollywood Television Theatre” before Katharine Hepburn brought him to Hollywood to work on a screenplay, a project that was abandoned when she agreed to appear in the musical “Coco.”
His play “The Last of Mrs. Lincoln” starred Julie Harris in one of her Tony Award-winning performances in 1973. He teamed again with Harris and Geraldine Page on Broadway in his “Mixed Couples.” His writing in later years brought Elizabeth Taylor to television in the TV movie “Return Engagement,” as well as three movies for television starring Hepburn — “Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry”(1986), with Harold Gould; “Laura Lansing Slept Here” (1988); and “The Man Upstairs” (1992). Additional TV writing credits included TV movie “Lyndon Johnson,” the “Mrs. Lincoln’s Husband” episode of the Wolper Specials and the “Bread” episode of “The Booth.”
A collection of his memoirs, “Knowing Hepburn and Other Curious Experiences,” was published in 1996.
Born in Indiana, Prideaux originally migrated to New York to pursue an acting career, but gravitated toward writing short stories for the Ladies Home Journal and Playboy and ultimately found gratification in dramatic writing.
He is survived by nieces Kelly Stokoe and Patricia Lee Olival, and nephews Jeffrey, William and David Priddy.
Donations may be made to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.
A memorial service will be held at Pierce Brothers Memorial Park and Cemetery on Sunday, November 29, at 2 p.m.