James Lipton Biography

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Birth Name: James Lipton
Born: 09/19/1926
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, USA


James Lipton was born on Sept. 19, 1926 in Detroit, MI to beatnik journalist and poet Lawrence Lipton, and schoolteacher Betty Weinberg. The future television star originally pursued a law career, but after taking up minor acting jobs to finance his education, Lipton found his true calling in the performing arts. He moved to New York City and studied under the direction of Stella Adler, one of the most notable acting teachers in the country who also taught the likes of Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro. Lipton also studied movie/TV production and directing at New York University, and voice, modern dance, classical ballet, and jazz technique at The New School in Manhattan. Lipton made his Broadway debut in 1951, appearing in Lillian Hellman's play "The Autumn Garden."

While still taking intensive acting lessons, Lipton became involved with daytime television, both as a writer and actor. He wrote for some of the most popular soap operas, including "Guiding Light" (CBS, 1952-2009), "Another World" (NBC, 1964-1999), and the politically themed series "Capitol" (CBS, 1982-87), where he served as a head writer for three years. Even with all his success onscreen, Lipton never forgot his stage roots and remained an active member of the theater community. He wrote the book and lyrics for Broadway's "Nowhere to Go But Up" (1962) and "Sherry!" (1967), and co-produced the Tony Award-winning musical "Ain't Misbehavin'" (1978). A lover of words, Lipton released a best-selling book titled An Exaltation of Larks in 1968, which was a collection of "terms of venery" - collective nouns that described certain groups of animals ("a gaggle of geese") or humans ("a queue of actors"). He published his first novel, Mirrors in 1983 about aspiring dancers, and later wrote and produced the 1985 television film adaptation that aired on NBC. Combining his writing talent, theater showmanship, and impressive production background, Lipton was often called upon to produce big-budget specials, including the first televised presidential inaugural event "Jimmy Carter's Inaugural Gala" and "Ooh-La-La: It's Bob Hope's Fun Birthday Spectacular from Paris' Bicentennial" (1989), one of many birthday celebrations he produced for the comedy legend.

In 1994, Lipton formed the Actors Studio Drama School, a formal graduate degree-granting program inspired by his own intensive acting training. He simultaneously created "Inside the Actors Studio," a non-credit class within the drama school where accomplished actors and filmmakers regularly visited to talk about their craft while being interviewed by Lipton - who served as the school's Dean Emeritus - and answered questions from students. Sessions from "Inside the Actors Studio" began broadcasting on cable network Bravo in 1994 and eventually featured interviews with screen legends (Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand), blockbuster stars (Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie), and award-winning directors (Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese). The majority of the show featured a one-on-one interview with Lipton asking about his subject's personal background, career highlights, and a list of 10 personality questions taken from the Proust Questionnaire. The seventh question, "What is your favorite curse word?" often incited giggles from celebrity guests and the audience. The program concluded with a Q&A session between the guest and students from the Actors Studio. Even with a remarkable roster of stars who dropped by, there were a few who declined their invitations, including Marlon Brando and Katharine Hepburn.

"Inside the Actors Studio" not only earned critical success and multiple Emmy Award nominations, it also elevated Lipton's career as an entertainment personality. Some viewers delighted in his straightforward delivery and industry knowledge, while others described him as a self-important blowhard. Yet no one captured Lipton's personality and quirky traits better than comic actor Will Ferrell, who regularly parodied the pompous host on "Saturday Night Live." The "Inside the Actors Studio" skits were recognized by viewers as some of the funniest and most talked about moments in the show's history. Lipton remained a good sport about Ferrell's impersonations and even made a cameo on "SNL" in 2009. Lipton also expanded his own acting résumé with guest appearances on television shows such as "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06) and "According to Jim" (ABC, 2001-09), hilarious pop-by cameos on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (NBC, 1993-2009), as well as a voiceover role in the animated feature "Bolt" (2008), where he played a movie director.




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