James Lipton

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James Lipton
James Lipton by David Shankbone.jpg
Lipton at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival
Louis James Lipton

(1926-09-19)September 19, 1926
DiedMarch 2, 2020(2020-03-02) (aged 93)
  • Host
  • writer
  • teacher
  • actor
  • producer
  • lyricist
Years active1951–2018
Notable workCreator and host of Inside the Actors Studio
  • (m. 1947, divorced)
  • (m. 1954; div. 1959)
  • Kedakai Turner
    (m. 1970)

Louis James Lipton (September 19, 1926 – March 2, 2020) was an American writer, lyricist, actor, and dean emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York City. He was the executive producer, writer, and host of the Bravo cable television series Inside the Actors Studio, which debuted in 1994. He retired from the show in 2018.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Louis James Lipton[2] was born on September 19, 1926, in Detroit, the only child of Betty (née Weinberg), a teacher and librarian,[3] and Lawrence Lipton, a journalist and beat poet. Known for writing the Beat Generation chronicle The Holy Barbarians, Lawrence was a graphic designer, a columnist for the Jewish Daily Forward, and a publicity director for a movie theater.[4][5] Lawrence was a Polish Jewish emigrant (from Łódź), whose surname was originally Lipschitz.[6] Betty's parents were Russian Jews.[7][8] His parents divorced when Lipton was six,[3] and his father abandoned the family.[9]

Lipton's family struggled financially, and he started to work at age 13.[9] He worked in high school as a newspaper copy boy for the Detroit Times and as an actor in the Catholic Theater of Detroit and in radio.[3][9] After graduating from Central High School in Detroit, he attended Wayne State University for one year in the mid-1940s and enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces.[3] In an interview with Vanity Fair, Lipton talked about his time in Paris in the 1950s when he worked for about a year as a pimp.[10] On the Today show, Lipton clarified that he had worked as a beneficent "mec" in the regulated prostitution business.[11][12]


Lipton portrayed Dan Reid, the Lone Ranger's nephew, on WXYZ Radio's The Lone Ranger. He initially studied to be a lawyer in New York City, and turned to acting to finance his education.[3][13][14] He wrote for several soap operas: Another World, The Edge of Night, Guiding Light, The Best of Everything, Return to Peyton Place and Capitol. He also acted for over ten years on The Guiding Light.[13] Lipton studied for two and half years with Stella Adler, four years with Harold Clurman, and two years with Robert Lewis.[3] He also started studying voice and dance (including modern dance and classical ballet), and choreographed a ballet for the American Ballet Theatre.[3]

In 1951, he appeared in the Broadway play The Autumn Garden by Lillian Hellman. He portrayed a shipping clerk turned gang member in Joseph Strick's 1953 film, The Big Break, a crime drama. He was the librettist and lyricist for the short-lived 1967 Broadway musical Sherry!, based on the Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman play The Man Who Came to Dinner, with music by his childhood friend Laurence Rosenthal. The score and orchestrations were lost for over 30 years, and the original cast was never recorded. In 2003, a studio cast recording (with Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Carol Burnett, Tommy Tune, Mike Myers and others) renewed interest in the show.[15][16]

His book, An Exaltation of Larks, was first published in 1968, and has been in-print and revised several times since then, including a 1993 Penguin Books edition.[17] The book is a collection of "terms of venery", both real and created by Lipton himself.[citation needed] The dust jacket biography for the first edition of Exaltation said his activities included fencing, swimming, and equestrian pursuits and that he had written two Broadway productions.

In 1983, Lipton published his novel, Mirrors, about dancers' lives. He later wrote and produced it as a made-for-television movie.[13] For the genre of television, Lipton produced some two dozen specials including: twelve Bob Hope Birthday Specials; The Road to China, an NBC entertainment special produced in China; and the first televised presidential inaugural gala (for Jimmy Carter).[13]

In 2004, 2005, 2013, and 2019, Lipton appeared on several episodes of Arrested Development as Warden Stefan Gentles. In 2008, he provided the voice for the Director in the Disney animation film Bolt. He played "himself" as Brain Wash, interviewer of the monster Eva's acting teacher in the Paris-Vietnam animated film Igor. Lipton also appears twice in the same episode of Family Guy in cutaways where he simply says "Improv!" both times.

Inside the Actors Studio[edit]

In the early 1990s, Lipton was inspired by Bernard Pivot and sought to create a three-year educational program for actors that would be a distillation of what he had learned in the 12 years of his own intensive studies.[13] In 1994, he arranged for the Actors Studio—the home base of "method acting" in the United States for over 60 years—to join with New York City's New School University and form the Actors Studio Drama School, a formal degree-granting program at the graduate level.[13] After ending its contract with the New School, the Actors Studio established The Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in 2006.[citation needed]

Lipton created a project within the Actors Studio Drama School: a non-credit class called Inside the Actors Studio (1994), where successful and accomplished actors, directors and writers would be interviewed and would answer questions from acting students.[13] These sessions were also taped, edited, and broadcast on television for the general public to see. The episodes were viewed in 89 million homes throughout 125 countries.[18] Lipton hosted the show and conducted the main interview.[13] In a 2008 interview, when asked if he had anticipated the show's success, Lipton responded, "Not in my wildest imaginations. It was a joint, arduous effort involving many people. At a point and time not too distant in the past, I had three lives. I was the dean of the Actors Studio, the writer of the series, its host and executive producer. I maintained a preposterous sixteen-hour schedule."[19] He was awarded France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2014 for his work on the show.[18]

Lipton's last Inside the Actors Studio, an interview with Ted Danson, aired on January 11, 2018. In September 2018, Lipton stated that he was stepping down from the program after more than 24 years.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Between 1954 and 1959, Lipton was married to actress Nina Foch. He was married to Kedakai Turner Lipton, a model and real estate broker, from 1970 until his death. Kedakai was known as the model playing Miss Scarlett on the cover of the boardgame Clue.[5] She was the book and illustration designer for Lipton's book, An Exaltation of Larks, The Ultimate Edition.

In the 200th episode of Inside the Actors Studio, Lipton revealed that he was an atheist.

Lipton stated in interviews that he was a pilot, certified in Airplane Single Engine Land planes.[21][22] He had been flying since 1980 and learned in a Cessna 152 and 172, at Van Nuys Airport. As of 2013, he had logged more than 1,000 hours of flight time. Lipton was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.[23]


Lipton died of bladder cancer at his home in Manhattan on March 2, 2020, at the age of 93.[2]



Year Title Role Notes Ref.
2005 Bewitched Himself
2008 Igor Voice [24]
Bolt The Director [25]


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1951 Pulitzer Prize Playhouse Himself Episode: "The Silver Cord"
Armstrong Circle Theatre Himself Episode: "Mountain Song"
1952 CBS Television Workshop Himself Episode: "My Eyes Have a Cold Nose"
1952–1962 The Web young fugitive Episode: "The Boy in the Front Row"
You Are There Michelangelo Episode: "The Recognition of Michelangelo"
1953 Guiding Light Dr. Dick Grant 3 episodes
1954 Inner Sanctum Tony Episode: "Guilty Secret"
The Goldbergs Lotzi Episode: "August 10, 1954"
1994–2018 Inside the Actors Studio Himself Creator, Writer, Executive Producer, Host
2002, 2011 The Simpsons Himself 2 episodes
2004–2005, 2013, 2019 Arrested Development Warden Stefan Gentles 6 episodes, (final appearance)
2005 Cold Squad Uniform Cop Episode: "Borders"
2006 Joey Himself Episode: "Joey and the Actors Studio "
2008 According to Jim Devil Episode: "The Devil Went Down to Oak Park"
2009 Family Guy Himself Episode: "Spies Reminiscent of Us"
Saturday Night Live Himself Episode: "Bradley Cooper/TV on the Radio"
2012 Celebrity Apprentice Himself Episode: "Getting Medieval"
Glee Himself Episode: "Goodbye"
Suburgatory Dr. Richard Rohl Episode: "Down Time"

As producer[edit]

Year Title Role Ref.
1977 Jimmy Carter's Inaugural Gala Executive producer
1978 Happy Birthday, Bob Executive producer
1979 Bob Hope on the Road to China Producer
1981 American Dance Machine Presents a Celebration of Broadway Dance Executive producer
1985 Mirrors Producer
1987 Bob Hope Salutes the U.S.A.F. 40th Anniversary Executive producer
1988 Happy Birthday, Bob: 50 Stars Salute Your 50 Years with NBC Executive producer
1989 Bob Hope's Birthday Spectacular in Paris Executive producer
1994–2018 Inside the Actors Studio Executive producer

As writer[edit]

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1952 Guiding Light Head writer
1956 The Edge of Night Writer
1960 The United States Steel Hour Writer Episode: "The Charlie and the Kid"
1963 The Doctors Writer
1965 Another World Head writer
1970 The Best of Everything Head writer
1972 Return to Peyton Place Head writer
1978 Happy Birthday, Bob Writer
1979 All-Star Birthday Party for Bob Hope... at Sea Writer
1982 All-Star Birthday Party at Annapolis Writer
1985 Mirrors Writer
1985 Copacabana Writer Teleplay story and teleplay
1984–1987 Capitol Head writer
1987 Bob Hope Salutes the U.S.A.F. 40th Anniversary Writer
1989 Bob Hope's Birthday Spectacular in Paris Writer
1994–2018 Inside the Actors Studio Writer

Published works[edit]

  • Lipton, James (1968). An Exaltation of Larks. Viking USA. ISBN 978-0670300440.
  • Lipton, James (1981). Mirrors. St Martins Press. ISBN 978-0312534387.
  • Lipton, James (2007). Inside Inside. Dutton. ISBN 978-0525950356.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lipton, James (host); Ford, Harrison (guest) (August 20, 2000). "Inside the Actors Studio: Harrison Ford (2000)". Inside the Actors Studio. Season 6. Episode 12. NBCUniversal. Bravo.
  2. ^ a b c Koseluk, Chris (March 2, 2020). "James Lipton, Creator and Host of 'Inside the Actors Studio,' Dies at 93". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Dubin, Murray (October 13, 2002). "So nice, he makes grown men cry James Lipton gets ribbed for his unctuous interviews on TV's "Inside the Actors Studio." But somehow he's turned Spike Lee and Gene Hackman teary". philly.com. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  4. ^ Lipton, Nettie (1983). "The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America". In Charters, Ann (ed.). Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 16. University of Connecticut. pp. 352–356. Archived from the original on June 26, 2013. Retrieved May 11, 2013. Alt URL
  5. ^ a b "James Lipton Biography". Film Reference. Retrieved May 12, 2008.
  6. ^ Bernstein, Adam. "James Lipton, host of 'Inside the Actors Studio,' dies at 93". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ Bloom, Nate (April 2, 2004). "Celebrity Jews". Jewish SF. Retrieved May 12, 2008.
  8. ^ "USC Rare Books & Manuscripts". University of Southern California. Archived from the original on May 24, 2008. Retrieved May 12, 2008.
  9. ^ a b c Rader, Dotson (May 28, 2013). "Inside the Actors Studio Host James Lipton on His Favorite Interview and Pimping in Paris". Parade. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  10. ^ Miller, Julie (May 29, 2013). "James Lipton Looks Back Fondly on His Parisian Pimping Days, Brags About His "Roaring" Bordello Business". Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Retrieved September 13, 2021.
  11. ^ "James Lipton defends one-time 'pimp' job in France". TODAY.com. May 30, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2021.
  12. ^ "Inside, Inside," Lipton, J., Dutton (2007), ISBN 9780525950356
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Lipton, James (guest); Chappelle, Dave (host) (November 10, 2008). "Inside the Actors Studio: James Lipton (2008)". Inside the Actors Studio. Season 15. Episode 2. NBCUniversal. Bravo.
  14. ^ Ernst, Amanda (April 12, 2012). "SO WHAT DO YOU DO, JAMES LIPTON, CREATOR AND HOST OF INSIDE THE ACTOR'S STUDIO?". Mediabistro. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  15. ^ Miller, Marc."Uncorking Sherry!" Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine theatermania.com, February 9, 2004
  16. ^ Buckley, Michael."James Lipton Chats About Sherry and "Inside the Actor's Studio" playbill.com, February 15, 2004
  17. ^ Lipton, James (November 1, 1993). An Exaltation of Larks: The Ultimate Edition. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-017096-0.
  18. ^ a b "James Lipton". Bravo. Archived from the original on August 14, 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  19. ^ Simone, Daniel (February 8, 2008), "Who's Here", Dan's Papers, Kathy Rae, Brown Publishing, vol. XLVII, no. 44, pp. 25–26, retrieved April 27, 2013
  20. ^ "James Lipton Retiring From 'Inside the Actors Studio'". The Hollywood Reporter. September 24, 2018. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  21. ^ "family guy voices seth macfarlane". Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved April 7, 2014 – via YouTube.
  22. ^ "Pilots: James Lipton-Inside this television host is a pilot". Airplane Owners and Pilots Association. May 2013. Retrieved April 7, 2014.
  23. ^ "Pilots: James Lipton". AOPA. January 1, 2013. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  24. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (September 18, 2008). "A Frankenstein Tale With a Twist". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
  25. ^ McCarthy, Todd (November 14, 2008). "Bolt". Variety. Retrieved March 2, 2020.

External links[edit]