James Prideaux, Screenwriter, Playwright and Katharine Hepburn Collaborator, Dies at 88

James Prideaux Michael Feinstein - H 2015
Getty Images

James Prideaux Michael Feinstein - H 2015

He did three telefilms with the actress late in her career after she brought him from New York to Hollywood.

Screenwriter, producer and playwright James Prideaux, who collaborated with Katharine Hepburn on three telefilms very late in the actress’ legendary career, has died. He was 88.

Prideaux, who was friends with the four-time Oscar winner for more than three decades until her death in 2003, died Wednesday at West Hills (Calif.) Hospital and Medical Center after suffering a major stroke, the WGA West announced.

Prideaux wrote and produced 1986’s Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry (in which Hepburn’s character falls in love with her Jewish doctor, played by Harold Gould), 1988’s Laura Lansing Slept Here (the actress portrays a spoiled novelist forced to live for a week with a middle-class family) and 1992’s The Man Upstairs (she befriends an escaped convict, played by Ryan O’Neal, hiding in her attic).

Prideaux received an Emmy nomination for outstanding drama/comedy special for producing Mrs. Delafield, and his memoirs, Knowing Hepburn and Other Curious Experiences, were published in 1996.

Hepburn had brought him to Hollywood to work on a screenplay, a project that was abandoned when she agreed to appear in the 1969 Broadway musical Coco.

Also in the late 1960s, Prideaux offered Hepburn the lead in his Broadway play The Last of Mrs. Lincoln, but she turned it down. The role went to Julie Harris, who won a Tony Award for playing Mary Todd Lincoln in her widowed years, and Harris also starred in a 1976 telefilm based on Prideaux's play.

Prideaux teamed again with Harris (and Geraldine Page) on Broadway in 1980's Mixed Couples

Prideaux also penned the 1978 telefilm Return Engagement, starring Elizabeth Taylor, and Lyndon, a one-man play about President Lyndon B. Johnson that starred Laurence Luckinbill in a telefilm version.

A native of Indiana, Prideaux came to New York to pursue an acting career but ended up writing short stories for Ladies' Home Journal and Playboy. He became a member of off-off Broadway’s Playwrights Unit, created by Edward Albee, Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder, and his first play, Postcards, had the rare distinction of going from off-off Broadway to off-Broadway and then to Broadway. 

He also worked on the daytime TV serial The Secret Storm.

Survivors include nieces and nephews Kelly, Patricia Lee, Jeffrey, William and David.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Prideaux’s name to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Nov. 29 at Pierce Brothers Memorial Park and Cemetery. For more information, please contact Michael Peretzian at peretzian@gmail.com.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

Updated at 6:35 p.m. on Nov. 20 to correct his age.