Lipton, James 1926–
Lipton, James 1926–
Born September 19, 1926, in Detroit, MI; son of Lawrence and Betty Lipton; married Nina Foch (an actress), 1954 (divorced, 1959); married Kedakai Turner (a model and real estate broker), 1970. Education: Attended Wayne State University.
Television personality. Host, Inside the Actors Studio, Bravo, 1994—; Actors Studio Drama School, New School University, New York, NY, founding dean, 1994-2004, dean emeritus, 2004—. Actor in television series, including The Guiding Light, 1952-62, You Are There, 1953, Inner Sanctum, 1954, (voice only) The Simpsons, 2002, Cold Squad, 2005, and Arrested Development, 2004; producer of television films, including Mirrors, 1985, and Inside the Actors Studio, 1994; producer of Broadway plays, including The Mighty Gents and Ain't Misbehavin'.
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
Emmy Award for lifetime achievement, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 2007; Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, French Republic.
(Author of book and lyrics) Nowhere to Go but Up (musical), music by Sol Berkowitz, produced at Winter Garden Theatre, New York, NY, 1962.
(Author of book and lyrics) Sherry! (musical), music by Laurence Rosenthal, produced at Alvin Theatre, New York, NY, 1967, released as Sherry! The Broadway Musical (sound recording), Broadway Angel (New York, NY), 2003.
An Exaltation of Larks; or, The Venereal Game, Grossman Publishers (New York, NY), 1968, expanded 2nd edition, Viking (New York, NY), 1977, ultimate edition, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.
Mirrors, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1981.
An Exaltation of Business and Finance, Villard (New York, NY), 1993.
An Exaltation of Home and Family, Villard Books (New York, NY), 1993.
An Exaltation of Romance & Revelry, Villard Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Inside Inside, Dutton (New York, NY), 2007.
Author of scripts for television series, including The Edge of Night, 1956, Another World, 1964, 1966-68, The Best of Everything, 1970, Return to Peyton Place, 1972, Guiding Light, 1973-75, and Capitol, 1986-87; author of script for television movie Copacabana.
James Lipton has had a long and varied career in the arts. According to New York Times writer Chris Hedges, Lipton claims to have begun reading at age two and writing poetry by age three, and to have completed three novels by age twelve. In 1952 he began a career as an actor, appearing in various soap operas, first among them The Guiding Light. After several decades as an actor, scriptwriter, and producer, he became founding dean of the Actors Studio Drama School in 1994. The school linked the Actors Studio, established in 1947 and most noted for its focus on method acting, with the New School University in Greenwich Village. Lipton remained in the dean's position until 2004, when he retired as dean emeritus. Since 1994, Lipton has also hosted the Bravo network television series Inside the Actors Studio, in which he interviews actors and other theater professionals about their craft. The series has been renowned for attracting talented actors and for focusing on artistic concerns, rather than celebrity gossip. Lipton's memoir Inside Inside provides a behind-the-scenes look at the show, as well as an account of Lipton's own colorful career.
Hedges described Lipton's interviewing style as a "combination of abject fawning over his guests, a pomposity that even he acknowledges, and astute and diligent research to achieve what most talk show hosts never attain: a serious and studied look at the craft of filmmaking and acting." Lipton does not interrupt his subjects or make fun of them. As he explained to Hedges, "It is not journalism." In contrast to mainstream media's approach to celebrity actors, Lipton explained, "I want to create an environment where people are willing to talk about the craft, not about themselves as people but as artists."
Among the many actors who have appeared on Inside the Actors Studio are Spike Lee, who wept on camera as he described his struggles to get funding to make Malcolm after Columbia Pictures abandoned the project; Meryl Streep, who talked about the indignity of being thought insufficiently sexy to play the part of Isaak Dinesen in Sydney Pollack's Out of Africa; and Sean Penn, who quoted poet Charles Bukowski about the importance of finding the poetic in everyday experience. Other guests have included Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Benicio del Toro, Kevin Spacey, Sylvester Stallone, Kathy Bates, Mike Myers, Johnny Depp, Debra Winger, Samuel L. Jackson, Nicholas Cage, Renee Zellweger, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Christopher Walken, Ben Affleck, Julianne Moore, Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, and Angelina Jolie. Explaining why so many eminent actors are eager to appear on the show, Chris Rock, quoted by Hollywood Reporter contributor Wolf Schneider, explained that Lipton "actually makes you feel like you've accomplished something. He makes you feel like you've done the right thing with your life. He does a lot of research, and he has a way of even talking about your failures that makes them seem like successes." Billy Crystal, quoted in the same article, made a similar point, saying: "What Jim does better than anyone is research…. He knows what you will respond with and what will work for his audience." Dustin Hoffman, also quoted by Schneider, commented: "It's not the question that he asks. It's the second question that he asks on the first question. It's the probing."
Indeed, this interview style has earned Lipton some detractors. Dallas Observer contributor Robert Wilonsky described the Inside the Actors Studio host as humorless and "obsequious," qualities that Saturday Night Live member Will Ferrell parodied in a skit targeting Lipton. John Dempsey, reviewing the skit in Variety, noted how well Ferrell had hit his target by exaggerating Lipton's "fawning, sycophantic encomiums to his guest's movies." But as Lipton explained to Dempsey, his purpose is not to provide cheap thrills for his audience at the expense of his interviewees. "I'm not a journalist," he emphasized. "I'm a teacher with students who want to learn."
Many readers found Inside Inside a lively and entertaining book. While a writer for Kirkus Reviews felt that Lipton's account of his early life and career showed him to be "a bit fond of self-praise," the critic deemed the memoir "a worthy—perhaps even enviable—life related with passion, certitude and considerable artistry." Citing the book's plentiful anecdotes from actors who have appeared on the show, Library Journal contributor Barry X. Miller praised Inside Inside as an "exemplary" work.
Among Lipton's other books is the novel Mirrors, a reworking of the story from the opera La Boheme, and An Exaltation of Larks; or, The Venereal Game, a book about word origins that Richard Freedman in the New York Times Book Review called "charming."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dallas Observer, February 24, 2000, Robert Wilonsky, "That's … Acting!"
Electronic Media, February 5, 2001, "The Insider," p. 8.
Entertainment Weekly, October 19, 2007, Mandi Bierly, "Lipton Tees Off," p. 133.
Film Quarterly, June 22, 2007, "‘What Is Your Favorite Word?’: Myth and Method inside the Actors Studio," p. 44.
Hollywood Reporter, October 12, 2001, Michael R. Farkash, "Inside the Actors Studio," p. 103; March 27, 2007, "Gore, Lipton to Receive Emmy Honors," p. 2; June 12, 2007, Wolf Schneider, "Inside Knowledge: Actor, Writer, Thespian, Interviewer—James Lipton Has Led Many Entertainment Lives, and All of Them Are Being Honored with a Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmy," p. 1; June 12, 2007, "Method Man: Now in Line for the National Television Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award, James Lipton Looks Back on a Varied Career That Ranges from Soaps to Broadway to Bravo," p. 5.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2007, review of Inside Inside.
Library Journal, April 1, 1981, review of Mirrors, p. 814; September 1, 2007, Barry X. Miller, review of Inside Inside, p. 138.
New York, October 7, 2007, William Georgiades, interview with Lipton.
New York Observer, April 15, 2008, Irina Aleksander, "At Paris Review Revel, James Lipton Decries Internet, Fiercely Guards Canapes."
New York Times, March 1, 2001, Chris Hedges, "A Pompous Interviewer? Yes, but That's the Point," p. 2; July 27, 2005, Stuart Elliott, "Bravo's James Lipton to the Extreme, Dude," p. 6.
New York Times Book Review, June 7, 1981, Richard Freedman, review of Mirrors, p. 14.
Publishers Weekly, February 20, 1981, review of Mirrors, p. 89; December 3, 1982, review of Mirrors, p. 58; July 30, 2007, review of Inside Inside, p. 66.
Vanity Fair, March 1, 2005, George Wayne, "James Lipton in the Hot Seat," p. 354.
Variety, May 21, 2001, John Dempsey, "‘Studio’ Brings Kudos to Bravo," p. 9.
Video Business, October 23, 2006, Buzz McClain, "Inside the Actors' Studio: Icons," p. 8.
Wilson Library Bulletin, April 1, 1991, review of An Exaltation of Larks; or, The Venereal Game, p. 51.
Bravo TV Web site,http://www.bravotv.com/ (June 13, 2008), "Inside the Actors Studio."
Gawker,http://www.gawker.com/ (June 13, 2008), Joshua Stein, review of Inside Inside.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (June 13, 2008), Lipton profile and filmography.
Suck.com,http://www.suck.com/ (June 13, 2008), "Defending James Lipton."
Weekend Edition Saturday,http://www.npr.org/ (June 13, 2008), Scott Simon, radio interview with Lipton, broadcast October 20, 2007.