Judith James, producing partner of Richard Dreyfuss, passed away at 86
She was a pioneer on Broadway, a star producing movies and TV. She won an Emmys, Drama Desk Award, a Peabody Award and more . She founded The James Gang political network and was a leader in progressive politics.
Award-winning movie, TV and Broadway producer Judith James has passed away in Santa Barbara, California at age 86, after a bout with cancer, according to her son Jackson James.
Judith James was the producing partner of actor Richard Dreyfuss for 35 years. Their credits together included “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” which earned Dreyfuss an Oscar nomination as best actor; Oscar-nominated “Quiz Show;” “Funny You Don’t Look 200,”on which James was also a writer; “Mad Dog Time” and “Prisoner of Honor.”
“From the minute I met Judy James at the Mark Taper Forum, I knew I had found someone who had the same passion for story-telling that I did,” said Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss. “In all the years we were producing partners, we were of like mind, not gender, and we always found a way to agree and wouldn’t have done anything without each others’ approval. She was a wonderful woman and a great friend.”
Richard Dreyfuss with his wife Svetlana in 2013
James earned an Emmy as producer of “In Her Own Words” for KCET and American Playhouse. The play was also staged at the Mark Taper Forum.
In a theatrical production partnership with Camille Cosby, she developed and produced the Tony-nominated Broadway play by Emily Mann, “Having Our Say: the Delaney Sister’s First 100 Years” which was subsequently adapted for TV starring Ruby Dee and Diahann Carroll. It received the Peabody Award for excellence in broadcast journalism.
Judith Rutherford James was born in Worcester, Mass. She graduated from Vassar College in 1959, and soon moved to New York City to pursue her passion for theater.
At 22, she produced the groundbreaking interracial off-Broadway play, “In White America”, which was a Drama Desk Award winner. She also won five Obie Awards in her early years when she was at the forefront of the off-Broadway renaissance.
Judith married legendary personal manager, A & R man and music publicist Billy James, whose clients included Bob Dylan, Jackson Brown and The Doors.
The couple moved to a sprawling, rustic house in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon in the late sixties. They had one son, Jackson, and later divorced.
James continued living in the canyon for many years, raising ducks and chickens in her fabulous tree-filled backyard.
Judith (far right) with some of the James Gang members at a meeting in her living room
She was a founder and leader of The James Gang, a political network that met for over 20 years, usually in her living room. The progressive group hosted guests that included politicians, former Presidential candidates, mayors, Congress people, authors and numerous experts. Members were often involved in political activities and in supporting candidates.
In 2005, as a member of Women In Film, James was instrumental in securing and designing an extraordinary alliance with General Motors, which supported programs for women filmmakers.
Throughout her long career, James was admired and celebrated for her creativity, exuberance, dedication, and generosity. She inspired young filmmakers, teaching classes at UCLA and Santa Barbara City College. In recent years she exercised her passion working with numerous screenwriters, helping them shape and develop their original material
Judith James is survived by her son Jackson, his wife Caroline and granddaughter Josie, her step-son Mark and a devoted community of fans and friends.