Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
James Kirkwood, Jr., perhaps best known as librettist for the Tony Award-winning musical A Chorus Line, contributed a variety of groundbreaking works to post-1960’s American literature not only as a dramatist but also as a novelist and nonfiction writer. While many groups align themselves with Kirkwood’s work, he is also known for his pioneering literary forays into changing social mores during the sexual revolution and his concise exploration of human emotion in both fiction and nonfiction.
Kirkwood began his life in 1924 in Hollywood as the child of two silent-era film stars. His father, James Kirkwood, Sr., worked as an actor and director. His mother, Lila Lee, was an ingenue whose career success was diminished by her recurring illnesses. Kirkwood’s parents divorced in his early childhood. Both Kirkwood, Sr., and Lee suffered dwindling success as actors, and Kirkwood was often sent to live with an aunt until the fortunes of his parents improved. By the time Kirkwood graduated from high school, he had attended eighteen different schools.
Kirkwood started in the theater not as a writer but as a child actor, acting on Broadway and in theatrical tours and summer stock. He also appeared on television numerous times and as part of the comedy team Kirkwood and Goodman. Kirkwood often expressed frustration for what he viewed as the negative aspects of acting—the auditioning, the rejection, and the inability to do his job without...
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