James Naughton 2/28/13

James Naughton has had a 40-year career acting in and directing movies, plays and television. He reminisced with us about some of the outstanding relationships he had developed over the years. He started by telling how he got into the acting profession. While attending Brown University he couldn’t find a major that interested him. By chance he was asked to audition, and got a role in “Guys and Dolls”. His performance was so good that the head of the drama department recommended he pursue a career in acting. He auditioned at the Yale Drama School, was selected, and finally found his avocation. He joined the Yale Repertory Theatre and was selected to play a key role in O’Neill’s “Long Days Journey into Night”. This led to work “Off Broadway” and eventually a move to Los Angeles where he was employed in many TV shows. While there he became very close with the actor Roddy McDowell, a friendship that lasted until McDowell’s untimely death.

Tiring of LA, he moved back east in 1976 settling in Weston, Ct. where he had some close friends. He played various roles on Broadway and in Summer Stock for over 20 years. In 1985 he starred in the “Glass Menagerie” opposite JoAnne Woodward at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven. Through JoAnne he met Paul Newman and they became the best of friends. Naughton couldn’t say enough about how wonderful and caring a friend Paul Newman was. In 2003 JoAnne wanted to do “Our Town” at the Westport Playhouse starring Paul Newman and they asked Naughton to direct it. Naughton used local actors in the production and it was a rousing success eventually being filmed and portrayed on television.

During Naughton’s career on Broadway he was befriended by many celebrities who he became very close to. These included Steve Allen, Placido Domingo and Bill and Hillary Clinton, who he dined with whenever they saw his appearances on Broadway. Later he was asked to perform at Clinton’s Inauguration, and 10 days later he was invited to the White House and even slept in the Lincoln Bedroom. All during his career Naughton was very involved with sports and he stated that some of his most rewarding work was coaching Little League in Weston.

During Q&A the following was stated:

  1. The only play he ever invested in was Chicago where he played a sleazy lawyer. He bought 2% of the play and made a lot of money from it.
  2. Some of the actors that he worked with who he thought were outstanding included Robert Ryan, Dan Daily, Roddy Mc Dowell and Paul Newman who he considered the “best” actor and friend he ever knew.