Judith James, producer of 'Mr.  Holland's Opus' and 'Quiz Show', she dies at 86

Judith James, producer of ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ and ‘Quiz Show’, she dies at 86

Judith James, Richard Dreyfuss’ longtime producing partner who worked with the Oscar winner on films including Opus by Mr. Holland, Quiz show AND Mad dog time, is dead. He was 86 years old.

James died Friday at his Santa Barbara home after a bout with cancer, according to his son, Jackson James.

James and Dreyfuss have worked together for 35 years and their partnership also included telefilms Funny, You Don’t Look Like 200: A Constitutional Vaudeville and the Prisoner of honorbroadcast in 1987 and 1991 respectively, e The Guardians of Light (2009). They were co-writers of You don’t look like 200 Also.

Related stories

“From the moment I met Judy James at the Mark Taper Forum, I knew I had found someone who had my same passion for storytelling,” Dreyfuss said in a statement. “In all the years we’ve produced partners, we were like-minded, not gendered, and we always found a way to agree and we wouldn’t do anything without mutual approval. She was a wonderful woman and a great friend.”

Dreyfuss received an Academy Award nomination for his role as music teacher Glenn Holland in Opus by Mr. Holland (1995) and the film directed by Robert Redford Quiz show (1994) was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The crime comedy Mad dog time (1996) played the Goodbye girl star as a mafia boss.

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Judith Rutherford graduated from Vassar College in 1959 and moved to New York to pursue a career in theater. She produced the groundbreaking off-Broadway interracial comedy In White Americawhich earned her a Drama Desk Award in 1964.

James won an Emmy for producing 1987’s Eleanor: In her own words for KCET American theater, starring Lee Remick as Eleanor Roosevelt in a one-woman show. The show was also staged at the Taper.

In a theater production partnership with Camille Cosby, he developed and produced the Emily Mann play Have Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First 100 Yearswhich was adapted for a 1999 telefilm starring Ruby Dee and Diahann Carroll and earned a Peabody Award.

James was the founder and leader of The James Gang, a political network that met for more than 20 years, usually in his living room. The group hosted mayors, presidential candidates, authors and experts. Members were often involved in political activities and supporting candidates.

As a member of Women in Film, James in 2005 was instrumental in securing and engineering an alliance with General Motors, which has championed programs for female filmmakers. She has also lectured at UCLA and Santa Barbara City College and mentored aspiring screenwriters.

She was married to legendary personal manager, A&R man and music publicist Billy James, whose clients included Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne and The Doors, from the 1960s until their divorce in 1982. The couple lived in a sprawling, rustic home in Laurel Canyon, where she raised ducks and chickens in the wooded yard.

In addition to her son, survivors include her daughter-in-law, Caroline, granddaughter Josie, and stepson Mark.