Where Westport Meets the World: James Naughton

Westport’s own Dan Woog brings his popular blog “06880: Where Westport Meets the World” to life, via the Verso Studios at The Westport Library – recorded LIVE in the Trefz Forum! Dan's guest for November 27 is James Naughton, the local actor who has excelled onstage though a career that has also taken him into films and TV. Naughton graduated from Yale's drama school in 1970 and began making his mark in the stage production "Olympian Games" (1970) and with an award-winning turn as Edmund Tyrone in "Long Day's Journey Into Night." By the time he reached Broadway in 1977 with Cy Coleman's "I Love My Wife," he had already gotten a start in films and TV. Naughton has appeared in a number of TV series and had a recurring role as Judith Light's ex-husband on ABC's "Who's the Boss?" (1984-1987) and on NBC's "The Cosby Mysteries" (1994-1995). His ventures into TV movies included a featured role in "F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Last of the Belles" (ABC, 1974), as a U.S. soldier in "The Bunker" (CBS, 1981), a doctor in the Vanessa Redgrave vehicle "My Body, My Child" (ABC, 1982), a mobster in "Necessity" (CBS, 1988), a menaced local in "The Birds II: Land's End" (Showtime, 1994), and as Sharon Gless' new husband in two "Cagney and Lacey" reunions on CBS (1994 and 1995). His movie career includes smaller roles in films like "The Paper Chase" (1972), "The Good Mother" (1988), and "First Kid" (1996), as the president, as well as larger roles as the bumptious Gentleman Caller in Paul Newman's 1987 screen version of "The Glass Menagerie" and as Stockard Channing's smarmy husband in "The First Wives' Club" (1996). But while Naughton seems to shine as reliable husbands, dads, and professionals on TV and in films, the stage has given him his best roles. He first hit Broadway with a co-starring part in Cy Coleman's mate-swapping comedy "I Love My Wife" (1977). Playing opposite Joanna Gleason, Naughton displayed charm and a surprisingly strong vocal technique. After co-starring with Mary Tyler Moore in "Whose Life Is It, Anyway?" (1980), he had his next stage hit with another Coleman musical, the superior "City of Angels" (1989-1990). Playing a hard-bitten detective in the Sam Spade mode, Naughton earned critical praise and a Tony as Best Actor in a Musical. He returned to Broadway in 1996 alongside Ann Reinking and Bebe Neuwirth in the revival of Kander and Ebb's "Chicago," in which he was a shady lawyer using showbiz techniques to "razzle dazzle" the jury. More recently, he has been an active advocate for compassionate aid in dying, appearing at The Westport Library to moderate a conversation on the subject in October 2023.

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