James Lee


An Emmy award-nominated contributor to the classic television production Roots (1977), screenwriter James H. Lee found himself drawn to the stage as an actor early on, later switching to writing in order to create suitable roles for himself. Born in Pleasant Ridge, MI, Lee graduated from Harvard University in 1944, later taking to the New York stage in productions of Desk Set and The Seven Year Itch. After his early play Career clicked with audiences, Lee adapted the stage work into a popular 1957 film starring Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. The film ignited Lee's screenwriting career, and through the next decade he would pen such films as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960), Counterpoint (1968), and the Elvis Presley/Mary Tyler Moore drama Change of Habit (1969). It was the 1970s that would find Lee leaving his historical mark on television drama with the scripting of four of the original 12 episodes of Roots and co-writing four more. Responsible for the introduction of such memorable characters as Chicken George, Lee received an Emmy for the third episode in addition to being nominated for such other small-screen efforts as The Invincible Mr. Disraeli (1963) and 1980's This Year's Blonde. For his contributions to Roots, Lee was also awarded the Humanitas Award. In early July 2002, James H. Lee died in Los Angeles after battling emphysema. He was 79. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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