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James Leo Herlihy

Novelist, Playwright And Actor.
Remembered Best As:
Herlihy is known for his novels Midnight Cowboy and All Fall Down, and his play Blue Denim, all of which were adapted for cinema. Other publications include The Season of the Witch and several short stories.


Herlihy was born into a working-class family in Detroit, Michigan in 1927. He enlisted with the Navy in 1945 but never saw combat due to the end of the war. He attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina for two years, where he studied sculpture. He then relocated to California and attended the Pasadena Playhouse College of the Theater.[1] Plays he wrote include Streetlight Sonata (1950), Moon in Capricorn (1953), and Blue Denim (produced on Broadway in 1958).[1] He directed actress Tallulah Bankhead in a touring production of his play Crazy October in 1959.[2] Three of his one-act plays, titled collectively Stop You're Killing Me were presented by the Theater Company of Boston in 1969.[3] According to author Sean Egan in his biography of James Kirkwood, Jr., Ponies & Rainbows, Herlihy co-wrote the play UTBU with Kirkwood but demanded his name be taken off the credits.[4] He wrote three novels: All Fall Down (1960), Midnight Cowboy (1965), and Season of the Witch (1971).[5] His short stories were collected in The Sleep of Baby Filbertson and Other Stories (1959) and A Story That Ends in a Scream and Eight Others (1967), a collection which also included plays.[1] He acted in the 1963 movie In the French Style. He acted in Edward Albee's play The Zoo Story in 1963 in Boston and Paris.[1] In 1968, he signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments as a protest against the Vietnam War.[6] He acted in the 1981 movie Four Friends directed by Arthur Penn.[1] Herlihy was gay. He committed suicide, aged 66, by taking an overdose of sleeping pills in Los Angeles.

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