James Greene, a character actor with an illustrious stage career perhaps best known for his four-year stint on TV’s “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd,” died on Nov. 9 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 91.
His death was confirmed by his wife, Els Collins. James had been a successful working actor for more than 70 years. Born James Thomas Nolan in Lawrence, Ma., on Dec. 1, 1926 to Tim and Martha Nolan, he graduated from Emerson College in 1950.
He made his Broadway debut in 1951 in Romeo and Juliet starring Olivia de Havilland. Between that debut and his last appearance on Broadway in 1991, in David Hirson’s play La Bête, he appeared in 22 Broadway plays and 29 Off-Broadway. Highlights included two productions of The Iceman Cometh, with Jason Robards and directed by José Quintero, and Foxfire, with Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn. He was an original member of the Lincoln Center Repertory Company under the leadership of Elia Kazan and Robert Whitehead.
He also spent four years with the APA-Phoenix Repertory Theatre at Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre. There he worked with Ellis Rabb and T. Edward Hambleton, performing in New York as well as doing two lengthy tours, one with Helen Hayes in George Kelly’s The Show-Off and another with Brian Bedford in Molière’s School for Wives. He performed regionally at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre (Otherwise Engaged), Baltimore’s Center Stage and Yale Repertory Theatre (Slavs), New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre (Oliver Oliver), Seattle’s Intiman Theatre (The Weir and Molly Sweeney), San Diego’s Old Globe (Burning Hope), Boston’s Huntington Theatre (The Birthday Party), and Hartford’s Center Stage (Desire Under the Elms).
His most recent television appearances were in “Parks and Recreation” as Councilman Milton, “Modern Family,” “Cold Case,” and “Las Vegas.” His films include Road to Perdition, Patch Adams, The Hustler, The Lincoln Conspiracy, The Missouri Breaks, and The Philadelphia Experiment II.
He is the author of A View from the Wings, a Theatre Memoir, self-published at age 90. Actor Hal Holbrook wrote the foreword to the book, in which he wrote, “Jimmie Greene’s trip from the Colonial top balcony has taken him from Off-Broadway to Broadway to Hollywood—the whole route an actor travels if he just keeps at it because that’s all he wants to do. Act.”
He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Elsbeth M. Collins, son Christopher Nolan Collins, and grandchild Skylar. In addition to his son, he is survived by his stepson, Frank Askin. The family has no immediate plans for a memorial and asks for donations to the Actors’ Fund (Los Angeles 888-825-0911) in his memory.
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