James Kirkwood, Jr. (August 22, 1930 - April 22, 1989) was an American playwright and author born in Los Angeles, California. His father was an actor and director in silent films, also named James Kirkwood, and his mother was actress Lila Lee.
He wrote the semi-autobiographical novel There Must be a Pony, which was made into a television film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Wagner. In the story, the main character (Jimmy) acted in the 1950s TV series, Valiant Lady, as Kirkwood himself did in real life. Other novels include P.S. Your Cat Is Dead (adapted into a play of the same name, which was, in turn, adapted into a film by Steve Guttenberg), Good Times/Bad Times, Some Kind of Hero, and Hit Me With A Rainbow.
Kirkwood was a personal friend of Clay Shaw, the New Orleans businessman tried on conspiracy charges by District Attorney Jim Garrison in the murder of President John F. Kennedy. He was later acquitted and the story of the trial spawned James Kirkwood's book American Grotesque.
He won Broadway's 1976 Tony Award as writer for Best Book (Musical) with collaborator Nicholas Dante for A Chorus Line. Other awards include the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama (both for A Chorus Line). He also wrote the comedic play Legends! which toured the USA with Mary Martin and Carol Channing in the mid-1980s. The plot concerns a producer with sure-fire commercial script, but no credibility, who lures two out-of-work but long-time feuding actresses "of a certain age" to star in his putative Broadway production. The show was the most financially successful road production of that season, but when producers insisted on cutting an important speech about breast cancer by Mary Martin's character, the actress declared she would complete her contractual obligation, but would not open the play in New York, on Broadway. The show closed on the road. Kirkwood wrote one of best books on the American theater about the production of Legends! entitled The Diary of a Mad Playwright.
A revival of Legends! has been mounted with Joan Collins and Linda Evans of Dynasty fame. Booked for more than 30 cities in the United States and Canada beginning in autumn 2006, the play is scheduled to make its long-awaited Broadway debut in Spring 2007.