With his beard and glasses, James Goldman had a relaxed, yet professorial aura, and, indeed, he was an associate professor at Brooklyn College before his writing career took off on Broadway, in motion pictures, on TV and in print. Less well known than his younger brother, William, with whom he occasionally wrote, Goldman was, nevertheless, an Oscar winner for the screenplay of "The Lion in Winter" (1968), based on his Broadway play. He became most often associated with "period" pieces, particularly those involving royal 'sturm und drang', and was a celebrated librettist and lyricist as well.
Goldman saw his first play (written with his brother, William), "Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole," produced in London in 1961. That same year, He wrote "They Might Be Giants" himself. It debuted in London, produced and directed by Joan Littlewood. He felt he had never gotten the play right, so he never let it be published. The next year, he contributed the lyrics and, with his brother, the book for the stage musical "A Family Affair," but it was with "The Lion in Winter" that he became known on Broadway. The 1966 play centered on a Christmas "gathering" in which Henry II of England is locked in a power struggle with Eleanor of Aquitaine. Goldman also contributed the book for "Follies," the landmark 1971 musical featuring a score by Stephen Sondheim and direction by Harold Prince and Michael Bennett.
"The Lion in Winter" was produced as a feature film in 1968 and earned for Katharine Hepburn the third of her four Oscars. Goldman then wrote "Nicholas and Alexandra" (1971), the story of the waning days of the Russian Romanov dynasty. Again, he dealt with British history and myth in "Robin and Marian" (1976), starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn as the older, more mature Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Goldman first worked in TV in 1967, writing the book for "Evening Primrose", an ABC special about a family who live in a department store and only come out at night, which featured a score by Sondheim. In 1982, he adapted "Oliver Twist" as a two-hour longform for CBS, and also wrote "Anna Karenina" (CBS, 1986), as well as returned to the Czars, in a manner of speaking, with "Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna," a 1986 four-hour NBC miniseries dealing with the woman who claimed to be the surviving daughter of Nicholas. The following year, under the pseudonym "Winston Beard," he wrote the ABC miniseries "Queenie," based on the story of Alex Haley's paternal grandmother, the Golden Age actress, Merle Oberon.
Waldorf, Goldman's first novel, was published in 1965. He later published three additional novels, contributed to numerous magazines and also written or contributed to non-fiction such as "Where to Eat in America" (1987). He remained active in all areas, often with numerous projects in the Hollywood development chain at one time.