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James Costigan, 81, actor and award-winning TV writer

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Dennis McLellan
Los Angeles Times / January 14, 2008

HOLLYWOOD - James Costigan, one of the bright lights of television's golden age of drama in the 1950s and the Emmy Award-winning writer of the 1970s television movies "Love Among the Ruins" and "Eleanor and Franklin," has died. He was 81.

Mr. Costigan died of heart failure Dec. 19 at his home on Bainbridge Island, Wash.

An actor and writer, Mr. Costigan achieved notice in the late 1950s writing for dramatic anthology series for television, such as "Kraft Television Theatre" and "Studio One."

He won his first Emmy in 1959 for his original teleplay "Little Moon of Alban," a critically acclaimed segment of "Hallmark Hall of Fame." Set in the early 1920s during the Irish War of Independence, it starred Julie Harris and Christopher Plummer.

"James was a wonderful writer and a wonderful man," Harris, who appeared in a couple of other Costigan-written television dramas in the 1950s and starred in "Little Moon of Alban" during its brief run on Broadway in 1960, said last week.

Mr. Costigan also received an Emmy nomination for his 1959 adaptation of "The Turn of the Screw," for which Ingrid Bergman won an Emmy Award.

But for the next dozen or so years - as he saw television increasingly devote itself to cowboys, sitcoms and police shows - Mr. Costigan turned his attention elsewhere. That included writing "Baby Want a Kiss," a Broadway comedy in which he costarred with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in 1964.

By the early 1970s, however, Mr. Costigan realized that television was again becoming a medium for serious writing. In 1972, he wrote "A War of Children," a television movie about two contemporary Northern Ireland families, one Protestant and one Catholic, who find their friendship threatened by violence.

In 1975, Mr. Costigan won his second writing Emmy, for the television movie "Love Among the Ruins." A romantic comedy set in Edwardian England, it starred Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier. Mr. Costigan's third writing Emmy came in 1976 for the two-part, four-hour drama "Eleanor and Franklin."

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