James Lee Barrett


Screenwriter

About

Birth Place
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Born
November 19, 1929
Died
October 15, 1989

Biography

This prolific film and TV writer's work often reflected his Southern roots and salt-of-the earth American values. Barrett received his greatest recognition for "Shenandoah," the story of a Virginian family trying to stay out of the fighting during the Civil War. First presented as a 1965 feature film starring James Stewart, the story provided the basis for a Broadway musical starring Joh...

Family & Companions

Merete Engelstoft
Wife
Married in 1960.

Biography

This prolific film and TV writer's work often reflected his Southern roots and salt-of-the earth American values. Barrett received his greatest recognition for "Shenandoah," the story of a Virginian family trying to stay out of the fighting during the Civil War. First presented as a 1965 feature film starring James Stewart, the story provided the basis for a Broadway musical starring John Cullum in 1974. Barrett won a Tony Award for the book of the latter. He began writing after a stint in the Marine Corps, selling his first teleplay, "The Awakening Land," a story of an independent pioneer woman, to producer Stanley Kramer. His first produced screenplay, "The D.I.," starred Jack Webb and focused on Marine basic training. In 1965, besides "Shenendoah," Barrett received credit for scripting "The Greatest Story Ever Told" for director George Stevens in which John Wayne played a Roman centurion supervising the crucifixion of Christ. Wayne subsequently hired Barrett to write the 1968 feature "The Green Berets," a salute to the elite forces in Vietnam. James Stewart again performed Barrett's dialogue in light western "The Cheyenne Social Club" (1970) and Burt Reynolds did the same for the raucous hit "Smokey and the Bandit" (1977).

Although Barrett had some early TV credits, he did not begin working in the medium in earnest until the late 70s. He adapted the short story "Stubby Pringle's Christmas" for NBC in 1978. Also that year, Elizabeth Montgomery starred in the NBC miniseries version of "The Awakening Land," based on the Conrad Richter stories. Montgomery also starred in Barrett's teleplay of "Belle Starr" (CBS, 1980), about the western legend. He wrote the 1986 TV remake of "The Defiant Ones," as well as the story of the Lexington uprising that started the Revolutionary War in "April Morning," a 1988 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation for CBS.

The 80s also marked Barrett's turning to TV series work. He created the NBC series "Our House," which starred Wilford Brimley as a crusty old man who takes in his widowed daughter-in-law and her three kids despite his cantankerous nature. The series ran from 1986-88 against "60 Minutes" on CBS. In 1988, Barrett wrote the TV-movie pilot for "In the Heat of the Night," adapted from the feature film, which became a long-running vehicle for Carroll O'Connor. But Barrett never got to see it succeed, as he passed away in 1989. Yet, in 1996, Showtime produced his script "Ruby Jean and Joe" starring Tom Selleck as a rodeo rider traveling with an young African American woman.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Fools' Parade (1971)
Sonny Boy

Writer (Feature Film)

The Warden of Red Rock (2001)
Screenplay
Ruby Jean and Joe (1996)
Screenwriter
Jesse (1988)
Screenwriter
April Morning (1988)
Screenplay
The Quick and the Dead (1987)
Screenwriter
Poker Alice (1987)
Screenplay
Vengeance: The Story of Tony Cimo (1986)
Screenwriter
Stagecoach (1986)
Screenwriter
The Defiant Ones (1986)
Screenplay
Belle Starr (1980)
Screenplay
The Day Christ Died (1980)
Screenplay
Angel City (1980)
Screenplay
Mayflower: The Pilgrim's Adventure (1979)
Screenplay
Wild Horse Hank (1979)
Screenwriter
Smokey And The Bandit (1977)
Screenplay
Fools' Parade (1971)
Screenwriter
something big (1971)
Writer
...tick...tick...tick... (1970)
Screenwriter
The Undefeated (1969)
Screenwriter
Bandolero! (1968)
Screenwriter
The Green Berets (1968)
Screenwriter
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
Screenwriter
The Truth About Spring (1965)
Screenwriter
Shenandoah (1965)
Screenwriter
The D.I. (1957)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

something big (1971)
Producer
Fools' Parade (1971)
Executive Producer
...tick...tick...tick... (1970)
Producer
The Cheyenne Social Club (1970)
Producer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

In the Heat of the Night: Grow Old Along With Me (1995)
Development Executive

Writer (Special)

You Are the Jury (1984)
Writer
Big John (1983)
Writer
Stubby Pringle's Christmas (1978)
Writer

Producer (Special)

Big John (1983)
Producer

Special Thanks (Special)

You Are the Jury (1984)
Writer
Big John (1983)
Writer
Stubby Pringle's Christmas (1978)
Writer

Writer (TV Mini-Series)

The Awakening Land (1978)
Screenplay ("The Trees" "The Fields")

Life Events

1950

Served in the US Marine Corps

1957

First produced screenplay, "The D.I."

1965

Wrote feature film version of "Shenendoah"

1968

Wrote "The Green Berets" for John Wayne

1977

Wrote screenplay for "Smokey and the Bandit"

1978

First collaboration with Elizabeth Montgomery; wrote NBC miniseries "The Awakening Land" in which she starred

1988

Wrote pilot for TV adaptation of "In the Heat of the Night"

1996

Seven years after Barrett's death, Showtime produced his script, "Ruby Jean and Joe"

Videos

Movie Clip

Greatest Story Ever Told, The (1965) -- Your Brother Will Rise Again Jesus (Max Von Sydow) has traveled to Bethany, where Martha (Ina Balin) can't see why he didn't prevent her brother Lazarus' death, Magdalene (Joanna Dunham) among observers as director George Stevens frames the renowned miracle, in The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1965.
Greatest Story Ever Told, The (1965) - Soon To Be Among Us More big aerial shots with a scripture-derived speech, delivered by The Baptist (Charlton Heston), the first scene for both him and the mature Jesus (Max Von Sydow), in George Stevens' The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1965.
Shenandoah (1965) - A Lot Of Noisy Silence Exposition, introducing the cast, during the Civil War, James Stewart as farmer and father Charlie Anderson addresses his sons, Philip Alford entering, then Glenn Corbett, James McMullan, Patrick Wayne (Duke’s son), Charles Robinson, and Tim McIntire, his daughter (Rosemary Forsyth) and daughter-in-law (Katharine Ross) silent, early in Shenandoah, 1965.
Shenandoah (1965) - Women Are Like That Virginia widower farmer Charlie Anderson (James Stewart), abstaining from the Civil War, relates to his soon-to-be son-in-law, Confederate recruit Sam (Doug McClure), while the bride (Rosemary Forsyth), attempts to understand her sister-in-law (Katharine Ross), in Shenandoah, 1965, from James Lee Barrett’s original screenplay.
Shenandoah (1965) - A Horrible Thing To Behold His youngest son taken prisoner as a (wrongly) suspected Confederate, neutral Virginia farmer Charlie (James Stewart) consults with his eldest son (Glenn Corbett) about rescue options, then visits with his daughter-in-law (Katharine Ross) and his first grandchild, Andrew V. McLaglen directing, in Shenandoah< 1965.
Shenandoah (1965) - These Are My Sons A more explicit expression by James Stewart, as Virginia farmer Charlie Anderson, maintaining firm neutrality during the Civil War, just barely civil toward a Confederate officer (Tom Simcox) out to recruit his sons (Glenn Corbett, Patrick Wayne, James McMullan) et al, in Shenandoah, 1965.
...tick...tick...tick... (1970) - Set Yourself Free Introduction of the Glaser Brothers theme song (Set Yourself Free, by Willis Hoover), as we’ve learned that Mississippi sheriff Little (George Kennedy) lost the election to a black man (Jim Brown), and manages his disgruntled deputies (Don Stroud, Mills Watson), early in director Ralph Nelson’s …tick…tick…tick…, 1970.
...tick...tick...tick... (1970) - It's About That Time First scene for newly elected Mississippi sheriff Jim Price (Jim Brown), at home with brother Fred (Leonard Smith) and wife Mary (Janet MacLachlan) in director Ralph Nelson's ...tick...tick...tick..., 1970.
...tick...tick...tick... (1970) - There's A Rumor Goin' Round Opening director Ralph Nelson’s uneven and sometimes brilliant feature from James Lee Barrett’s original screenplay, menacing Dub Taylor as Junior fries an egg and George Kennedy begins his striking performance as Mississippi sheriff John Little, in …tick…tick…tick…, 1970, starring Jim Brown.
...tick...tick...tick... (1970) - What If You Can't? Director Ralph Nelson inserts a song from the soundtrack by country music pioneers The Glaser Brothers, as new Mississippi sheriff Jim Price (Jim Brown) arrives to take over, predecessor Little (George Kennedy), deputies (Don Stroud, Mills Watson) and mayor Parks (Fredric March) receiving, in ...tick...tick...tick..., 1970.
...tick...tick...tick... (1970) - About Your Complexion Intriguing fare as newly-ousted Mississippi sheriff Little (George Kennedy) and wife Julia (Lynn Carlin) try to laugh, then replacement Price (Jim Brown) at work with town drunk (Roy Glenn), in director Ralph Nelson's ...tick...tick...tick..., 1970.
...tick...tick...tick... (1970) - He's Kind Of Off-White Fredric March as Mississippi Mayor Jefferson Parks with new sheriff Price (Jim Brown), who’s considering seeking federal support because he’s holding a white murder suspect, suggests he get help from the (white) former sheriff, then has a candid talk with his longtime butler (Ernest Anderson), in Ralph Nelson’s …tick…tick…tick…, 1970.

Trailer

Family

James Hamlin Barrett
Father
Anne Barrett
Mother
Jessica Barrett
Daughter
Penelope Barrett
Daughter
Birgitte Barrett
Daughter
Christian Barrett
Son
David Barrett
Son

Companions

Merete Engelstoft
Wife
Married in 1960.

Bibliography