James Robert Parish, the author of more than one hundred books about show business and Hollywood celebrities, took a coincidental and circuitous route to a prolific writing life that has included groundbreaking film reference works, revealing biographies of actors and actresses, and lively pop culture compendiums. Few writers have shown such industrious devotion to their subject matter and even fewer are still going strong after more than thirty years.

Parish got his start as a pop culture chronicler almost by accident. In the 1960s, the future author was visiting Los Angeles on a semester break from college in Philadelphia. While shopping at a Hollywood bookstore, he filled out a photo purchase request form with the names of his movie star favorites, mentioning his partiality for 1930s celebrity, Kay Francis. A few weeks later, he returned East and to his summer position as prop master at the Cape Playhouse, the famous star-package theater located in Dennis, Massachusetts. One day that July he received a note from Gene Ringgold, an employee at the Hollywood Boulevard shop, telling Parish that not only did the store now have Kay Francis photos available for sale, but also asking whether he knew that Ms. Francis was vacationing at a resort only fifteen miles from the Cape Playhouse
.

That memorable summer, the budding researcher met the elusive Ms. Francis and built a pen-pal relationship with Ringgold. The latter suggested that he and Jim collaborate on an article on Francis for Films in Review, the movie history monthly. The published piece was the start of Jim's writing career.

While attending the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Jim remained devoted to show business, spending his summers at the Cape Playhouse working with such celebrities as Tallulah Bankhead, Myrna Loy, Art Carney, William Bendix, and Hermione Gingold.

Most law school graduates undertake a cram course seminar before tackling the bar test. Many evenings while Parish was studying for the New York Bar, he missed many of these classes, instead attending a Greta Garbo film festival on Manhattan's West Side, or spending weekends at the Cape Playhouse assisting with the opening of the new season. After passing the exam and, later, being sworn in as a member of the New York Bar, Parish began working for a copyright law firm in New York City. Thereafter, he founded his own research company, Entertainment Copyright Research Co. Inc.

A few years later, his response to an advertisement in Films in Review magazine again changed Jim's career path. An established writer, the late Paul Michael, had been contracted to write the American Movies Reference Book, but required an associate to organize, staff, and assist in the writing of the tome. The book went on to win an American Library Association prize. It was the start of Jim's professional writing career, one that has spanned some 105 books (major biographies and big reference books) to date.

One of his most challenging early projects in these years before personal computers was creating Actors TV Credits. Long frustrated that there was no source available which listed an actor's television credits, Parish spent months at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts typing thousands of index cards from his perusal of every issue of TV Guide magazine from 1950 to that time. The resultant volume was the first in a series of volumes documenting actors TV work and, in turn, it became a mainstay for industry research.

Since then, Parish has authored or co-authored such entries as The MGM Stock Company, The Debonairs, The Great Spy Pictures, Prison Pictures from Hollywood, The Elvis Presley Scrapbook, Liza Minnelli, The "Murder She Wrote" Casebook, and The Great Detective Pictures. His recent books include Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops
, The Hollywood Book of Scandals, The Hollywood Book of Extravagance, Career Opportunities in Library and Information Sciences, Career Opportunities in the Energy Industry, and biographies of Mel Brooks, Katharine Hepburn, Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell, Jet Li, Jason Biggs, and Gus Van Sant, as well as such big reference tomes as The Encyclopedia of Ethnic Groups in Hollywood, Hollywood Songsters, The Hollywood Book of Death, and Hollywood Divas.


A great believer in assisting novice authors as they break into the profession, he has helped hundreds of individuals gain their first writing credentials. In this capacity, he has served as acquisition editor and consultant for several publishers and was series editor of Greenwood Press's acclaimed Bio-Bibliographies in the Performing Arts. He is known to many who write about and do research on the entertainment industry as a living database of Hollywood legend and lore, fact and anecdote.

A long-time resident of Studio City, California, Mr. Parish is a sought-after authority and consultant for TV documentaries and biographies, and has appeared frequently on NBC Dateline, A&E Biography, E! TV's Mysteries & Scandals and
E! TV's True Hollywood Stories, Court TV's Hollywood Justice, Fox Cable News' Rita Cosby Show, ABC's Cops on the Screen and other national news shows and specials dealing with the performing arts, as well as specials and series episodes produced by England's BBC, Granada TV, and Channel 4.


home | about | books | contact


Web Design by Jessie Davison for Stuart Bernstein Representation for Artists/James Robert Parish
Photo of James Robert Parish by David Cowan

© 2017 | All Rights Reserved