James Douglas, a ruggedly handsome, intense actor who starred in ABC’s racy primetime drama Peyton Place and CBS’ soap opera As The World Turns, has died. He was 86. His family confirmed his death on March 5 in Bethlehem CT, where a wake in his honor was held on March 17 and 18. Douglas’ wife, Dawn, predeceased him.
During the five seasons (1964-69) that Peyton Place set the bar for timely, often risqué TV drama, Douglas played lawyer Steven Cord on some 400 episodes of the half-hour serial based on Grace Matalious’ scandalous 1956 novel. Cord had an intermittently fiery romance with Betty Anderson (played by Barbara Parkins), in which his rival was Ryan O’Neal’s Rodney Harrington, Cord’s half-brother. Having joined the cast early, Douglas stayed with the show until the end and returned for a 1985 reunion telefilm.
Douglas played another lawyer, Grant Colman, on As The World Turns from 1973-81 and a few times after, the last time in 1995.
In Connecticut, the Douglases were befriended by the starlet-turned-Benedictine nun Dolores Hart (famed for being the beneficiary of Elvis Presley’s first on-screen kiss in 1957 Loving You). Mother Dolores founded the Act Association, which performed Shakespeare, musical revues and other works at The Gary-The Olivia, a 200-seat open-air theater on the grounds of her abbey. In 1999, James Douglas appeared opposite another neighbor, Patricia Neal, in Oliver Goldsmith’s 1773 hit comedy of manners, She Stoops to Conquer.
Douglas is survived by three children, Kimberly, Taryn and Cort; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.