Amherst Magazine

James B. Douglas ’51

James B. Douglas ’51 died December 29, 2009.
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Saying farewell


Submitted by Charles A. Tritschler on Wednesday, 7/7/2010, at 10:52 AM

imageSaying Farewell to a Fine Man                                                   
(Globe and Mail)

Underwater Thrills Blog has been down as we said good bye to a fine man, a loving husband, and a father to a tribe of very unique children. If there was one thing our father taught us it was independence of spirit - and thought. He is missed every day.  JAMES B. DOUGLAS, after a valiant six-month battle with cancer, that pernicious adversary, left like a prince on December 29th, 2009, in his 81st year.  His final exit was marked with grit, grace, wit and humour. Best-loved husband of Myfanwy, greatly loved father of Glenella (Glen), Aidan Patric (Jeannie) and Andrew. Much loved step-father of Alison (Julian), David (Belinda) and Robin. Step-grandfather of Taylor, Conor, Christopher and Emily. Jimmy was predeceased by his mother, Peggy, and father, James, Amherst ‘24, brother Hugh ’49 and half-brother Graham. Jimmy was born in South Africa and came to Canada at the age of six.

He was brought up by Dr. Agnes Carmichael, with his brother Hugh, in Toronto and StonyLake. She had a profound influence on his life. He was educated at Upper CanadaCollege, secondary school, Amherst College and the BristolOldVicTheatreSchool. After appearing in the West End and touring in England, he returned to Canada where his many film roles included The National Film Board's seminal film The Drylanders, starring with Francis Hyland. He appeared as David Thompson in the documentary of the famous explorer's life and later starred in the Oscar-nominated film After The Axe, with many guest appearances on series such as BlackHarbour and Road To Avonlea.

Jimmy's stage appearances included leading roles at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the Globe Theatre in San Diego. Toronto's Crest Theatre production of The Long, the Short and the Tall, took him to New York where great notices subsequently led to several years in film in Hollywood, notably as Col. Merril in the motion picture, M*A*S*H. Jimmy returned to Canada to appear in the Red Barn Theatre's production of Teahouse of the August Moon. A fiercely proud Canadian and passionate man of the theatre, he decided to remain in this country, where, over the years, he made a considerable mark in theatre, film and television and was one of the three founding members of the Tarragon Theatre.

Jimmy's theatrical heart was in musicals - his proudest productions were premieres of a musical adaptation with Joey Miller of Gordon Pinsent's A Gift To Last and War Brides The Musical, book by Grahame Woods. As artistic director of the Gryphon Theatre in Barrie, he nurtured new Canadian talent in every aspect of theatre. Before becoming ill, Jimmy's lauded one-man show, Sunshine and Shadows: an Evening with Stephen Leacock, touched and delighted audiences in Britain, the U.S. and Canada.

Jimmy will be missed by an extensive family; in California, step-mother Marcelle 'Betty', sister Laurenne (Carl) and sister-in-law Anita. Favorite uncle to Hugh, Ann, Craig and, in Colorado, Ian, and their families, his sister Josalee, in Belgium, and his new-found Carter cousins in South Africa, especially Patric. In Canada, sisters-in-law Janet, Hilary and Margaret and their families and his agent Ronda Cooper. He also leaves a large number of cousins and friends throughout Canada, the United States and Britain. As he wished, Jimmy died at home in Stratford, Ontario where he had moved in August with Myfanwy.

A celebration of his life will be held in Erin, Ontario at All Saints Church on January 24th at 3 p.m. Interment will take place in the spring at Mount Hermon Cemetery, Quebec City. James was passionate, funny, cantankerous, creative and loving. Donations may be made in James' name to the Actors' Fund of Canada.  Jimmy is now probably performing for the angels - a gig, he observed, for which he didn't have to audition.


Jim Douglas passed away on Dec. 29, 2009, at his home in Stratford, Ontario, following a six-month battle with cancer. He and his second wife, Myfanwy, had moved there just last August from their 1857 country home of 27 years located near Toronto.

            Jim devoted his years at Amherst and his professional career to writing, directing and acting in theatrical productions. Following Amherst, Jim attended the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in England and thereafter appeared in plays mostly in his beloved Canada at venues such as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, but also in the U.S. and England and then in movies such as M*A*S*H* in which he played Col. Merrill. Near the end of his career, he produced and acted in his own creation, Sunshine and Shadows: An Evening with Stephen Leacock that he presented first in Stratford, Ontario, and then in England and Vermont.

            In a written communication in the summer of 2008 Jim advised that he considers himself “to be incredibly lucky to have been able to spend” his entire career after Amherst “in a profession that is more than a job—as an actor and director in England, the U.S. and Canada. Without the great experience of working with Curtis Canfield ’25 and such great technical people as Charlie Rogers and Tuffy McGowan at Kirby Theater,” his career would never have taken off. Class theatergoers may recall Jim for his roll as Kit Carson in The Amherst Masquers production The Time of Your Life. A highlight of his college career was his appearance as Octavius Caesar in Julius Caesar that, after Kirby Theater, was also performed in Washington, D.C., at the Folger Shakespeare Theater, a premier on that stage as well as a first on NBC Television, a live Sunday afternoon production in color.

—Nesbitt C. Blaisdell ’51

—EverettE. Clark ’51

—Charles (Hobie) Cleminshaw ’51


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