Childhood & Early Life
Richard Benjamin was born Richard Samuel Benjamin, on May 22, 1938, in New York City, to Samuel Roger Benjamin, a businessman who worked in the garment industry.
Ever since he was a kid, Richard was interested in the world of films and TV. He aspired to become an actor. He enrolled at the ‘High School of Performing Arts’ in New York and participated in many theatrical plays.
After graduating high school, he enrolled at ‘Northwestern University’ in Illinois, where he studied theater. Following his graduation from the university, he started working extensively in the theater circuit.
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Richard struggled to get good acting work during the initial phase of his career. In the early 1960s, he made his stage debut with the play titled ‘The Taming of the Shrew.’ He also made his TV debut with guest roles in series such as ‘Dr. Kildare’ and ‘The New Breed.’
He started getting noticed for his theatrical appearances in the mid-1960s, with plays such as ‘Barefoot in the Park’ and ‘The Odd Couple.’ He also directed ‘Barefoot in the Park’ a few years later, exhibiting his directorial skills, too.
In 1967, Richard made his acting debut with a supporting role in the series titled ‘He & She.’ The next year, he was approached to play the lead role of ‘Neil Klugman’ in the film titled ‘Goodbye Columbus.’ The romantic comedy film was a box-office and critical success.
After a successful debut, Richard played one of the lead roles in the black comedy war film titled ‘Catch-22.’ The film performed poorly at the box office and was panned by critics when it released but has retained a cult following of late.
In 1970, Richard played yet another lead role, in a comedy–drama film titled ‘Diary of a Mad Housewife.’ His portrayal of ‘Jonathan Balser’ earned Richard a nomination for a ‘Golden Globe’ award. With these consecutive early successes, Richard was at an all-time high in his career. However, Richard was slowly being typecast in comedy roles, and this was turning out to be an issue for him.
This typecasting affected the fate of his 1971 film ‘The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker.’ Although it was a comedy–drama film, Richard’s intense acting in a few scenes became one of the many reasons that caused the failure of the film.
In the early 1970s, Richard continued to work in comedy films such as ‘The Steagle’ (as ‘Harold Weiss’) and ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ (as ‘Alexander Portnoy’). Additionally, he also played lead roles in the crime thriller film ‘The Last of Sheila’ (as ‘Tom Parkman’) and the science-fiction film ‘Westworld’ (as ‘Peter Martin’).
In the 1970s, he continued to work in comedy films such as ‘The Sunshine Boys’ (as ‘Ben Clark’) and ‘Scavenger Hunt’ (as ‘Stuart Selsome’). As he had started gaining an interest in film direction, he appeared as an actor in fewer films in the 1980s. Some of the films that he acted in before taking on the director’s role were ‘Witches’ Brew,’ ‘First Family,’ and ‘Saturday the 14th.’
In 1982, Richard made his directorial debut with the film titled ‘My Favorite Year.’ Starring Peter O’Toole in the lead role, the comedy film was a huge box-office success and was also praised by critics.
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In 1984, he continued his stint with films by starring in ‘Racing with the Moon,’ which was an average success. The same year, ‘City Heat’ released. The film starred two of the biggest stars of the generation: Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. It received quite average reviews from critics and was also an average box-office success.
In 1986, the Tom Hank-starrer film ‘The Money Pit’ was released. Although the film was an average success with the critics, it was the biggest hit of Richard’s directorial career back then.
All through the 1980s, Richard’s directorial career saw many ups and downs, with films such as ‘Little Nikita’ and ‘My Stepmother Is an Alien.’
With more subsequent films such as ‘Made in America,’ ‘Downtown,’ and ‘Mermaids,’ Richard witnessed failure as a director. The 1994 film ‘Milk Money’ was also a massive critical and commercial failure. His subsequent films, ‘Mrs. Winterbourne’ and ‘The Pentagon Wars,’ were also failures.
In the 2000s, Richard directed TV films such as ‘Laughter on the 23rd Floor,’ ‘The Goodbye Girl,’ and ‘A Little Thing Called Murder.’
After an unsuccessful career as a director, Richard resumed acting in the 1990s and appeared in films such as ‘Lift’ (as ‘Rabbi Brill’) and ‘Deconstructing Harry’ (as ‘Ken’). In the 2000s, he was seen playing small roles in films such as ‘Marci X’ and ‘The Shrink Is In.’
He produced the TV movie ‘The Goodbye Girl’ in 2004.
Family & Personal Life
Richard Benjamin met actor Paula Prentiss in the late 1950s, as they both attended the ‘Northwestern Theatre School.’ The couple got married on October 26, 1961.
However, their marriage has been a rocky affair. There was a time when Richard was not successful and Paula had become a star. There was also a time when Paula was facing a hard time due to psychological issues. However, their marriage survived in spite of such issues.
The couple has two children together: son Ross Benjamin (born in 1974) and daughter Prentiss Benjamin (born in 1978).