Richard Mulligan Biography

Richard Mulligan was an American actor who predominantly appeared in popular sitcoms during the late 20th century. Check out this biography to know about his childhood, birthday, family life, achievements and other fun facts.

Quick Facts

Birthday: November 13, 1932

Nationality: American

Famous: Actors American Men

Died At Age: 67

Sun Sign: Scorpio

Born in: The Bronx, New York

Famous as: Actor

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Spouse/Ex-: Joan Hackett (1966-1973), Lenore Stevens (1978-1990), Patricia Jones (1955-1960), Rachel Ryan (1992-1993)

siblings: Robert and James

children: James Mulligan

Died on: September 26, 2000

Cause of Death: Cancer

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

education: Columbia University

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Richard Mulligan was an American television actor who predominantly appeared in popular sitcoms during the late 20th century. Famous film director Robert Mulligan was his older brother. Richard was known for his trademark rubber-faced looks and Bronx accent. Interestingly, he was an aspiring writer who accidentally became an actor while trying to sell one of his plays to a theatre director. His acting career lasted nearly 40 years, during which he worked in numerous films, plays and TV productions. However, his television career remains most acclaimed, as he was highly praised for his roles on ‘Soap’, a quirky television series; and ‘Empty Nest’, a spinoff of ‘The Golden Girls’. The actor, who was especially known for excellent comic timing, led a quiet life, spending most of his time reading, writing and memorizing scripts. He battled with cancer for six years, but did not retire from acting almost until his death in 2000, as he was deeply passionate about his art.

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  • Richard Mulligan studied playwriting at the ‘Columbia University’, after having served in the US Navy for some time. He initially worked as a stage manager and later stumbled upon acting by accident when he went to sell one of his plays to a director in a community theatre in Florida in 1953. The director asked him to audition for a role, for which he gave him good reviews, which kickstarted Richard’s acting. He made his Broadway debut in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play ‘All the Way Home’ in 1960. He also made a brief appearance in the film ‘Love with the Proper Stranger’ in 1963, which was directed by his older brother Robert Mulligan. His first major film role was in ‘One Potato, Two Potato’ in 1964, following which he acted continuously in films and television series. One of his notable television appearances was on the comedy show ‘The Hero’ (1966-1967). He then featured in the 1969 movie ‘The Undefeated’; and a year later, he was roped in to play the highly acclaimed role of General George Armstrong Custer in the 1970 Western film ‘Little Big Man’.
  • While Richard played a diverse variety of roles in film and TV productions, he was especially recognized for his comedic portrayals. One of his best known television roles was in the sitcom ‘Soap’ (1977-1981), for which he won ‘Emmy’ awards for ‘Outstanding Supporting actor in a Comedy Series’ in 1979 and ‘Outstanding Lead actor in a Comedy Series’ in 1980. In 1981, he was cast in a leading role in the satirical black comedy ‘S.O.B’, wherein he portrayed the role of a Hollywood producer. From 1988 to 1995, he was seen in ‘Empty Nest’, which was a spin-off of ‘The Golden Girls’. The role of Dr. Harry Weston on the popular sitcom earned him a ‘Golder Globe Award’ for best actor, in addition to an ‘Emmy’ award, in 1989. He battled with cancer for six years, but did not retire from acting almost until his death in 2000.
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Family & Personal Life
  • Richard Mulligan was born on November 13, 1932, in the Bronx, New York, United States. He was one of the five sons of a policeman named Robert Edward Mulligan and his wife Ann-Elizabeth Mulligan. His older brother Robert Mulligan was a director, who was at the helm of the popular film ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’. Richard studied at parochial schools and also enrolled in a junior seminary to become a priest. He then served in the U.S Navy in Pensacola, Florida for a short while before enrolling in the ‘Columbia University’ to study playwriting.
  • In 1955, Richard married Patricia Jones from the Old Bronx neighborhood. They soon welcomed a son called James Mulligan. The couple divorced in 1960 after facing constant domestic conflicts. He married actress Joan Hackett on January 3, 1966, before divorcing her in 1973. He then married Lenore Stevens in 1978, which again ended in a divorce in 1990. His last marriage was to adult film actress Rachel Ryan, who was 29 years younger than him, in 1992. The marriage lasted only for 10 months and ended bitterly in 1993.
  • Richard Mulligan was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 1994. He battled with cancer for many years, but continued acting almost until his death. He died on September 26, 2000, at his residence in Larchmont, Los Angeles, California. He is survived by his son James Mulligan who is a New Hampshire-based lawyer.


Golden Globe Awards
1989 Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical Empty Nest (1988)
Primetime Emmy Awards
1989 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Empty Nest (1988)
1980 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Soap (1977)

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- April 17, 2019
Richard Mulligan

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