View Full Version : Actor Paul Benedict dead at age 70, Jeffersons neighbor

12-05-2008, 04:42 PM
I got a short blurb in today's NY Times that actor Paul Benedict died. Most folks will remember him as the stuffy neighbor of the Jeffersons on the 70's sit-com. Likewise, he played a completely demented director in the film of Neil Simon's "The Goodbye Girl". But what jumped to my mind immediately, from when my kids were little, was of him playing The Mad Painter on Sesame Street. Here's the obit from the LA Times today.

I think he also played a director in the film A Mighty Wind. I was surprised that he was a native of New Mexico. As noted in the article, most folks assumed he was British.

Paul Benedict dies at 70; actor from 'The Jeffersons' and 'Sesame Street'

Paul Benedict, the actor who played the eccentric English neighbor Harry Bentley on the sitcom "The Jeffersons," was found dead Monday at his home on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. He was 70.

Authorities were investigating the cause of death, said his brother, Charles.

Benedict's oversized jaw and angular features were partly attributed to acromegaly, a pituitary disorder that was first diagnosed by an endocrinologist who saw Benedict in a theatrical production.

He underwent medical treatment to prevent the disease from spreading while he continued to act -- and used his facial features for comic effect.

As an actor, Benedict built a career portraying loony characters in films such as "The Goodbye Girl" (1977), "The Man with Two Brains" (1983) and "The Addams Family" (1991). He also appeared in the Christopher Guest comedies "This Is Spinal Tap" (1984), "Waiting for Guffman" (1997) and "A Mighty Wind" (2003). On the PBS children's show "Sesame Street," Benedict was the Mad Painter who painted numbers everywhere.

But he was mainly known for his role as Bentley on "The Jeffersons," which ran on CBS from 1975 to 1985. He left in 1981 to pursue other projects but returned in 1983. Benedict later said he hadn't expected the show to last more than a season and only agreed to the part because producer Norman Lear kept asking him to reconsider.

The accented speech that he used even offstage led many to assume that Benedict was British, but in fact he was born Sept. 17, 1938, in Silver City, N.M. He was the youngest of six children; his father a doctor, his mother a journalist.

"When I was 5 years old, from the first time I went to the movies, I knew I wanted to be an actor," Benedict told The Times in 1992.

After growing up in Boston, Benedict attended the city's Suffolk University and began his acting career in the 1960s in the Theatre Company of Boston, performing alongside such future stars as Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino.

On Broadway, he appeared opposite Pacino in Eugene O'Neill's two-character play "Hughie" in 1996 and played the mayor in a 2000 revival of "The Music Man."

As a stage director, he was known for taking a work in progress or a new play and laboring with a playwright to infuse it with "intelligence, sympathy and warmth -- and of course, humor," The Times reported in 1992.

His breakthrough show as a director was "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune" in 1987, closely followed by "The Kathy & Mo Show: Parallel Lives" in 1989, both two-person sleepers that became off-Broadway hits.

12-05-2008, 06:34 PM
Benedict was one of those actors I enjoyed watching every time he was on screen - but rarely did I remember his name.
His performance as the man mistaken for Guffman, and as the butler in The Man With Two Brains are a couple of my favorites.
"It is time for me to retire, sir..."
"So soon? But you're so young!"

12-05-2008, 07:14 PM
Mort Guffman. Wow. RIP.

12-05-2008, 08:01 PM
He was great in The Freshman as the Godfather loving professor (If my memory serves me right) Fleebman and he was good in Spinal Tap where he uttered "Well I am as God made me sir".

12-06-2008, 03:06 AM
He did the one episode of Seinfeld (The Cartoon) where he was the editor of the New Yorker magazine trying to explain to Elaine the reasoning for printing a cartoon in the mag.....

Mr. Elinoff: Oh! yeah... That's a rather clever jab at inter office politics don't you think?

Elaine: Why is it that the animals enjoy reading the email?

Mr. Elinoff: Well Miss Benes. Cartoons are like gossamer and one doesn't dissect gossamer.

Elaine; Well you don't have to dissect if you can just tell me why this is suppose to be funny?

Mr. Elinoff: Ha! It's merely a commentary on contemporary mores.

Elaine: But, what is the commentary on?

Mr. Elinoff: It's a slice of life.

Elaine: No it isn't.

Mr. Elinoff: Pun?

Elaine: I don't think so.

Mr Elinoff: Vorshtein?

Elaine: That's not a word.....You have no idea what this means do you?

Mr Elinoff: No.

Elaine: Then why did you print it.

Mr. Elinoff: I liked the kitty.

12-06-2008, 06:40 AM
I loved those shorts on Sesame Street.


Strikes Out Looking
12-06-2008, 11:46 AM
When I was a kid my parents saw him in a play at Beef-n-Boards. Their review was that he stunk but I could never figure out if he was a poor actor or smelled really bad.

12-07-2008, 11:28 AM
Coincidentally, he had a small part in a movie I watched last night, The Front Page. Directed by Billy Wilder in 1974 with quite the cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Carol Burnett, David Wayne, Harold Gould, Charles Durning, Susan Sarandon and a whole bunch of "That Guy"s - people I've seen in a million different things but don't know their names.

RIP, Mr. Benedict.