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Archive for July, 2019

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Jet Harris

Jet Harris from Wikipedia

Harris, the only child of Bill and Winifred Harris, was born Terence Harris at Willesden Maternity Hospital, Honeypot Lane, KingsburyNorth West London, England. His prowess as a sprinter at Dudden Hill secondary modern school earned him the nickname Jet.

Although he learned to play clarinet as a teenager, he made his own four-string double bass to play in a jazz group and later graduated to a professionally made double bass. In 1958, while playing jazz with drummer Tony Crombie and his group the Rockets, Crombie got a Framus bass guitar for Harris, making him one of the first British exponents of the instrument.

He played in several groups including the Vipers Skiffle Group and the Most Brothers before, in 1959, joining Cliff Richard‘s backing group, the Drifters, who, in July 1959 at a meeting in the Six Bells pub in Ruislip, changed their name to The Shadows at Harris’s suggestion, to avoid confusion with the U.S. band.  In 1959, after the neck of his Framus was terminally damaged in a dressing room accident, he was presented by the importers with a Fender Precision Bass, one of the first to come to Britain from the United States.

Other sources state that Cliff Richard gave Jet the first Fender Bass (sunburst) guitar in the UK in 1960, about a year after band-mate Hank Marvin got his first red Fender Stratocaster guitar. Both instruments were eventually replaced with matching versions which were used in the film The Young Ones, in which The Shadows played “The Savage” (showing the famous Shadows’ walk) to an invited audience of teenagers.

Harris also contributed vocally, adding backup harmonies and occasional lead vocals. He had a trademark scream, used in the Shadows’ “Feeling Fine” and Cliff Richard’s “Do You Wanna Dance?

In 1962, Harris left The Shadows following disagreements, mostly with Bruce Welch over his drinking habit (documented in The Story of the Shadows, written by the group with Mike Read).

He signed with Decca and released solo instrumental and vocal work with some success, “Besame Mucho” and “The Man with the Golden Arm” featuring a Fender VI six-string bass guitar. Then, as part of a duo with former Shadows drummer Tony Meehan, he topped the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in early 1963 with “Diamonds“.  Harris and Meehan followed this with two further hit singles, “Scarlett O’Hara” (also written by Jerry Lordan) a UK No. 2, and “Applejack” (composed by Les Vandyke) reaching UK No. 4 also in 1963.  Tracks from “Diamonds” onward were recorded with Harris using standard Fender Jaguar and Gretsch guitars, usually de-tuned to D instead of E. Harris was partly responsible for helping Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones break into the music business. Page’s first major session was as a rhythm guitarist on “Diamonds” in late 1962. After “Diamonds” became a hit, Harris and Meehan hired Jones to play bass in their touring band.

There were several court appearances involving drunkenness and violent behaviour[4] before the partnership with Meehan came to an abrupt end in September 1963 when a car crash on what was then the A44 (now the B4084) near EveshamWorcestershire, (in which his girlfriend, singer Billie Davis,[11] was also injured), meant that this success did not last long. Harris attempted a comeback as the Jet Harris Band, in 1966 and was briefly in the line-up of The Jeff Beck Group in 1967, but somewhat fell out of the music industry. He then worked variously as a labourerbricklayerporter in a hospital, bus conductor, and as a seller of cockles on the beach in Jersey. Harris and Meehan also made two short cameo appearances in the black and white film Just for Fun, released in 1963. In the film, Jet and the Jetblacks played “Man From Nowhere”, whilst the duo performed “(Doin’ the) Hully Gully”, a vocal track released as the flipside of their hit “Scarlett O’Hara”.

Harris was declared bankrupt in 1988. The BBC reported that it took Harris 30 years of heavy drinking before he finally admitted to being an alcoholic and sought help. For many years, Harris made a point in his stage shows of saying how long it had been since he quit drinking, winning applause from audiences who knew how it had wrecked his career in the ’60s. Harris still played occasionally, with backing band the Diamonds or as a guest with the Rapiers, and guested with Tony Meehan at Cliff Richard’s 1989 ‘The Event’ concerts.

In 1998, he was awarded a Fender Lifetime Achievement Award for his role in popularising the bass guitar in Britain. He appeared annually at Bruce Welch‘s ‘Shadowmania’ and toured backed by the Rapiers (a Shadows tribute band). He recorded continuously from the late 1980s with a variety of collaborators, including Tangent, Alan Jones (also an ex-Shadows bassist), Bobby Graham and the Local Heroes. His previous problems with stage nerves had seemingly disappeared, and 2006 saw Harris’ first single release in over forty years, “San Antonio”.

From 2005 to 2009, Harris achieved a lifetime ambition by touring UK theatres with his own show, “Me and My Shadows”. The Rapiers performed as his ‘Shadows’, and he had a special guest star in his former girlfriend Billie Davis, who had rescued him when the pair were in a road crash in late 1963 that effectively ended his career. “I’m going to go out in my twilight years with a big bang—and ‘Me and My Shadows’ is one of my little dreams,” Harris said at the time. Harris said of the Rapiers’ lead guitarist Colin Pryce Jones: “He is on a par with Hank Marvin.”

In 2007, Harris was invited by UK singer Marty Wilde to be a special guest on his 50th Anniversary tour. This culminated in an evening at the London Palladium, with other guests including Wilde’s daughters Kim and Roxanne, Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues, and original Wildcats members Big Jim SullivanLicorice Locking and Brian Bennett, who joined Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch of The Shadows on stage with Wilde and the current Wildcats (Neville Marten and Eddie Allen on guitar, Roger Newell bass, and Bryan Fitzpatrick, drums). The show’s finale featured the closest thing to a Shadows reunion possible, with Marvin, Welch, Harris, Locking and Brian Bennett (who in 1962 had replaced Tony Meehan, now deceased) all appearing on stage with the show’s company.

The evening was filmed, and a DVD released, with Harris playing three tunes – “Diamonds”, “Theme From Something Really Important” and “Scarlett O’Hara” – backed by the Wildcats. So successful was this tour that Wilde repeated the invitation to join him on his 2010 Born to Rock and Roll tour, which finished in Basingstoke on 20 November. Harris said that this was his most enjoyable working experience in years (he told us this on many occasions during the two Marty tours: Neville Marten, Wildcats guitarist).

In a December 2008 interview for the Daily Mail, Harris spoke about not having been invited to join The Shadows for their 50th anniversary, at the Royal Variety Performance.

His fan club arranged a 70th birthday party for him on 5 July 2009, at the Winter GardensWeston-Super-Mare.

In 2010, Harris started working with the Shadowers, led by guitarist Justin Daish. He began plans for a new show, featuring fresh material he had never performed before. However, regular tour dates and studio recordings with the Shadowers, Brian “Licorice” Locking and Alan Jones, though discussed, never materialised due to Harris’ poor health. His last concert (5 February 2011, Ferneham Hall, Fareham) saw him perform one tune (“Here I Stand” from his album “The Phoenix Rises”) with both Locking and Jones; this was the only time the three Shadows bass guitarists would ever perform together.

He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours.

In 2010, Harris was presented with a special award from the US Fender guitar company for his services to their company in effectively launching their bass guitar in the UK in 1960.

Harris had five sons and a daughter. He resided in BembridgeIsle of Wight. He was a heavy smoker and died on 18 March 2011, two years after being diagnosed with cancer of unknown primary, at the home of his partner Janet Hemingway, in Winchester.

In 2012 the UK Heritage Foundation erected a blue plaque in his memory at the Kingswood Centre, Honeypot Lane, Kingsbury, on the site of the former Willesden Maternity Hospital where he was born. At the luncheon that followed the unveiling of the plaque, various musicians took part in a performance in Harris’ memory, including Mike Berry, Clem Cattini of The Tornados, bassist Mo Foster, and Harris’ backing group the Shadowers. Tributes were read by Bruce Welch and Marty Wilde. Brian “Licorice” Locking could not attend but a few days prior had made a live recording of a dedicated harmonica performance of Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer”, which was played. Hank Marvin sent a written tribute but it did not arrive in time to be read.

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Branwell Donaghey

Brambell Donaghey

Branwell Donaghey is an Irish actor who has acted in “Peaky Blinders”, Coronation Street”, amongst many TV appearances.

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Bernard Braden

Bernard Braden

Bernard Braden obituary from “The Independent” in 1993.

Bernard Braden was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1916, the son of a Nonconformist minister, Dr Edwin Braden, and his wife, Mary. He was educated at local schools and made his first appearance on the stage as a child at Kelowna Theatre, playing a goblin in Springtime. Inheriting his mother’s musical talent, he began his adult career in 1935 as a radio singer, later becoming announcer, actor and engineer in Vancouver. His career was interrupted for a year by TB (1937) but he returned to radio writing and acting in plays for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1940 he worked with a 16-year-old actress, Barbara Kelly, who became his wife two years later. They moved to Toronto, where they scored a triumph acting in the serial John and Judy on the CBC radio network. Bernard wrote and produced plays for CBC.    

In 1947 Braden spent two months in Britain, again for CBC, making a series of documentaries on post-war recovery plans, material subsequently published in 1948 in a book, These English. He returned to Britain in 1949 accompanied by his wife. They soon found work, Bernard making his first BBC broadcast on the Home Service in April in the Rattigan play While the Sun Shines, followed by his television debut from Alexandra Palace in Play the Game in June. Although his professional acting experience was limited to radio, he opened at the Aldwych Theatre as Harold Mitchell in Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar named Desire later that year. While still acting in Streetcar, Braden broadcast his first BBC radio series, Breakfast with Braden, starting at 8.15am in January 1950. This was followed by a second series, Leave your Name and Number, in which the Bradens played two Canadians living in London. The Daily Herald called it ‘the BBC’s biggest hit for years . . . listen tonight’.

The Bradens were portrayed on the front cover of the Radio Times in June 1950. A vision mixer recalls sitting spellbound during their audition at Alexandra Palace when a producer exclaimed ‘that’s television’. Together they appeared in a magazine programme, Kaleidoscope, and in 1951 they had their own television series, The Bradens at Home, the first production of T. Leslie Jackson, one of Braden’s fans. Jackson described him as ‘clever and original, an absolute delight to work with’. Because of her professionalism, Jackson used Barbara Kelly in What’s my Line?, the long-running series that changed Sunday night for those able to watch television.

Radio was dominant but the times were changing and by the time of the Coronation in June 1953 television had ceased to be a rich man’s toy. Bernard Braden was a television commentator for the Coronation, sited with Brian Johnston in Hyde Park. He also appeared in Commonwealth Cavalcade, a variety tribute, together with Joan Hammond, Ram Gopal and McDonald Bailey. The Bradens were now firmly established in Britain: another radio series, Bedtime with Braden, had started in November 1952, Barbara joining the cast previously used in Breakfast with Braden. Bernard had also broadcast three series with Gracie Fields on Radio Luxembourg, the only commercial radio station heard in Britain at that time.

When commercial television went on the air in 1955 Braden worked for both channels. He also appeared with his wife in a comedy at the Lyric Theatre in 1955 entitled Anniversary Waltz. His commercial television programmes included Chelsea at Nine (Granada TV series), and Let’s Go (ABC). But he is best remembered for On the Braden Beat (ATV), the first of many consumer programmes which he presented as a late-night show. This ran from 1962 to 1968 and won a Bafta award (in 1964). The same format was used when he returned to the BBC with the title Braden’s Week. Esther Rantzen was a researcher on this programme, continuing the tradition in her That’s Life series. Braden was allegedly sacked by the BBC for appearing in a Stork margarine commercial but did work for the BBC later.

Although Braden worked in films, television and the stage in the Seventies and Eighties he never had the popularity he achieved in the Fifties and Sixties. At this time he added ‘businessman’ to his job description, running an agency for after- dinner speakers. In his Who’s Who entry he describes himself as ‘a freelance actor and dabbler’: a modest self-description for a man who wrote plays and books, acted presented the first nationwide BBC schools programme in September 1957, chaired the Brains Trust, played Henry James on the Third Programme, and had many radio series, all performed with high professional standards which endeared him to his colleagues.

In addition to his Bafta award he was voted Light Entertainment Personality of the British Variety Club and received the Royal Television Society award for Artistry in Front of the Camera. In 1955 he was honorary Chancellor of the London School of Economics. In his first volume of autobiography, The Kindness of Strangers (1990), Braden tells of his happy married life (surely one of the longest in show-business) with Barbara Kelly, who shared his career, and their three children, Christopher, Kelly and Kim. It is not surprising that he lists ‘family’ among his interests. Radio listeners will remember him for his many series, his colleagues in radio and television as an all- round professional, and television history as the originator of the consumer programme.Promoted stories

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Belinda Carroll

Belinda Carroll & Simon Williams

Belinda Carroll

Belinda Carroll’s parents were John F. Carroll, a flying instructor with the Royal Air Force, and actress Hazel Bainbridge (born as Edith Marion Bainbridge 25 January 1910 – 7 January 1998). Her maternal grandfather was manager of the Oxford Playhouse theatre and she herself recalled that she was “fifth generation of an acting family … mostly actor managers“.[2] Carroll’s elder sister was actress Kate O’Mara, the two attending a convent boarding school in Chertsey which, according to Carroll, they both found miserable.[3] Subsequently, she trained in provincial repertory, joining the Wimbledon Repertory Company after leaving school,[4] and made her debut in London’s West Endat age 20,[4] when she took over the role of Marion from Barbara Ferris in Terence Frisby‘s long-running comedy There’s a Girl in My Soup, opposite Donald Sinden and Clive Francis.[5]

Other stage roles from the late 1960s to early 1980s included parts in His, Hers and Theirs with Gladys CooperThe Pleasure of His Company with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.Peter Pan (as Wendy) with Dorothy Tutin; with Jean Kent and David Jason as the often skimpily clad Frances Hunter in No Sex, Please – We’re BritishCharley’s Aunt with John Inman;[6] and as Anne Meredith in Agatha Christie‘s Cards on the Table (1981).[4]

Carroll appeared subsequently in many productions around Britain and on television in CallanThe Duchess of Duke Street (1976), Lovejoy (1991) and Casualty (2001). She starred with James Fox and Simon Williams in the psychological drama No Longer Alone(1978).[7][8]

Carroll and Kate O’Mara performed together only twice, once on television as prostitutes with Ronnie Barker, and, when Carroll was in her sixties, touring for Bill Kenwright in Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Oscar Wilde.[9]

Carroll was married first to actor Simon Williams, who also appeared in No Sex Please, We’re British.[10] They had two children, Tam and Amy Williams, also actors, before divorcing in the late 1970s.[11] She subsequently married actor Michael Cochrane.

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Hilton Edwards

Hilton Edwards
Hilton Edwards
Hilton Edwards & Michael MacLiamoir

Hilton Edwards’s obituary from the 1982 ‘New York Times’.

Hilton Edwards who founded the famed Gate Theatre innDublin with Micheal MacLiammoir in 1928, died Thursday in a Dublin hospital. He was 79 years old.

Mr. Edwards, who was born in London, produced and directed more than 300 plays at the Gate, ranging from the works of Aeschylus and Sophocles, Goethe and Ibsen to the comedies of Shaw and Sheridan and new Irish plays, by such authors as W.B. Yeats, Brian Friel and Mr. MacLiammoir.

As an actor Mr. Edwards played leading parts, including the title roles in ”Peer Gynt,” ”Cyrano de Bergerac” and ”Macbeth” and Sheridan Whiteside in ”The Man Who Came To Dinner.” On Broadway in 1966, Mr. Edwards directed Mr. Friel’s ”Philadelphia, Here I Come!” and ”The Loves of Cass McGuire.”

He began his career acting with the Charles Doran Shakespeare Company in 1920 in Windsor and then joined the Old Vic in London, playing in all but two of Shakespeare’s plays before leaving the company a few years later. Trained in music, he also sang baritone roles with the Old Vic Opera company. Ireland for a Season

After touring with various companies in Britain and South Africa, he went to Ireland in 1927 for a season with Anew McMaster’s company and met Mr. McMaster’s brother-in-law, Micheal Mac@Liammoir. As he told an interviewer once, both men wanted a theater of their own; Mr. MacLiammoir wanted it to be in Ireland and Mr. Edwards did not care. ”I don’t care about nationalism, I care about the theater,” he said.

The two men’s talents were complementary. Mr. MacLiammoir was an actor, designer and writer; Mr. Edwards a director, actor, producer and lighting designer.

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Joanna Pettet

Joanna Pettet

Joanna Pettet

Joanna Pettet was born in Westminster, London in 1942.

Her parents, Harold Nigel Edgerton Salmon, a British Royal Air Force pilot killed in the Second World War, and Cecily J. Tremaine, were married in Chelsea, London in 1940.[3] After the war, her mother remarried and settled in Montréal,[2] where young Joanna was adopted by her stepfather and assumed his surname of “Pettet”.

When Pettet was 16, she moved to New York City.[2] Newspaper columnist Walter Winchelldescribed her as “a breathtaking teen-age darling from Canada.”[4]

Pettet studied with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre,[2]as well as at the Lincoln Center, and got her start on the Broadway in such plays as Take Her, She’s Mine,[4] The Chinese Prime Minister, and Poor Richard,[5] with Alan Bates and Gene Hackman, before she was discovered by director Sidney Lumet for his film adaptation in 1966 of Mary McCarthy‘s novel The Group. The success of that film launched a film career that included roles in The Night of the Generals (1967), as Mata Bond in the James Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967), Peter Yates’s Robbery (1967) with Stanley BakerBlue (1968) with Terence Stamp, and the Victorian period comedy The Best House in London (1969).

In 1968, Pettet married the American actor Alex Cord and gave birth to a son 3 and 1/2 months later. She and Cord were divorced in 1989 after 21 years of marriage. She has not remarried.

In the 1970s her feature film appearances became sporadic and included roles in the cult horror films Welcome to Arrow Beach (1974) and The Evil (1978). Pettet re-emerged as the star of over a dozen made-for-television movies, including The Weekend Nun (1972), Footsteps (1972), Pioneer Woman (1973), A Cry in the Wilderness (1974), The Desperate Miles (1975), The Hancocks (1976), Sex and the Married Woman (1977), Cry of the Innocent (1980) with Rod Taylor, and The Return of Frank Cannon (1980).

She starred in the NBC miniseries Captains and the Kings (1976), guest-starred four times on the classic Rod Serling anthology series Night Gallery, starred in the episode “You’re Not Alone” from the 1977 NBC anthology series Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected(known in the United Kingdom as Twist in the Tale),[7] was a guest on both Fantasy Island and The Love Boat (appearing three times on each series), and had a recurring role on Knots Landing in 1983 as Janet Baines, an LAPD homicide detective investigating the murder of singer Ciji Dunne (played by Lisa Hartman).

Pettet also made appearances on the television series The Fugitive, BanacekMcCloudMannixPolice WomanKnight Rider and Murder, She Wrote. In 1984, she appeared as herself in a James Bond tribute episode of The Fall Guy alongside ex-Bond girls Britt Ekland and Lana Wood.

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Robin Hunter

Robin Hunter & Amanda Barrie

Robin Hunter who was born in 1929 was the son of actor Ian Hunter, he made film and television appearances from the 1950s to the 1990s, which included Up Pompeii, the Carry Ons, Sherlock Holmes and Poirot. Musicals in which he performed included Damn Yankees, and the scripts he wrote himself for the Aba Daba Music Hall were of a comedic turn – such as Botome’s Dream (produced in Brighton) in which Shakespeare is put on trial for plagiarism, and Aladdin & His Microsoft Compatible Floppy Drive Laptop (performed at the Arches Theatre, Southwark). For many years he and his life partner Aline Waites – herself an actress, playwright and critic – collaborated on scripts for plays, revues and musical theatre of all kinds. Their Illustrated Victorian Songbook was published by Michael Joseph in 1984. Appearances in West End theatre included male lead in Barefoot in the Park, and juvenile lead in The Pleasure of his Company.

He was twice married:
• 1. Maria Charles with whom he had two daughters, the stage manager Samantha Hunter and the actress Kelly Hunter; the couple divorced in 1966.
• 2. Amanda Barrie in 1967. They separated in the 1980s, but never divorced.

Hunter died in Hampstead, London from emphysema in 2004 aged 74.[2]

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Amy Huberman

Amy Huberman

Amy Huberman is an actress and writer who has acted in numerous productions since beginning her career in 2002 on RTÉ‘s On Homeground. Huberman is married to former Ireland rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll.

Huberman grew up in Cabinteely,  south Dublin. She is the middle child of three siblings and the only daughter. Her father Harold was born in London to a Polish Jewish family; her mother Sandra is from County Wexford. Her parents married in 1974. Her brother, Mark Huberman, is also an actor and worked in films such as Boy Eats Girl and on The Clinic as Kieran Miller.

She was educated at Loreto College, Foxrock and she took classes in the Betty Ann Norton Drama School. Following school, she attended University College Dublin (UCD) intending to become a social worker, but when she found the drama society her career took a different direction.

Huberman is best known in Ireland for her role as Daisy on RTÉ‘s drama series The Clinic, which aired its seventh and final season in September 2009.  She also starred in the BBC television series George Gently and the TV movie Showbands.

Her films include Satellites & Meteorites, directed by Rick Larkin,  and A Film with Me in It, also starring Dylan Moran, both released in 2008.

Huberman’s first novel, Hello Heartbreak, was published on 2 July 2009.

In 2010, Huberman began work on the first original scripted comedy commissioned by Comedy Central (UK), Threesome created by Tom MacRae. The series began airing on 17 October 2011. Season 2 aired in late 2012.

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Robby Benson

Robby Benson
Robby Benson
Robby Benson
Robby Benson

Robby Benson (Wikipedia entry)

Robbie Benson Who was born in 1956 is an American actor, singer, musician, director, producer, writer, composer and educator. He is known as the voice of Beast in the Disney animated film Beauty and the Beast and its numerous sequels and spin-offs, and directed six episodes of the sitcom Friends.

Benson made his film debut with an uncredited role in Wait Until Dark (1967) as the Boy Tossing Ball[5] and his Broadway debut in The Rothschilds (1970). He had an appearance in a 1971 commercial for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups alongside Donny Mostwho would later co-star in Happy Days. Benson had an early role on the daytime soap Search for Tomorrow (1971–72). As a film actor, Benson was well known for teenage roles in coming-of-age films, such as 1972’s Jory, 1973’s Jeremy, and as Billy Joe McAllister in 1976’s Ode to Billy Joe.

In 1975, Benson appeared in Death Be Not Proud and Lucky Lady. That year, he also screen tested for the role of Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars“, a role which eventually went to Mark Hamill. In 1977, Benson starred in One on One (which he co-wrote with his father and needed no double for the authentic looking college basketball scenes due to his prowess at the game) and the TV movie The Death of Richie. In 1978, he co-starred in The End and also Ice Castles, co-starring Lynn Holly Johnson, who was a U.S. national figure skating medalist. Benson, who had never ice skated before, learned to skate in order to film the movie, which had numerous skating scenes, including ice hockey.[6] In 1980, Benson starred opposite Linda Grovenor in the Orion film, Die Laughing. The same year, Benson also starred in the movie Tribute opposite Jack Lemmon.[7]

In 1981, he costarred in the film The Chosen, based on the book of the same name by Chaim Potok.[6] The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, but noted that Benson’s character was “full of a gentle inquisitiveness that cannot help but win the audience’s sympathy.”[8][9] Benson played Olympic 10,000-meter gold medalist Billy Mills in the 1983 film Running Brave. In 1991, he starred as the voice of Beast in the acclaimed animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast. Later in the 1990s he voiced lead character J.T. Marsh on the acclaimed sci-fi cartoon series Exosquad.

His 2007 novel Who Stole the Funny?: A Novel of Hollywood[10] landed Benson on the LA Times Bestseller list. Benson’s medical memoir I’m Not Dead … Yet! was released in June 2012.[11]

Benson has been a professor at New York University‘s Tisch School of the Arts, the University of Utah and the University of South Carolina.[12] It was announced he would serve as a professor of Practice in the fall of 2013 at Indiana University.[13] Benson left the university after the Spring 2016 semester when his three-year contract expired.[14]

Benson married singer and actress Karla DeVito on July 11, 1982. The pair met while both starred in The Pirates of Penzance.[15] Together they have two children, daughter Lyric (b. 1983) and son Zephyr.[16]

Doctors diagnosed Benson with a heart murmur when he was a teenager, and underwent the first of four open heart surgeries in 1984 to fix a previously diagnosed heart valve defect.[17] He is an activist and fundraiser for heart research, which, in 2004, led him to write the book, lyrics and music for an original Off-Broadway play called Open Heart, in which he also starred.[18] He practices Transcendental Meditation.[19]


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Kim Stanley

Kim Stanley
Kim Stanley
Kim Stanley
Kim Stanley
Kim Stanley
Kim Stanley

Kim Stanley obituary from “The Guardian” in 2001.

Ronald Bergan

In her first film, The Goddess, Kim Stanley, who has died of cancer aged 76, played a movie star who moves from promiscuity, alcoholism, a nervous breakdown, and broken marriages to an eccentric lonely middle age. Although the film was based tangentially on Marilyn Monroe’s life, there were similarities with Stanley’s own career – and its price-of-fame message was one she took to heart.

For an actor considered one of the Broadway greats in the 1950s, winning New York Critics awards and two Oscar nominations, Stanley appeared relatively infrequently. And she did have her share of problems. 

During the Broadway run of William Inge’s Bus Stop (1955), in which she created the role of Cherie, the soiled Kansas City nightclub “chantoosie” (the part Monroe took in the film version), Stanley suffered nightly nerves and missed a few performances. At the time, she was having problems with her second husband, actor Curt Conway, by whom she had a son and daughter. (She had previously been briefly married to aspiring actor Bruce Hall.) Advertisement

In 1958, when she appeared as Sara Melody, the daughter of the drunken bar owner Con Melody (Eric Portman), in Eugene O’Neill’s A Touch Of The Poet, on Broadway, for which she was highly praised, she again missed a number of performances. She abruptly left the play altogether after blaming Portman for slapping her in one scene with what she said was “excessive zeal”. 

By then, Stanley had divorced Conway and married the actor and director Alfred Ryder, by whom she had another daughter. Before that marriage, too, ended in divorce, Ryder directed her in the play A Far Country (1961), as a young woman afflicted by hysterical paralysis and helped by Sigmund Freud. Three years later, she appeared as Masha, in the Actors’ Studio production of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters (1964) directed by Lee Strasberg and recorded on film. 

Unfortunately, when The Three Sisters was invited to the Aldwych theatre, London, as part of the 1965 World Theatre Season, it was a disaster. The ill-prepared cast, with some late substitutes, had trouble with the raked stage, and the production was greeted with derision. It was too much for Stanley, who had a nervous breakdown – and never stepped on stage again. 

This was a pity, because she was a luminous performer. Born in New Mexico as Patricia Beth Reid (she later took her maternal grandmother’s maiden name), she attended the University of New Mexico and Texas State University, in Waco, where she graduated in psychology. But earlier, at the age of 16, she had already decided to become an actor, after seeing Katharine Hepburn in a touring version of The Philadelphia Story. “I was overcome; I was transfixed,” she said. 

She served her apprenticeship at the Pasadena playhouse, before going to New York, where she worked as a fashion model and a waitress, in between acting off Broadway. At the same time, she joined the Actors Studio, studying method acting under Strasberg and Elia Kazan. 

She put this training to the test in an off-Broadway production of Gertrude Stein’s Yes Is For A Very Young Man (1949), playing an older American woman (she was 24) infatuated by a young French soldier (Anthony Franciosa, 21). Good notices, and her performance in the title role of Shaw’s St Joan, got Stanley her first Broadway role, replacing Julie Harris in Lillian Hellman’s short-lived historical play, Montserrat. 

Her first big success came in 1953, when she won the New York Drama Critics Award for playing the tomboy Millie Owen in William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Picnic. The character was 16; Stanley was, by this time, 28, and it was Inge that provided her with the Bus Stop role, probably her finest stage portrayal, and described in the New York Times as a “glowing performance full of amusing detail – cheap, ignorant, bewildered, but also radiant with personality”. 

Again, Stanley, who wasn’t exactly a sexpot, was able to convey the glamour of the Monroe-type film star in The Goddess (1958), desperately seeking attention and love denied in childhood. The lust for celebrity was also a theme in Seance On A Wet Afternoon (1964), in which she played a medium organising a kidnapping so that she can use her powers to find a child. Subtly changing her character from moment to moment, Stanley was nominated for an Oscar. 

Although she made few films because she disliked the stop-start process, in 1982, Stanley returned to the screen as the detestable, fame-hungry mother of tragic film star Frances Farmer (Jessica Lange), and gained a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Her last film appearance was a small part as a pilot in The Right Stuff (1983). 

A year later, she gained an Emmy for her performance as Big Mama in the television production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof; she had first played Maggie in 1958, in the play’s London debut at the Comedy theatre. It was a happier experience than her bitter second visit to London seven years later – one that persuaded her to give up the stage. 

After it, she returned to New Mexico, where she did some teaching and spent her last years. 

• Kim Stanley, actor, born February 11 1925; died August 13 2001