Richard Bennett (actor)

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Richard Bennett
6 KB
Who's Who on the Stage pub 1911
Born Charles Clarence Bennett
(1870-05-21)May 21, 1870
Deacon Mills, Indiana, USA
Died October 22, 1944(1944-10-22) (aged 74)
Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death
Heart attack
Occupation Actor
Years active 1891 to 1943
Spouse(s) Grena Heller (1901-1903)
Adrienne Morrison (1903-1925)
Aimee Raisch (1927-1937)

Richard Bennett (May 21, 1870 – October 22, 1944) was an American actor who became a stage and silent screen matinee idol over the early decades of the twentieth century.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Deacon's Mills, Indiana in 1870 (some sources state 1872), the son of George Washington Bennett and Eliza Huffman.[1] His younger sister was Ina Blanche Bennett.[2] For a time, he was a sailor on Great Lakes steamer, a professional boxer, medicine showman, troubadour and night clerk in a hotel in Chicago.


As Father Anselem in A Royal Family

Bennett made his stage debut in the play The Limited Mail (1891) in Chicago. He went to New York, where his Broadway debut was in His Excellency the Governor (1899), which was produced by Charles Frohman. In his third Broadway production, he played the role as Father Anselem in Frohman's A Royal Family (1900). In 1905, Bennett won fame as the leading man, Hector Malone, Jr., in Shaw's Man and Superman. That was followed by his role as Jefferson Ryder in the stage hit The Lion and the Mouse (1905).

A series of spectacular roles followed. In 1908, he played the role as John Shand opposite Maude Adams in Barrie's What Every Woman Knows. Frequent quarrels between the stars occurred during the run of the play, and when Adams opened in Peter Pan, Bennett telegraphed his congratulations "on achieving your long ambition to be your own leading man."

Bennett is probably best known for his role as Major Amberson in Welles's motion picture adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). He played the dying millionaire, John Glidden, in If I Had a Million (1932). Bennett is also known for adapting socially conscious works of Eugène Brieux, such as Damaged Goods and Maternity. In 1913, Bennett had a theatrical success starring as Georges Dupont in the social disease stage drama Damaged Goods, which he also co-produced.

Bennett won a reputation for his curtain harangues, which friends—and critics—said were at least as good as his stage portrayals when, in 1913, he wound up an appearance in Damaged Goods by stepping in front of the curtain and castigatigating the police and courts for "narrow-mindedness." He developed this penchant until his ab-lib speeches won greater applause than many of the plays in which he acted.

His silent movie debut was a reprisal of his stage role in Damaged Goods (1914), which co-starred his wife, Adrienne Morrison. He helped adapt the screenplay and direct the drama. In the drama The Valley of Decision (1916), which he wrote, Bennett appeared on the screen with his wife, Morrison, and his three daughters.

In 1922, Bennett starred in Broadway's English-language version of Leonid Andreyev's melodrama He Who Gets Slapped, playing the title role as He. The success of the play led to its being filmed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, with the production starring Lon Chaney in Bennett's role. With the advent of the talkies the middleaged actor found a niche as a character actor. In 1931 he appeared with Constance Bennett in Bought!.


He was married to Grena Heller in 1901 in San Francisco. They soon separated, and were divorced in 1903. Using her married name, she starred in a few plays on Broadway, and went on to a successful career as a music critic for the Hearst newspaper New York American, which later became the New York Journal American.

On November 8, 1903, Bennett and actress Adrienne Morrison were married in Jersey City. They had three daughters, Constance Bennett (1904–1965); Barbara Bennett (1906–1958); and Joan Bennett (1910–1990). He and Morrison were divorced in April 1925. Their first and third daughters, Constance and Joan, became successful movie stars. Their second daughter, Barbara, was also briefly an actress, but with less success. The two appeared together on stage in the 1923 play The Dancers Barbara married the popular singer Morton Downey. The controversial television talk-show host Morton Downey, Jr., was Richard Bennett's grandson.

In 1925, he became acquainted with Aimee Raisch in San Francisco, during the production of Creoles, in which she played a minor role.[3] She was a young socialite and aspiring actress who was divorcing her millionaire clubman and polo player husband, Harry G. Hastings.

Bennett and Raisch were married July 11, 1927, in Chicago.[4] He and Aimee, who later went by Angela, separated April 3, 1934, and were divorced in 1937.[5] She died in San Francisco, in 1955.[6]

His daughter Joan made her stage debut acting with him in Jarnegan (1928). This play, in which he played Jack Jarnegan, provided one of his favorite roles—that of a belligerent, drunken movie director given to acidulous and profane comments on Hollywood.


Richard Bennett died at age 74 from a heart attack at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.[7] Episcopal funeral services were conducted on October 24, 1944, in Beverly Hills. He is interred in Pleasant View Cemetery, Lyme, Connecticut, beside his second wife and mother of his daughters.[8][9]

Bennett was fond of saying that the movie industry was not a business, but a madhouse.[10]

Selected filmography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1870 Cass Co., IN, U.S. Federal Census, Deer Creek Township, Post Office, Logansport, Ind., July 12, Sheet 91, Page 82, Beginning on Line 36, Geo. W. Bennett, 23, Male, White, Works on Sawmill, Val. of Personal Estate: $500, NJ, Male Cit. over 21. Eliza L. Bennett, 18, Female, White, Keeps House, OH. Charles Bennett, 1/12, Male, White, IN, (If born in year, state month) May. William H. Bennett, 28, Male, White, Works on Sawmill, NJ, Male Cit. over 21. Jasper Neff, 17, Male, White, Works on Sawmill, IN.
  2. ^ 1880 Howard Co., IN, U.S. Federal Census, Ward 3, City of Kokomo, Taylor St., June 5, Enumeration Dist. 53, Sheet 15, Page 423 C, Beginning on Line 24, George W. Bennett, White, Male, 32, Marr., Constable, NJ, NJ, NJ. Eliza L. Bennett, White, Female, 28, Wife, Marr., Keeping House, OH, PA, OH. Clarence C. Bennett, White, Male, 10, Son, Single, Attended School In Year, IN, NJ, OH. Ina B. Bennett, White, Female, 6, Daughter, Single, Attended School In Year, IN, NJ, OH.
  3. ^ New York Times, July 8, 1927, from Chicago, July 7, "Richard Bennett To Wed --- Actor in 'The Barker' Engaged Mrs. Aimee Raisch Hastings," p. 17.
  4. ^ New York Times, July 12, 1927, from Chicago, July 11, "Richard Bennett Weds Mrs. Aimee Hastings --- Star of 'The Barker' Marries San Francisco Woman, Former Wife of Polo Player," p. 29.
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times, Oct. 9, 1937, "Wins Freedom From Thespian --- Wife Divorces Actor Bennett --- Father of Screen Sisters Declared Always on Rampage," p. A 3.
  6. ^ California Death Index, Name: Aimee Raisch Bennett, Birth Date: 09-13-1901, Mother's Maiden Name: Stealey, Father's Last: Raisch, Sex: Female, Birth Place: California, Death Place: San Francisco (38), Death Date: 10-18-1955, Age: 54 yrs.
  7. ^ California Death Index, Name: Richard Bennett, Birth Date: 05-21-1870, Mother's Maiden Name: Hoffman, Father's Last: Bennett, Sex: Male, Birth Place: Indiana, Death Place: Los Angeles (19), Death Date: 10-22-1944, SSN: 571-18-2360, Age: 74 yrs.
  8. ^ New York Times, Oct 23, 1944, from Los Angeles, Oct. 22 (AP), "Richard Bennett, Noted Actor, Dies --- Former Matinee Idol, 72, Who Made Stage Debut at 17, Was Father of Three Actress," p. 19.
  9. ^ Los Angeles Times, Oct 23, 1944, "Death Takes Bennett, Once Matinee Idol --- Father of Constance, Barbara and Joan Heart Attack Victim," p. 1.
  10. ^ The versatiles: a study of supporting character actors and actresses in the American motion picture, 1930-1955 pub. 1969

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