Paul Benedict

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Paul Benedict
Paul Benedict The Jeffersons 1975.JPG
Paul Benedict as Harry Bentley, 1975.
Born (1938-09-17)September 17, 1938
Silver City, New Mexico,
United States
Died December 1, 2008(2008-12-01) (aged 70)
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts,
United States
Occupation Film, television actor
Years active 1965–2008
Spouse(s) Mary-Anne

Paul Benedict (September 17, 1938 – December 1, 2008) was an American actor who made numerous appearances in television and movies beginning in 1965. He was known for his roles as The Number Painter on the popular PBS children's show Sesame Street, and as the English neighbor Harry Bentley on the CBS sitcom The Jeffersons.

Early life[edit]

Benedict was born in Silver City, New Mexico, the son of Alma Marie (née Loring), a journalist, and Mitchell M. Benedict, a doctor.[1] He grew up in Massachusetts. Benedict served a tour of duty in the United States Marine Corps. His oversized jaw and large nose were partially attributed to acromegaly; he was first diagnosed with it by an endocrinologist who saw Benedict in a theatrical production.[2]

Film and TV work[edit]

Norman Lear cast Benedict as a Zen Buddhist in Cold Turkey which was completed in late fall 1969 but not released until February 1971.[3] Benedict would go on to work with Lear in the coming years on Lear's various television projects.[2][3]

Benedict was best known for his role as Harry Bentley on the television series The Jeffersons. He played this role from 1975 when the series began until 1981, and then returned in 1983 and remained until the end of the series in 1985. His character was a well-mannered Englishman who lived in the apartment next door to George and Louise Jefferson. He worked at the United Nations as a translator and was a bachelor. He was liked by all of the characters on the show except George Jefferson, who found him annoying, but they eventually became friends as the show progressed. Harry was also known for telling boring, pointless stories about his past, particularly about his childhood and relatives in England.

Paul Benedict and Zara Cully, The Jeffersons, 1975.

Benedict also played the recurring character The Number Painter on the long-running children's PBS show Sesame Street.

In the movie The Goodbye Girl (1977) starring Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason, Benedict played the stage director of a production of Richard III in which Richard III was to be portrayed in the play as a stereotypical gay man. He was the patiently-eccentric butler in Dr. Necessiter's Gothic-castle apartment in The Man With Two Brains (1983). When Dr. Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin) complains loudly that he just learned his wife is a slut, Benedict responds, "Yeah, I've heard this." He was in a short scene in the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (1984), playing Tucker Smitty Brown, the awkward desk clerk who checks in the band. Called a "twisted old fruit" by the band's manager Ian, he replies, "I'm just as God made me, sir." In 1988 he played 'Fairchild', Dudley Moore's butler in the movie Arthur 2: On the Rocks, the sequel to the hit 1981 film Arthur. That same year in the film Cocktail he would play a condescending business college professor to Tom Cruise's main character. In the 1990 film The Freshman, he would again play a condescending professor, this time an NYU film school professor of Matthew Broderick's main character. He also made an appearance as the incorrectly assumed title character in the 1996 film Waiting for Guffman, another mockumentary involving many of the same writers and actors as This Is Spinal Tap. He also played Fay's father in the story of "Rumpelstitlkstin" in the Between the Lions episode "Hay Day".

Benedict also played the role of a slave trader in Dino De Laurentiis' Mandingo opposite James Mason and Perry King in 1975. Perhaps his best known movie role was of the Reverend Lindquist in Sydney Pollack's 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson starring Robert Redford. He also appeared on one episode of Seinfeld as a magazine editor with The New Yorker who was questioned by Elaine about a cartoon in the magazine. He also played a small role in the 1974 film The Front Page as Plunkett, the emissary of the governor. He played a father of a fugitive teen runaway in the 1971 film "Taking Off" which was Miloš Forman’s first American film.


Following his graduation from Suffolk University in his hometown of Boston, Benedict began acting at the Theatre Company of Boston and performed with Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino.[2]

In addition to his varied film and television roles, Benedict was an accomplished theater actor as well, having appeared on Broadway multiple times, notably in Eugene O'Neill's two-character play Hughie in 1996 (performing with Al Pacino) at Circle in the Square, and more recently in The Music Man in 2000–2001. He appeared Off-Broadway in 1986 in Terrence McNally's It's Only a Play.[4]

In 2007, Benedict performed as "Hirst" in Harold Pinter's No Man's Land at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[5]

As a director, Benedict directed Frank D. Gilroy's Any Given Day on Broadway. Off-Broadway, he directed the original production of Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune, and Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney's The Kathy and Mo Show, which won an Obie Award.[6]


On December 1, 2008, Benedict was found dead of unknown causes at his home in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. He was 70 years old.[7]

He was awarded a posthumous Elliot Norton Award by the Boston Theater Critics Association in 2009.[8]


  1. ^ "Paul Benedict Biography (1938–)". Film Reference. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  2. ^ a b c Times Staff And Wire Reports (Dec 5, 2008). "Paul Benedict dies at 70; actor from 'The Jeffersons' and 'Sesame Street'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 24, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Norman Lear Biography: Screenwriter, Television Producer, Pilot (1922–)". (FYI / A&E Networks). Archived from the original on April 30, 2016. Retrieved July 8, 2016. 
  4. ^ It's Only a Play Internet Off- Broadway Database, accessed May 3, 2014
  5. ^ "Past Productions: No Man's Land". American Repertory Theatre. Archived from the original on August 22, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  6. ^ "Obie Award Performance award recipients". Variety. Reed Business Information. Archived from the original on December 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  7. ^ Siegel, Ed (2008-12-04). "Paul Benedict, 70; actor at home in TV sitcoms, modern and classical dramas". The Boston Globe. NY Times Co. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  8. ^ Rizzo, Frank (April 16, 2009). "Benedict honored with Boston award". Variety. Reed Elsevier. Retrieved April 22, 2009. 

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