Paul Benjamin

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Paul Benjamin (1935 or January 1, 1938 – June 28, 2019) was an American actor.[1]

Benjamin was born in Pelion, South Carolina. His birthdate was frequently reported as January 1, 1938, but the 1940 United States Census lists his age as 5 at the time, suggesting that he may have been born around 1935.[2] He made his film debut in 1969 as a bartender in Midnight Cowboy.[1] After small roles in Sidney Lumet's The Anderson Tapes (1971) and Born to Win (1971),[1] he did extensive television work in the 1970s.

A few notable exceptions were a major role in Barry Shear's Across 110th Street (1972), and smaller parts in Shear's western The Deadly Trackers (1973), Michael Campus' The Education of Sonny Carson (1974), Arthur Marks' Friday Foster (1975), Gordon Parks' biopic Leadbelly (1976), and Don Siegel's prison film Escape from Alcatraz (1979). He also performed in the TV adaptations of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1979) and Gideon's Trumpet (1980). He later starred in the 1987 HBO movie The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains, based on the novel by Robert E. Burns.

On the big screen in the 1980s and 1990s, Benjamin worked with some well-known actors and directors. He acted in Some Kind of Hero (1982) opposite Richard Pryor, Martin Ritt's drama film Nuts (1987) starring Barbra Streisand, Pink Cadillac (1989) with Clint Eastwood, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989),[1] Robert Townsend's The Five Heartbeats (1991),[1] Bill Duke's Hoodlum (1997), and John Singleton's Rosewood (1997).

On television, he appeared in the 1988 episode of In The Heat of the Night as a death row inmate and in the 1994 pilot episode of ER, which led to his recurring role of homeless man Al Ervin during the next few seasons. Benjamin also worked on the American Masters documentary of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ralph Ellison, which aired on PBS. He also acted in an episode of the 14th season of Law & Order entitled "Identity" (2003) as well as an episode of The Shield.[1]

After 2000, he acted mainly in independent films like Stanley's Gig, The Station Agent,[1] Deacons For Defense, and James Hunter's 2005 drama Back in the Day.

Benjamin died on June 28, 2019 in Los Angeles.[2]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Paul Benjamin". The New York Times.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b Gates, Anita (July 5, 2019). "Paul Benjamin, a 'Corner Man' in 'Do the Right Thing,' Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved July 7, 2019.

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