Friday, December 5, 2008

Paul Benedict

Certainly best known as the British neighbor on the long-running sitcom The Jeffersons, Benedict played a variety of comic characters on stage and screen. He spent time on Sesame Street as the Mad Painter who painted numbers everywhere, and he's fondly remembered as the loony stage director in The Goodbye Girl, insisting that Richard Dreyfus play Richard III fey. His deadpan reactions in the final moments of Waiting for Guffman are priceless.

He had a substantial theatrical career, beginning his onstage work in Boston in a troupe which included DeNiro, Hoffman, and Pacino. He re-teamed with Pacino on Broadway in the two-character O'Neill play Hughie in 1996. He was respected as a director as well, and he helmed two off-broadway productions which became sleeper hits. In 1989, he guided Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney in The Kathy and Mo Show: Parallel Lives.

Two years earlier, he directed the original production of the two-hander Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, bringing the exceptional Kathy Bates to the world's attention.
Here's a shot of the cast and crew of that landmark production:

Benedict's elongated facial structure was a clue that he suffered from acromegaly, a pituitary disorder that was first diagnosed by an endocrinologist who saw Benedict in a theatrical production. He died this week at the age of 70.

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