Actor Paul Benedict

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 PBS children’s show Sesame Street and as the English neighbor Harry Bentley on the CBS sitcom The Jeffersons.

Early life

Benedict was born in Silver City, New Mexico, the son of Alma Marie (née Loring), a journalist, and Mitchell M. Benedict, a doctor, and grew up in Massachusetts, where he graduated from Boston College High School and Suffolk University. 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.

Film and TV work

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

Benedict was best known for his role as Harry Bentley on the television series The Jeffersons. He played this role from the series’ inception in 1975 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.

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

Benedict played the father of a fugitive teen runaway in the 1971 film Taking Off, which was Miloš Forman’s first American film. In the same year he had a small role as a food vendor in They Might Be Giants, starring George C. Scott. Perhaps his best-known movie role from that period was that of Reverend Lindquist in Sydney Pollack’s 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson, starring Robert Redford.

In the 1974 film The Front Page, Benedict appeared as Plunkett, the emissary of the governor. In Dino De Laurentiis’ Mandingo (1975), he played a slave trader opposite James Mason and Perry King. 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 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), and had 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, Benedict 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 portrayed a condescending business college professor. In the 1990 film The Freshman, he played a similar role, this time an NYU film school professor. In 1991, he starred in The Addams Family as the grouchy judge George Womack. 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 Rumpelstiltskin in the Between the Lions episode “Hay Day”.

Benedict appeared in a 1998 Seinfeld episode as a magazine editor with The New Yorker who was questioned by Elaine about a cartoon in the magazine. His final television appearance was a guest spot on The Drew Carey Show in 2002.


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.

In addition to his varied film and television roles, Benedict was an accomplished theater actor, having appeared on Broadway multiple times, notably in Eugene O’Neill’s two-character play Hughie in 1996 (performing with Al Pacino) at the Circle in the Square Theater, 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.

In 2007, Benedict performed as “Hirst” in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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’s and Mo Gaffney’s The Kathy and Mo Show, which won an Obie Award.


On December 1, 2008, Benedict was found dead of natural causes at his home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. He was 70 years old.

Benedict was awarded a posthumous Elliot Norton Award by the Boston Theater Critics Association in 2009.


Year Title Role Notes
1965 The Double-Barrelled Detective Story Wells Fargo Ferguson
1969 The Virgin President Rutherford Melon
1971 Cold Turkey Zen Buddhist
1971 Taking Off Ben Lockston
1971 They Might Be Giants Chestnut Man
1971 The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight Shots O’Toole
1972 Deadhead Miles Hitchhiker
1972 Jeremiah Johnson Reverend Lindquist
1972 Up the Sandbox Dr. Beineke
1974 The Front Page Plunkett
1975 Mandingo Brownlee
1975 Smile Orren Brooks
1977 The Goodbye Girl Mark
1977 Billy in the Lowlands Billy’s Father
1981 Steigler and Steigler Cosmo
1982 The Electric Grandmother Guido Fantoccini
1983 The Man with Two Brains Butler
1984 The Lonely Guy Dr. Zook Voice, Uncredited
1984 This Is Spinal Tap Tucker ‘Smitty’ Brown
1988 Arthur 2: On the Rocks Fairchild
1988 Cocktail Finance Teacher
1988 The Chair Warden Edward Dwyer
1990 The Freshman Arthur Fleeber
1990 Sibling Rivalry Dr. Plotner
1991 The Addams Family Judge Womack
1993 Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman Dr. Victor Loeb
1995 Guns and Lipstick Mickey
1996 Waiting for Guffman Roy Loomis
1997 The Devil’s Advocate Walter Krasna Uncredited
1998 A Fish in the Bathtub Milo
2000 Isn’t She Great Prof. Brainiac
2003 A Mighty Wind Martin Berg
2004 After the Sunset Night Shift Guard
2008 Side by Each Chief Rodrocks (final film role)

External Links

Actor Paul Benedict – Wikipedia

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