Richard Bennett: Histrionic Dynast

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Today is the birthday of Richard Bennett (1870-1944). I quoted him in No Applause without really explaining who he was: a major New York stage star (and later film star) who sometimes deigned to play vaudeville. His daughters Constance and Joan also became movie stars; his other daughter Barbara married the singer Morton Downey (and thus was the mother of loathsome talk show host Morton Downey, Jr., and an infernal delivery it must have been).

Already a major star of the New York stage by the 1890s, the elder Bennett became known for his diatribes against the audience, critics and authorities delivered as curtain speeches at the end of performances (this was the context in which I quoted him in No Applause). His silent movie career began in 1914 and continued until the last year of his life. Bennett’s best known role today is probably his performance as Major Amberson in Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).

To find out about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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