Sunday, July 31, 2011

Poor Pussycat

I recently saw a semi-amusing Neil Simon play-turned-film, Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

Don't bother remembering the title. It wasn't that good.

But what was good about the 1972 film was the hilarious young actress, Paula Prentiss.



She played a pot-smoking southern belle train wreck. And she played the part flawlessly.

Upon my research of this vivacious brunette, I discovered her background was somewhat...sordid.

Here is her story:



Paula was born in 1939 in San Antonio to an Italian immigrant and his American wife. It is rumored her father sexually abused both her and her younger sister, Ann.

Upon high school graduation, Paula attended Northwestern University, in hopes of becoming a doctor. But she was seduced by the stage. She ended up studying drama instead.



It turned out to be a great decision. She met the love of her life (and future hubby), Richard Benjamin, in the theater department, plus she got discovered by a talent scout during one of her college productions.



She went on to star in films, while her husband, Richard, struggled with his acting career.

During the mid-1960s, film directors realized that there was more to Paula than her good looks. She was actually quite hilarious. She quickly got roles in kooky screwball comedies, stealing the show in all her scenes.



But while filming What's New Pussycat? in 1965, Paula suffered a severe nervous breakdown, likely stemmed from her abusive childhood. She tried to commit suicide by jumping off one of the studio stage's beams. A stagehand fortunately rescued her before it was too late. She was committed to a mental institution by her heartbroken husband.



(Meanwhile, Paula's younger sister, Ann, was trying to make a name for herself in showbiz. But it was difficult, since she looked and acted so similarly to her famous older sibling. Although she managed to snag a few good roles, her career never really took off.)



In 1970, Paula started to work again. She secured a television series and an Emmy for it. She starred in several offbeat comedies and portrayed a picture-perfect housewife in The Stepford Wives. She also started a family with Richard.



In the mid-70s, she decided to take another break to raise her two kids and also deal with her sister, Ann, who was showing signs of mental problems. Ann had also developed a criminal streak, which Paula was desperate to stop.



By the early 1990s, Paula's husband, Richard, had become a well-respected film director. He lovingly gave his wife roles in his films, which brought Paula back into the public eye.



Unfortunately, Paula's happy ending was soon blown apart.

In 1997, her sister, Ann, assaulted their 86-year-old father with a firearm and got busted for it. While she was in prison, she attempted to hire someone to murder their father, plus Paula's husband and son.


(Ann Prentiss)

She was convicted in a Santa Monica court for the terrorizing crimes and was sentenced to 19 years in jail.

Ann died last year, while serving her time.

Talk about a dysfunctional family.

I don't believe Paula really acts anymore. And after researching her story, I can't say I blame the poor woman.



But despite all her struggles throughout her life, she did manage to have a spectacular career, with loads of famous films under her belt.

Plus, she has one of the most successful marriages in Hollywood history. She and Richard have been married for FIFTY YEARS.





And I think that makes her a pretty lucky woman. Don't you?

43 comments:

Belly B said...

awwww that is so sweet. GO, Richard!!! :D
What an amazing life story.

Belly B :)

Josie said...

What a fantastic story... And she's so beautiful!
xo Josie
www.winksmilestyle.com

Indie.Tea said...

She sounds like a person who made things happen for herself - she's beautiful, and clearly very strong. What an amazing story.

cristina petre said...

nice article, love the photos!

Sherin said...

She sounds great! I always love female comedians! Glad she recovered from her breakdown, but Ahhh, imagine having a sister like that! And it's nice to see a celebrity marriage that has lasted.

Misfits Vintage said...

She's AMAZING! Beautiful, resilient, loyal, loving, talented... wow - thanks so much for this insight into this fabulous woman. I'm off to find more pics - she's gorgeous!

Sarah xxx

jos xx said...

wow what a story!!! but at least she had a wonderful marriage!!

jos xx

Marusya V said...

Fantastic post! I think now people tend to devalue family & marriage... so thanks for reminding us what it is true love - 50 years together!
xox
http://crashingred.com
p.s. Following you and hope to stay in touch! I like your way of thinking.

yiqin; said...

i love her hair.

Shannon said...

She was beautiful her entire life. Wow.

Bonnie said...

Wow, I had no idea she went through all that. What a life. I liked her in Where the Boys Are.

Tights Lover said...

What a sad story. I'm glad things worked out for her in the marriage department at least.

I haven't seen anything with her in it, but I'd love to now that I know about her. She is absolutely stunning.

My weekend was great. Hope your's was too :).

FashionJazz said...

What an amazing story!! Hope you had a stunning wknd babe xx

Couture Carrie said...

Amazing bio and pics!

xoxox,
CC

Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle... said...

Love that story. I did not know her. Thanks you Mademoiselle J. You and I have both been inspired by great ladies this week. I am curious: Have you heard of Josephine Baker? Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle

The Blonde Duck said...

If I had my way, I'd stick all the people who hurt children in the most horrible place possible. She sounds wonderful!

Venus In Virgo said...

Wonderful! I didn't know all this stuff, thanks. I was going to let you know about a movie called Zard Oz from the 70's starring Sean Connery to see if you saw it because I would love to read your take on it. It's this crazy Planet of the Apes moral movie without any apes and involves The Wizard of Oz Book as the bible for a futuristic society. You have to see this bizarre trippy movie if you get a chance. And Sean Connery running around in red diaper underwear doesn't hurt either. lol! XOXO

-E- said...

she looks like a young claudia cardinale. not sure about your appraisal of a 50-year marriage though.

Courtney Erin said...

Her life sounds so fascinating...and her sister sounds so bizarre.

xoxo ~ Courtney
http://sartorialsidelines.com

StyleIDnet said...

Incredible story but you know what caught my attention the most? How two people that went through the same experience, reacted in such a different way. One was full of hate and the other, despite having the same reasons, was not.
I also admire her long marriage. Good for her.

http://styleidnet.blogspot.com/
http://styleidcloset.blogspot.com/

wardrobemag said...

I can't imagine being married to someone for that long! Good on her for making it work in an industry where marriages are often famed for their shortness!

Bhav x

Kavery said...

50 years is a liftime for some. Glad her marriage worked out even if her sis died so tragically

Carrie said...

50 years?! Wow, that true love. I wanna be married to my future husband forever. :D

:)
Carrie
http://readmylifeascarrie.blogspot.com/

Meri said...

She's beautiful, and apparently quite a survivor! Great Story Jen!

Sara said...

Hi dear, thanks you so much for your sweet comment on my blog, your blog is lovely and I have to say I love this post, the pictures are amazing, I like the vintage feel that they have and the story is unbelievable. I'm a new follower! Hope you'll follow back!

Pop Culture&Fashion Magic

Mimi said...

wow, 50 years?! that is an achievement, wow! :D

<3, Mimi
http://whatmimiwrites.blogspot.com/

A BRIT GREEK said...

Wow that is some kinda crazy dysfunctional family! Great insight though.

Thanks to you i still have lots a random movies to watch on Sunday afternoons!
x.o.x.o
p.s don't stress gorgeous...

Evil Nelly said...

such a sad story thats inspiring at the same time, the real hero of the story is Richard! 50 years with that gorgeous woman, all through her ups and downs, amazing!
hugs,
Nelly
www.massacredmascara.blogspot.com

Cafe Fashionista said...

Have you ever read anything by Jacqueline Susann? Judging from your taste in movies, I think you would LOVE her writing! :)

Audrey Allure said...

That's nice to hear that a Hollywood couple can last together for so long :) What an interesting life story.

Imogen said...

I always learn so much from you. I found this really interesting. Her life story was quite something, so sad about all those family issues, definitely a dysfunctional family. There are some really pretty pictures of her here and the marriage is a great piece of positivity among the whole life story.

The Blonde Duck said...

Happy Tuesday!

Stephanie said...

And yet again, I visit your blog and learn something that I didn't even know that I didn't know! She's still gorgeous. Stories of long successful marriages always make me happy.

Bonnie said...

That is an amazing story, albeit totally insane and dysfunctional.

She really is gorgeous. She still looks great! Richard sounds like a good guy. :)

http://www.glamkittenslitterbox.com/
Twitter: @GlamKitten88

Pop Champagne said...

she is a very lucky woman, and beautiful too, haha with the first picture, I wonder if that's where Amy Winehouse got her hair inspiration from

Kristin said...

How beautiful that their marriage withstood all that!

Julia, the Thanksgiving Girl said...

Oh wow, she's a beauty! I'm surprised I've never heard of her or seen her before!

Fashion.MakeUp.LifeStyle said...

This is such a cute and fantasy story!!! She's stunning.


<3 Marina
Fashion.MakeUp.LifeStyle

Ocean Dreams said...

Oh wow, what a story! I felt bad that both Paula and Ann had to suffer mentally later from their father's doings in their childhood, but at least Paula managed to pull through. Ann however, too bad she couldn't get help before being arrested for almost attempting murder.

Glad that Paula and Richard have had such a long love story - that is great in Hollywood!

socialitedreams said...

wow!!! so freaking interesting...and 50 years in any life is a long marriage, let alone in hollywood life...goodness, kudos!

Vonnie
http://www.socialitedreams.com/

Buck Cronkite said...

Saw her in a play in West LA, oh, about 2 or 3 years back. She's special. No doubt. Loved her since '64 and Man's Favorite Sport. I was 11, and fell hard.

Nina said...

just saw where the boys are for the first time. Man, that is one majorly fucked up sexist movie. But loved Tug. Thanks for this history- mind blowing!

Jc Rondon said...

I saw her sister Ann on an episode of an old television show titled "Emergency!" and I fell in love with her right away. I just learned of her fate. How terribly sad.