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.
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?
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