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Some Kind of Hero ... Blu-ray. Comedian Richard Pryor once again proves his agility as an actor (Lady... more info $17.25was $29.95 Buy Now

Also Known As: Richard Franklin Lenox Thomas Pryor Died: December 10, 2005
Born: December 1, 1940 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Peoria, Illinois, USA Profession: actor, comedian, director, producer, screenwriter, drummer, truck driver, billiard hall attendant, meat packer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Evil" (1989) was as uninspired as it was uncomfortable to watch, although it was Pryorâ¿¿s most profitable film in four years. Actor-comedian Eddie Murphy had inherited the throne Pryor once occupied, so the teaming of Murphy with his personal hero in "Harlem Nights" (1989) seemed like a dream project for all concerned. And while the final product resulted in a modest hit, the onscreen pairing of Murphy and the ghostly-thin Pryor failed to yield the comedic alchemy so many had predicted. Hollywood returned to the well once more with the fourth and final Wilder-Pryor outing, "Another You" (1991). An already bad film further marred by Pryorâ¿¿s MS-ravaged appearance, it came and went with little to no acknowledgment, marking an inglorious end to Pryorâ¿¿s career as a comedy film star.Having finally revealed his MS to the public the year before, Pryor performed comedy onstage for the final time in 1992, although now his stand-up was delivered while seated in a comfortable armchair. After the bittersweet performance, an ill-advised concert tour was announced, but cancelled within weeks. Despite persistent rumors of his being near death, a physically decimated although still determined Pryor proved the...

Evil" (1989) was as uninspired as it was uncomfortable to watch, although it was Pryorâ¿¿s most profitable film in four years. Actor-comedian Eddie Murphy had inherited the throne Pryor once occupied, so the teaming of Murphy with his personal hero in "Harlem Nights" (1989) seemed like a dream project for all concerned. And while the final product resulted in a modest hit, the onscreen pairing of Murphy and the ghostly-thin Pryor failed to yield the comedic alchemy so many had predicted. Hollywood returned to the well once more with the fourth and final Wilder-Pryor outing, "Another You" (1991). An already bad film further marred by Pryorâ¿¿s MS-ravaged appearance, it came and went with little to no acknowledgment, marking an inglorious end to Pryorâ¿¿s career as a comedy film star.

Having finally revealed his MS to the public the year before, Pryor performed comedy onstage for the final time in 1992, although now his stand-up was delivered while seated in a comfortable armchair. After the bittersweet performance, an ill-advised concert tour was announced, but cancelled within weeks. Despite persistent rumors of his being near death, a physically decimated although still determined Pryor proved the gossip mongers wrong on occasion with increasingly rare guest appearances on TV series such as "Martin" (Fox, 1992-97) and "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000). He attempted to set the record straight when he co-wrote a memoir of his remarkable life, entitled Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences in 1995, with author Todd Gold. Pryor made his final feature film appearance â¿¿ seated throughout the brief scene â¿¿ as the owner of an auto repair shop in director David Lynchâ¿¿s surrealistic noir "Lost Highway" (1997), one year before he became the first person to be honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at New Yorkâ¿¿s Kennedy Center in 1998. No longer physically able to make public appearances, or even grant interviews, Pryor was given several heartfelt tributes by his fellow comedians in offerings like "Richard Pryor: I Ainâ¿¿t Dead Yet, #*%$#@!!" (Comedy Central, 2003). In the company of his wife, Jennifer Lee â¿¿ one of five wives from seven separate marriages â¿¿ Pryor died of a heart attack in Los Angeles on Dec. 10, 2005, nine days after his 65th birthday.

By Bryce Colemanapproaching what would be the zenith of his career, Pryor simultaneously reset the bar for stand-up comics everywhere, regardless of race, when he released the seminal comedy concert film "Richard Pryor: Live in Concert" (1979). Filmed in Long Beach, CA the year before, it captured the incendiary comic at the very height of his powers, performing to an audience â¿¿ both at the actual performance and in movie theaters â¿¿ comprised of equal parts black and white. "Live in Concert" broke box office records for a performance film and perched its star upon the very precipice of Hollywood superstardom. Unfortunately, Pryorâ¿¿s long-festering personal demons were about to plunge him into an abyss that would permanently scar the talented comedian physically and emotionally.

For years, Pryor had been indulging a growing addiction to alcohol and cocaine, and as his professional success increased, so too did his substance abuse. On July 9, 1980, deep in the throws of a days-long drug binge, Pryor, his upper body completely engulfed in flames, was found by police, stumbling along the streets of his San Fernando Valley neighborhood. Suffering third degree burns over a large portion of his body, the comedian was not expected to survive the ordeal. Initially reported as an accident involving "freebasing" â¿¿ a method of freeing cocaine of impurities by heating it, usually in ether, and inhaling the vapors â¿¿ Pryor would later tacitly admit that it was a deliberate suicide attempt. As the troubled comedian underwent months of painful skin grafts, rehabilitation and self-reflection, a pair of film projects already shot prior to the incident, were released to a public more fascinated than ever by the mercurial performer. Reteamed with Wilder, he co-starred in the hugely successful broad comedy "Stir Crazy" (1980) as one of two Hollywood hopefuls mistakenly convicted of a crime they did not commit. While not the comedy blockbuster that "Stir Crazy" had been, his road trip comedy "Bustinâ¿¿ Loose" (1981) also acquitted itself very well at the box office the following year. Having just crawled back from the grave, Pryor found himself to be a bigger star than ever before.

Professing that the ordeal had made him a changed man, Pryor went on to churn out a string of film projects with varying results. "The Toy" (1982), in which he literally portrayed the plaything of the son of a neglectful millionaire (Jackie Gleason) also did reasonably well in theaters, despite its being a missed opportunity of egregious proportions. Pryor acquitted himself nicely with a rare dramatic turn as a disillusioned Vietnam vet in "Some Kind of Hero" (1982) opposite Margot Kidder â¿¿ who he went on to date in real life, much to a shocked, less interracially tolerant public of the time â¿¿ in addition to filming his first stage performance since nearly emolliating himself. "Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip" (1982) marked his long-awaited return to stand-up, and although his trademark brutal honesty remained, many sensed a lack of energy in the performance. Regardless of the critical dissection of Pryorâ¿¿s work and personal life at the time, the comic actor ended 1982 as the No. 1 box office draw in America. Flexing his newfound clout, Pryor was reportedly paid a whopping $4 million for his role in the forgettable second sequel, "Superman III" (1983), while the seriesâ¿¿ titular star, Christopher Reeve, was compensated substantially less for his participation. That same year, Pryor made a much publicized $40 million dollar deal with Columbia Pictures to produce four feature films under his newly created Indigo Productions banner, an endeavor that the actor would later describe as a "fiasco."

Pryor returned to familiar ground for Indigoâ¿¿s first offering with the self-directed concert film "Richard Pryor: Here and Now" (1983). Performed in front of a raucous New Orleans audience by a purportedly sober Pryor, it featured much of his now familiar material, although without the self-assuredness and spontaneity he once possessed. Fans who suspected the subversive comedian was losing his edge, were further convinced by the advent of "Pryorâ¿¿s Place" (CBS, 1984-85), a short-lived childrenâ¿¿s show which featured Pryor inhabiting a kid-friendly persona. Ironically, while Pryor pointed to director Walter Hill's production of the oft-remade "Brewster's Millions" (1985) as the first film he had made completely sober, the rather timid outing ranked for many as one of his less inspired. Once again under the Indigo banner, Pryor undertook the very definition of a vanity project when he served as producer, writer, director and star of the semi-autobiographical "Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling" (1986). Although the film depicted much of the actorâ¿¿s sordid past â¿¿ including his childhood in a brothel and his near death experience â¿¿ the end result seemed oddly sanitized. "Jo Jo Dancer" was a commercial and critical failure, one that prompted legendary film critic Pauline Kael to publicly wonder where the comicâ¿¿s earlier "excitable greatness" had gone.

Matters were made worse when Pryor began to suffer symptoms brought about by the onset of multiple sclerosis in 1986, a condition which, once diagnosed, he would not publicly acknowledge until 1991. At the peak of his commercial powers, Pryor's ability to select material and his once unassailable skill as a performer were visibly abandoning him. He appeared increasingly frail and uncertain in the theatrical failures "Critical Condition" (1987) and "Moving" (1988), the latter film officially ending his reign as a box office champ. His third pairing with Wilder, "See No Evil, Hear No

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Lost Highway (1997) Arnie
2.
 Mad Dog Time (1996) Jimmy The Grave Digger
3.
 Three Muscatels, The (1992) Russell The Wino
4.
 Another You (1991) Eddie Dash
5.
 Harlem Nights (1989) Sugar Ray
6.
 See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) Wally
7.
 Moving (1988) Arlo Pear
8.
 Critical Condition (1987) Eddie/Kevin
9.
 Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986) Jo Jo Dancer/Alter Ego
10.
 Brewster's Millions (1985) Montgomery Brewster
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Named after a series of "uncles" (actually pimps); raised in a brothel owned by his grandmother; watched his mother perform "tricks" with white men
:
Molested in an alley at age six
:
Performed as professional nightclub drummer from age 7
:
Began performing for classmates at age 11
:
Stage acting debut in little theater production of "Rumpelstiltskin" at age 12
1956:
As a teen, impregnated his girlfriend (who gave birth to his first daughter); subsequently learned that his father had also been having sex with her (date approximate)
:
Worked in a meat packinghouse
1958:
In West Germany with airborne division of US Army; discharged for slashing another soldier with a switchblade
:
Began performing as nightclub comedian in Peoria's Harold's Club, owned by the most powerful black man in town
1963:
Moved to New York, began performing at "Cafe Wha?" in Greenwich Village
1964:
First TV appearance, "On Broadway Tonight", a variety show hosted by Rudy Vallee featuring new talent
1966:
Appeared as standup comic on the Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and Ed Sullivan shows (date approximate)
:
Wrote TV scripts for "Sanford and Son," "The Flip Wilson Show" and Lily Tomlin specials and Flip Wilson
1967:
Film acting debut, "The Busy Body", a comedy directed by William Castle
1968:
Gained critical notice as Stanley X in the classic youth exploitation film, "Wild in the Streets"
1969:
Reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown of sorts while performing his popular Bill Cosby-like standup routine onstage at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas; fled the building
1970:
Moved to Berkeley, CA; began socializing with writers Ishmael Reed and Cecil Brown (date approximate)
:
Began performing a more honest, confessional and profane brand of standup comedy
1974:
First film as screenwriter (with Mel Brooks), "Blazing Saddles"; lost promised lead role to Cleavon Little
1977:
Suffered his first heart attack while dallying with a prostitute
1978:
Shot up the car of Deboragh McGuire, then his wife, with a gun when she attempted to leave him
1980:
"Accidentally" set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine; suffered third-degree burns over half his body; later revealed that he began freebasing again three weeks after leaving the hospital; admitted to Barbara Walters in a 1986 interview that the incident was a suicide attempt
1980:
Started his own production company, Indigo, at Columbia Pictures; put Jim Brown, his best friend at the time, in charge (date approximate)
1981:
First film as co-producer, "Bustin' Loose"
1983:
First film as director, "Richard Pryor Here and Now"
1986:
First diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; went public in 1991
1988:
Made an abortive attempt to put together a standup routine
1990:
Suffered a heart attack on an Australian golf course
1991:
Underwent triple-bypass heart surgury
1993:
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
1995:
Wrote autobiography "Pryor Convictions"
1995:
Appeared with daughter Rain in episode of CBS medical drama "Chicago Hope" as a patient with multiple sclerosis in November
2003:
Hosted "Richard Pryor: I Ain't Dead Yet", featured clips of his concert appearances, recordings and diary excerpts as well as his comic pals
:
Set to produce an upcoming biopic based on his life (lensed 2005)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"The increasingly harrowed face of Richard Pryor gazes out at us through his own wreakage. This life seems far more his "work" or "art" than all the individual films or comedy routines. Grant that Pryor is a victim of racism, of family troubles, of drugs, fame, and illness, still he impresses as someone who might have found a way of liberating self-destructiveness even if his circumstances had stayed tidy and nurturing. There is a raw wildness in Pryor that is close to genius, more in his live, improvisational work than in any "set" movie. Once upon a time, Pryor talked of playing Charlie Parker. That he did not is our loss, for he has that strung-out frenzy for dangerous lines of invention that is vital to Parker. Pryor is the jazziest of comics." --David Thomson, "A Biographical Dictionary of Film"

In 1991 a spokesman for Pryor revealed that the actor has been suffering from muscular sclerosis for five years; he had a triple heart bypass May 29, 1991.

Pryor has been married and divorced five times.

He founded Richard Pryor Enterprises, Inc, Los Angeles in 1975.

He received the American Academy of Humor Award for "Lily" (1974)

"Richard is truly an original -- a comedy legend. His irreverent style and honesty about his own personal life managed to hit a chord with all audiences and made Richard a pioneer among standup comedians," ---Lauren Corrao, senior vice president of original programming at Comedy Central on Richard Pryor CNN.com November 26, 2003

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Patricia Price. Married in 1960; divorced.
wife:
Shelly Bonus.
companion:
Pam Grier. Actor. Together in the 1970s.
wife:
Deboragh McGuire. Fourth wife; married in 1977; divorced in 1978; born c. 1955.
wife:
Jennifer Lee. Model; actor. Fourth wife; married in 1982; divorced; wrote autobiography, "Tarnished Angel: Surviving in the Dark Curve of Drugs, Violence, Sex and Fame" (1991) in which she claimed that Pryor physically abused her during their 14-month marriage and 14-year relationship (date approxmate).
wife:
Flynn Pryor. Married in October 1986; divorced; remarried on April 1, 1990; slated to produce, direct, write and star in "The Three Muscatels" for Peacock Films; separated; Pryor took out an order of protection against her.
companion:
Geraldine Mason. Actor. Had one son together in 1987.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

grandmother:
Marie Carter. Madam. Paternal; one of 21 children; supervised prostitution in a series of brownstones on Peoria's North Washington Street; gained custody of Pryor after mother left.
father:
Buck Carter. Former boxer; bartender. WWII veteran; married Pryor's mother when Pryor was three; reportedly beat Pryor's mother and other prostitutes; died in 1968.
mother:
Gertrude Pryor. Prostitute. Left Pryor and his father due to the latter beating her when Pryor was ten years old; died in 1967.
daughter:
Renee Pryor. Born 1957; fathered by Pryor when he was 17.
son:
Richard Pryor Jr. Standup comic. Born c. 1962; mother Patricia Price.
daughter:
Elizabeth Pryor. Born c. 1967.
daughter:
Rain Pryor. Actor. Mother Shelly Bonus; born July 16, 1969; co-star of "Head of the Class".
son:
Stephen Michael Pryor. Born c. 1984.
son:
Kelsey Pryor. Born c. 1987.
son:
Franklin Matthew Mason. Born c. 1987; in 1991 court upheld prior decision that Pryor must pay $4,500 in child support for his son by Geraldine Mason.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences" Pantheon
"Tarnished Angel"

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