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A handsome, extravagant actor of the old school, Richard Bennett toured on stage for decades before becoming a character actor in films. The son of an itinerant preacher and sheriff, he ran away from home in his teens and by 1891 had hit the Chicago stage in "The Limited Mail." Witty and outspoken, with a penchant for bellowing his lines, Bennett became a star in 1905 with "The Lion and the Mouse," and went on to score great hits with "The Hypocrites" (1906), and the controversial "social disease" drama "Damaged Goods" (1912). He was reportedly so impresses with a new play by a relatively unknown writer named Eugene O'Neill that he championed the production and took on the leading role. "Beyond the Horizon" (1920), a love triangle that featured Bennett as a farm-bound dreamer with yearnings for the sea who marries his brother's intended with tragic results. The play, which was the first to awarded the Pulitzer Prize in drama, received excellent notices as did the cast. Alexander Woolcott of he New York Times (February 8, 1920) wrote "Richard Bennett gives an eloquent and finely imagined performance as the dreamer." The actor later also scored triumphs on Broadway in "He Who Gets Slapped" (1922), "They Knew What They Wanted" (1924), another Pulitzer-winning triangular drama in which he played the vineyard owner who marries a younger woman, and Maxwell Anderson's award-winning social protest drama "Winterset" (1935).
The very vocal Bennett only made a handful of silent films, including a reprise of his stage success in "Damaged Goods" (1914), "The Valley of Decision" (1916), opposite his then-wife Adrienne Morrison and their three daughters, and "The Hometowners" (1928). With the advent of sound, the aging actor, who was facing financial setbacks, concentrated less on stage work and more on character roles in films. An effective, subtler performer he had featured roles in "Five and Ten" and "Arrowsmith" (both 1931), "If I Had a Million" (1932), "Nana" (1934) and "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942).
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Stage acting debut, "The Limited Mail" in Chicago
Starred in the stage hit "The Lion and the Mouse"
Had a theatrical success with the "social disease" drama "Damaged Goods"
Film debut reprising stage role in "Damaged Goods"
Appeared with wife Adrienne Morrison and daughters in "The Valley of Decision"
Championed Eugene O'Neill's "Beyond the Horizon"; enjoyed stage success in
Starred in Broaway production of "He Who Gets Slapped"
Originated the role of an older vineyard owner who marries a younger woman in "They Knew What They Wanted"
First talking picture "Five and Ten", starring Marion Davies and Leslie Howard
Had featured role in "Arrowsmith"
Co-starred in "Nana", directed by Dorothy Arzner
Final appearance on Broadway in Maxwell Anderson's "Winterset"
Portrayed Major Amberson in Orson Wells' "The Magnificent Ambersons"