Thursday, September 23, 2021

WE REMEMBER: Spike Lee Announces Death of Actor Paul Benjamin

*Unfortunately, we have sad news to report about a veteran stage, TV and screen actor. Paul Benjamin passed away over the weekend at the age of 81.

As of this posting, the cause of Benjamin’s death has not been revealed.

News of Benjamin’s passing came to light after Director Spike Lee posted the news on his Instagram account on Tuesday (07-02-19).

“I’m Sad To Write That The Great Actor PAUL BENJAMIN (Who Played ML, {Far Left} One Of The Cornermen Passed This Past Friday,2 Days Before The 30th Anniversary Of DO THE RIGHT THING. Rest In Paradise. Born 1/1/38. Died 6/28/19.”

Benjamin, the youngest of twelve children, was born to a Baptist preacher, the Reverend Fair Benjamin, and his wife, Rosa Benjamin in Pelion, South Carolina.

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Here’s more info on Benjamin’s career via Wikipedia:

He made his film debut in 1969 as a bartender in Midnight Cowboy.[1] After small roles in Sidney Lumet‘s The Anderson Tapes (1971) and Born to Win (1971),[1] he did extensive television work in the 1970s.

A few notable exceptions were a major role in Barry Shear‘s Across 110th Street (1972), and smaller parts in Shear’s western The Deadly Trackers (1973), Michael Campus’ The Education of Sonny Carson (1974), Arthur Marks’ Friday Foster (1975), Gordon Parks‘ biopic Leadbelly (1976), and Don Siegel‘s prison film Escape from Alcatraz (1979). He gave exceptional performances in the TV adaptations of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings(1979) and Gideon’s Trumpet (1980). He later starred in the 1987 HBO movie The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains, based on the novel by Robert E. Burns.

On the big screen in the 1980s and 1990s, Benjamin worked with some well-known actors and directors. He acted in Some Kind of Hero (1982) opposite Richard PryorMartin Ritt‘s drama film Nuts (1987) starring Barbra StreisandPink Cadillac (1989) with Clint EastwoodSpike Lee‘s Do the Right Thing (1989),[1] Robert Townsend‘s The Five Heartbeats (1991),[1] Bill Duke‘s Hoodlum (1997), and John Singleton‘s Rosewood (1997).

On television, he appeared in the 1988 episode of In The Heat of the Night as a death row inmate and in the 1994 pilot episode of ER, which led to his recurring role of homeless man Al Ervin during the next few seasons. Benjamin also worked on the American Masters documentary of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ralph Ellison, which aired on PBS. He also acted in an episode of the 14th season of Law & Order entitled “Identity” (2003) as well as an episode of The Shield.[1]

After 2000, he acted mainly in independent films like Stanley’s GigThe Station Agent,[1] Deacons For Defense, and James Hunter’s 2005 drama Back in the Day.

Before his passing, Benjamin played in a stage play called, “Carrier.”

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