• 1938
  •  Pelion, South Carolina, USA

Paul Benjamin


Born and raised for a time in Pelion, South Carolina, African-American actor Paul Benjamin is the youngest of twelve children born to a Baptist preacher, the Reverend Fair Benjamin, and his wife Rosa. Paul lost his mother while still a baby and his father as a child. He moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he was taken in by one of his older brothers, David, and his wife and family. Suppressing his teenage desires of becoming an actor due to social pressures, he attended C.A. Johnson High and, upon graduation, enrolled at Benedict College for about a year before deciding to move to New York City and pursue his dream. Studying at the Herbert Berghof Studio, he finally made his professional stage debut in the late 60s at the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater. His theater career quickly picked up steam with such classical and contemporary plays as "Hamlet" (1967), "Cities in Bezique (1969), "The Owl Answers" (1969), "No Place to Be Somebody" (1969), "The Year Boston Won the Pennant" (1969), "Camino Royal" 1970, "Operation Sidewinder" (1970), Boesman and Lena (1970), "The Black Terror" (1971), "Assassination 1865" (1971), "The Cherry Orchard" (1973) and "The Old Glory" (1976). Benjamin made his film debut inauspiciously as a bartender in Midnight Cowboy (1969), which highlighted New York's seamier side. Following small roles in The Anderson Tapes (1971) and Born to Win (1971), he earned a top featured role and strong notices playing a robber-turned-killer in Across 110th Street (1972) co-starring Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto, which again took place on the gritty New York streets. He then gave incisive, strong-armed portrayals as part of a gang in The Deadly Trackers (1973) and as a lieutenant alongside Tony Lo Bianco and Hal Linden in the above-average TV-movie Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside (1973). His film and TV career, which peaked in the 1970s, included the "blaxploitation" scene -- he appeared with Mary Alice as the parents of the titular character in The Education of Sonny Carson (1974) and as a senator in the Pam Grier vehicle Friday Foster (1975). Throughout the decades he has worked with prestigious actors in prestigious projects yet never attained the public attention he merited. Neverthless he added solid authenticity to the musical bio Leadbelly (1976); Clint Eastwood's Escape from Alcatraz (1979); the Richard Pryor comedy-drama Some Kind of Hero (1982); Barbra Streisand's courtroom vehicle Nuts (1987); Spike Lee's lacerating, one-two punch on urban black life in Do the Right Thing (1989); the Temptations-like story of The Five Heartbeats (1991); and the excellent, fact-based drama in Rosewood (1997) with racism at its core. On the mini-movie circuit he appeared in good company as LeVar Burton's father in the baseball story One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story (1977), and was a noticeable factor in Gideon's Trumpet (1980) starring Henry Fonda; Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1979); the hard-hitting The Atlanta Child Murders (1985)_ (TV) and, perhaps most notably, the chain-gang story The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987) in which he portrayed Big Sam. Paul the actor has added to his success as an award-winning playwright as well and, broaching age 70, continues to write as well as perform. His play "Carrier", in which he appeared with Roscoe Lee Browne and Paula Kelly, received special citations for its writing and performances.


Movie Name Release Date
Απόδραση από το Αλκατράζ – Escape from Alcatraz (1979) June 22, 1979