Richard Bennett (actor)

Clarence Charles William Henry Richard Bennett (May 21, 1870 October 22, 1944) was an American actor who became a stage and silent screen actor over the early decades of the 20th century. He was the father of actresses Constance Bennett, Barbara Bennett and Joan Bennett with actress Adrienne Morrison, his second wife.

Richard Bennett
As Father Anselm in A Royal Family
Photograph by Otto Sarony, 1900
Clarence Charles William Henry Richard Bennett[1]:8

(1870-05-21)May 21, 1870
DiedOctober 22, 1944(1944-10-22) (aged 74)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1891–1943
  • Grena Heller
    (m. 1901; div. 1903)
  • Adrienne Morrison
    (m. 1903; div. 1925)
  • Aimee Raisch
    (m. 1927; div. 1937)
RelativesMorton Downey Jr. (grandson)


Bennett was born in Deer Creek Township, Cass County, Indiana, in May 1870.[lower-alpha 1] Called Clarence until he was 10, he was the eldest child of George Washington Bennett and Eliza Leonora Bennett.[1]:8[2] His younger sister was Ina Blanche Bennett.[3] For a time, he was a sailor on Great Lakes steamer, a professional boxer, medicine showman, troubadour and night clerk in a hotel in Chicago. Bennett made his stage debut May 10, 1891, in Chicago, in The Limited Mail.[1]:15 He went to New York City, where his Broadway debut was in His Excellency the Governor (1899), which was produced by Charles Frohman. In his third Broadway production, he played the role as Father Anselm in Frohman's production of A Royal Family (1901–02).

Bennett was married to Grena Heller in 1901 in San Francisco. They soon separated, and were divorced in 1903. Using her married name, she starred in a few plays on Broadway, and went on to a successful career as a music critic for Hearst's New York American.

On November 8, 1903, Bennett and actress Adrienne Morrison were married in Jersey City. They had three daughters, all notable actresses: Constance Bennett, Barbara Bennett and Joan Bennett.

In 1905, Bennett won fame as the leading man, Hector Malone, Jr., in Shaw's Man and Superman. That was followed by his role as Jefferson Ryder in the stage hit The Lion and the Mouse (1905).

A series of spectacular roles followed. In 1908, he played the role as John Shand opposite Maude Adams in J. M. Barrie's What Every Woman Knows. Frequent quarrels between the stars occurred during the run of the play, and when Adams opened in Peter Pan, Bennett telegraphed his congratulations "on achieving your long ambition to be your own leading man."

Bennett is also known for adapting socially conscious works of Eugène Brieux, including Maternity.

In 1913, Bennett had a theatrical success starring as Georges Dupont in the stage drama Damaged Goods, which he also co-produced. He won a reputation for his curtain harangues, which friendsand criticssaid were at least as good as his stage portrayals when he wound up an appearance by stepping in front of the curtain and castigating the police and courts for "narrow-mindedness." He developed this penchant until his ab-lib speeches won greater applause than many of the plays in which he acted.

Bennett reprised his stage role for his feature film debut, Damaged Goods (1914), which co-starred his wife, Adrienne Morrison. He helped adapt the screenplay and direct the drama. In the drama The Valley of Decision (1916), which he wrote, Bennett appeared on the screen with his wife Morrison and his three daughters.

In 1922, Bennett starred in Broadway's English-language version of Leonid Andreyev's melodrama He Who Gets Slapped, playing the title role as He. The success of the play led to a film adaptation by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, with Lon Chaney in Bennett's role.

Bennett and Morrison appeared together on stage in the 1923 play The Dancers. They were divorced in April 1925.

In 1925, he became acquainted with Aimee Raisch in San Francisco, during the production of Creoles, in which she played a minor role.[4] She was a young socialite and aspiring actress who was divorcing her millionaire clubman and polo player husband, Harry G. Hastings.

Bennett and Raisch were married July 11, 1927, in Chicago.[5]

His daughter Joan made her stage debut acting with Bennett in Jarnegan (1928). This play, in which he played Jack Jarnegan, provided one of his favorite rolesthat of a belligerent, drunken movie director given to acidulous and profane comments on Hollywood.

He and Raisch separated April 3, 1934, and were divorced in 1937.[6][lower-alpha 2]

With the advent of sound film, the middle-aged Bennett found a niche as a character actor. In 1931 he appeared with his daughter Constance Bennett in Bought. He played the dying millionaire John Glidden in If I Had a Million (1932). Bennett is probably best known for his role as Major Amberson in Orson Welles's second feature film, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). Journey into Fear (1943), Welles's next production, was Bennett's final film.

Richard Bennett died at age 74 from a heart attack at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.[8] Episcopal funeral services were conducted on October 24, 1944 in Beverly Hills. He is interred in Pleasant View Cemetery, Lyme, Connecticut, beside his second wife and mother of his daughters.[9]

Bennett was fond of saying that the movie industry was not a business, but a madhouse.[10]

Select theatre credits

Date Title Role Notes
May 10, 1891 The Limited Mail Tombstone Jake[11] Standard Theatre, Chicago[12]
First appearance on the professional stage, beginning in a small role but eventually playing the lead
Production is on the road for a total of 54 weeks[1]:15–16
New York debut November 16, 1891 at Niblo's Garden[11]
May 1897 A Round of Pleasure Harry Spaulding[13] Knickerbocker Theatre, New York[12]
October 4, 1897– The Proper Caper Achille[14] Hoyt's Theatre, New York
Produced by Gustave Frohman
Cast includes Henry Bergman, Amelia Bingham, Alice Fischer[12][15][16]
November 22, 1897– The White Heather Dick Beach Academy of Music, New York
Written by Cecil Raleigh and Henry Hamilton, produced by Charles Frohman[12][17]
February 13–March 25, 1899 Her Atonement Charles Le Roy Academy of Music, New York
Produced by Charles Frohman[12][18][19]
March 29, 1899– At the White Horse Tavern Frederick Siedler Wallack's Theatre, New York
Produced by Charles Frohman[12]
Bennett replaces Joseph Holland[20]
May 9, 1899– His Excellency the Governor Captain Rivers[12] Lyceum Theatre, New York
Written by Robert Marshall, produced by Charles Frohman[21]
March 26–April 1900 Twelve Months Later Frederick Siedler Hoyt's Theatre, New York[21]
Sequel to At the White Horse Tavern[22]
September 5, 1901–February 1902 A Royal Family Father Anselm Lyceum Theatre, New York
Written by Robert Marshall, produced by Charles Frohman[21]
December 30, 1901–February 1902 Sweet and Twenty Villain[12] Hoyt's Theatre, New York
Written by Basil Hood, produced by Charles Frohman[21]
October 20–November 1902 His Excellency the Governor Captain Rivers[12] Garrick Theatre, New York[21]
November 17, 1902–January 1903 Imprudence Jimmy Greaves[12] Empire Theatre, New York[21]
October 19–December 1903 The Best of Friends The Boer Boy[12] Academy of Music, New York
Written by Cecil Raleigh, produced by Charles Frohman
Cast includes Lionel Barrymore[21]
December 29, 1903–May 1904 The Other Girl Mr. Taylor Criterion Theatre, Empire Theatre, Lyceum Theatre, New York
Cast includes Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Sheldon), Elsie de Wolfe (Estelle Kitteridge), Frank Worthing (Dr. Clifton Bradford)[21]
September 5, 1905– Man and Superman Hector Malone, Jr. Hudson Theatre, New York
Written by George Bernard Shaw, produced by Charles Dillingham
Cast includes Edward Abeles (Henry Straker), Clara Bloodgood (Violet Robinson), Fay Davis (Anne Whitefield), Alfred Hickman (Octavius Robinson), Robert Loraine (John Tanner)[21]
November 20, 1905– The Lion and the Mouse Jefferson Ryder Lyceum Theatre, Grand Opera House, Hudson Theatre, Academy of Music, New York
Written by Charles Klein, produced by Henry B. Harris
Cast includes Edmund Breese (John Burkett Ryder)[21]
August 30, 1906–February 1907 The Hypocrites Lennard Wilmore[12] Hudson Theatre, New York
Written by Henry Arthur Jones, produced by Charles Frohman
Cast includes Viva Birkett, W. H. Denny, Leslie Faber, Doris Keane, Jessie Millward[21]
January 20–March 1908 Twenty Days in the Shade Henri, Comte de Merville Savoy Theatre, New York
Produced by Charles Frohman
Cast includes Pauline Frederick[21][23]
September 5–September 1908 Diana of Dobson's Victor Bretherton Savoy Theatre, New York
Written by Cicely Hamilton, produced by Charles Frohman[21][21][24]
December 23, 1908–June 1909 What Every Woman Knows John Shand Empire Theatre, New York
Written by J.M. Barrie, produced by Charles Frohman
Cast includes Maude Adams (Maggie Wylie), David Torrence (David Wylie), Lumsden Hare (Charles Venables)[21]
August 11–September 1910 The Brass Bottle Horace Ventimore Lyceum Theatre, New York
Written by F. Anstey, produced by Charles Frohman[21][25]
January 9–May 1911 The Deep Purple William Lake Lyric Theatre, New York[21]
September 14–December 1911 Passers-by Criterion Theatre, New York[21]
December 25, 1912–May 1913 Stop Thief Jack Doogan Gaiety Theatre, New York[21]
March 14–May 1913 Damaged Goods Georges Dupont Fulton Theatre, New York
Produced by Richard Bennett and Wilton Lackaye, Jr.[21]
January 6–January 1915 Maternity Princess Theatre, New York
Written by Eugene Brieux, adapted by Richard Bennett[21]
April 4–May 1916 Rio Grande Empire Theatre, New York
Written by Augustus Thomas[21]
February 13–March 1917 The Morris Dance Little Theatre, New York[21]
April 9–May 1917 Bosum Friends Liberty Theatre, New York[21]
August 9–August 1917 The Very Idea Alan Camp Astor Theatre, New York
Written by William LeBaron[21]
September 14, 1918–May 1919 The Unknown Purple Lyric Theatre, New York
Written by Roland West and Carlyle Moore[21]
April 8–May 1919 A Good Bad Woman Harris Theatre, New York
Written by William Anthony McGuire, directed by Richard Bennett[21]
December 19, 1919–May 1920 For the Defense Christopher Armstrong[26] Playhouse Theatre, New York
Written by Elmer Rice[21]
February 2–May 1920 Beyond the Horizon Robert Mayo Morosco Theatre, New York
Written by Eugene O'Neill, directed by Homer Saint-Gaudens[21]
September 5–November 1921 The Hero Andrew Lane Belmont Theatre, New York[21]
January 9–June 1922 He Who Gets Slapped He Garrick Theatre, New York[21]
October 17, 1923–February 1924 The Dancers Tony Broadhurst Theatre, New York
Written by Gerald Du Maurier
Cast includes Barbara Bennett[21]
November 24, 1924–October 1925 They Knew What They Wanted Tony Garrick Theatre, New York
Written by Sidney Howard[21]
December 17, 1926–February 1927 Oh, Please Sammy Sands Fulton Theatre, New York
Written by Maurice Hennequin and Pierre Veber
Cast includes Helen Broderick, Beatrice Lillie, Charles Winninger[21]
September 24, 1928–January 1929 Jarnegan Jack Jarnegan Longacre Theatre, New York
Directed by Richard Bennett
Cast includes Joan Bennett (stage debut)[21]
October 14–November 1930 Solid South Major Bruce Follonsby Lyceum Theatre, New York
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian
Cast includes Bette Davis, Jessie Royce Landis[21]
September 25, 1935–March 1936 Winterset Judge Gaunt Martin Beck Theatre, New York
Written by Maxwell Anderson, directed by Guthrie McClintic
Cast includes Burgess Meredith[21]

Select filmography

Date Title Role Notes
1914 Damaged Goods George Dupont Cast: Adrienne Morrison, John Steppling[27]
1916 And the Law Says Lawrence Kirby Cast: George Periolat, Adrienne Morrison, William Carroll[27]
1916 Philip Holden — Waster Philip Holden Cast: George Periolat, Adrienne Morrison, Rhea Mitchell, Clarence Burton, Orral Humphrey[27][28]
1916 The Sable Blessing George Slocum Cast: Rhea Mitchell, Adrienne Morrison, George Newton, George Periolat[27]
1916 The Valley of Decision Young Manhood/Arnold Gray Cast: Adrienne Morrison, George Periolat[27]
1917 The Gilded Youth John Slocum Cast: Rhea Mitchell, Adrienne Morrison, George Periolat, Charles Newton[27]
1919 Secret Marriage Screenwriter[28]
1919 The End of the Road Doctor Cast: Claire Adams, Alice Brady[27]
1921 R.S.V.P. Technical director[28]
1921 The Barnstormer Technical director[28]
1924 The Eternal City Bruno Cast: Barbara La Marr, Bert Lytell[27]
1924 Youth for Sale Montgomery Breck Cast: May Allison, Sigrid Holmquist, Charles Emmett Mack, Dorothy Allen[27]
1925 Lying Wives Ted Stanhope Cast: Clara Kimball Young, Madge Kennedy, Edna Murphy, Niles Welch, J. Barney Sherry[27]
1928 The Home Towners Vic Arnold Cast: Doris Kenyon, Robert McWade, Robert Edeson, Gladys Brockwell, John Miljan, Vera Lewis [27]
1931 Five and Ten John Rarick Cast: Marion Davies, Leslie Howard[27]
1931 Bought David Meyer Cast: Constance Bennett, Ben Lyon[27]
1931 Arrowsmith Gustav Sondelius Cast: Ronald Colman, Helen Hayes[27]
1932 This Reckless Age Donald Ingals Cast: Buddy Rogers, Peggy Shannon[27]
1932 No Greater Love Surgeon Cast: Dickie Moore[27]
1932 Madame Racketeer Elmer Hicks Cast: Alison Skipworth, George Raft[27]
1932 Strange Justice Kearney Cast: Marian Marsh, Reginald Denny[27]
1932 If I Had A Million John Glidden Cast: Gary Cooper, Charles Laughton, May Robson[27]
1933 Big Executive Commodore Richardson Cast: Ricardo Cortez[27]
1934 Nana Gaston Greiner Cast: Anna Sten, Lionel Atwill[27]
1935 This Woman is Mine Korn Gregory Ratoff, John Loder, Benita Hume[27]
1942 The Magnificent Ambersons Major Amberson Cast: Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter, Tim Holt[27]
1943 Journey into Fear Ship's captain Cast: Joseph Cotten, Dolores del Río[27]


  1. Some sources erroneously state Bennett's year of birth as 1872 or 1873. Bennett deliberately confused his year of birth and his specific place of birth, which many sources state as Deacon's Mills, Indiana. The most accurate source of information is the 1870 Federal Census.[1]:7–8
  2. Raisch died in San Francisco in 1955.[7]


  1. Kellow, Brian (2004). The Bennetts: An Acting Family. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813123295.
  2. 1870 Cass Co., IN, U.S. Federal Census, Deer Creek Township, Post Office, Logansport, Ind., July 12, Sheet 91, Page 82, Beginning on Line 36, Geo. W. Bennett, 23, Male, White, Works on Sawmill, Val. of Personal Estate: $500, NJ, Male Cit. over 21. Eliza L. Bennett, 18, Female, White, Keeps House, OH. Charles Bennett, 1/12, Male, White, IN, (If born in year, state month) May. William H. Bennett, 28, Male, White, Works on Sawmill, NJ, Male Cit. over 21. Jasper Neff, 17, Male, White, Works on Sawmill, IN.
  3. 1880 Howard Co., IN, U.S. Federal Census, Ward 3, City of Kokomo, Taylor St., June 5, Enumeration Dist. 53, Sheet 15, Page 423 C, Beginning on Line 24, George W. Bennett, White, Male, 32, Marr., Constable, NJ, NJ, NJ. Eliza L. Bennett, White, Female, 28, Wife, Marr., Keeping House, OH, PA, OH. Clarence C. Bennett, White, Male, 10, Son, Single, Attended School In Year, IN, NJ, OH. Ina B. Bennett, White, Female, 6, Daughter, Single, Attended School In Year, IN, NJ, OH.
  4. "Richard Bennett to Wed". The New York Times. July 8, 1927. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
  5. "Richard Bennett Weds Mrs. Aimee Hastings". The New York Times. July 12, 1927. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
  6. Los Angeles Times, Oct. 9, 1937, "Wins Freedom From Thespian — Wife Divorces Actor Bennett — Father of Screen Sisters Declared Always on Rampage," p. A 3.
  7. California Death Index, Name: Aimee Raisch Bennett, Birth Date: 09-13-1901, Mother's Maiden Name: Stealey, Father's Last: Raisch, Sex: Female, Birth Place: California, Death Place: San Francisco (38), Death Date: 10-18-1955, Age: 54 yrs.
  8. California Death Index, Name: Richard Bennett, Birth Date: 05-21-1870, Mother's Maiden Name: Hoffman, Father's Last: Bennett, Sex: Male, Birth Place: Indiana, Death Place: Los Angeles (19), Death Date: 10-22-1944, SSN: 571-18-2360, Age: 74 yrs.
  9. "Richard Bennett, Noted Actor, Dies". The New York Times. October 23, 1944. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
  10. The versatiles: a study of supporting character actors and actresses in the American motion picture, 1930-1955 pub. 1969
  11. "Richard Bennett". The Billboard. 56 (44): 32. October 28, 1944. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  12. Patterson, Ada (February 1909). "Richard Bennett — An Actor to be Reckoned With". The Theatre Magazine. 9 (96): 64–65. Retrieved 2015-03-27.
  13. "New Theatrical Bills; "A Round of Pleasure," the Summer Extravaganza Produced at Knickerbocker Theatre". The New York Times. May 27, 1897.
  14. Browne, Walter; Austin, Frederick Arnold, eds. (1908). Who's Who on the Stage. New York: B.W. Dodge & Company. p. 36. OCLC 243936131. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
  15. "Theatrical Gossip". The New York Times. September 24, 1897.
  16. "This Week's New Bills". The New York Times. October 3, 1897.
  17. "This Week's New Bills". The New York Times. November 21, 1897.
  18. "Dramatic and Musical: Military Drama with Large Effects at the Academy". The New York Times. February 14, 1899.
  19. "Theatrical Gossip". The New York Times. March 12, 1899.
  20. "Dramatic and Musical: The Cast for 'The Cuckoo'". The New York Times. March 28, 1899.
  21. "Richard Bennett". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-03-27.
  22. "Dramatic and Musical: Twelve Months Later". The New York Times. March 27, 1900.
  23. "Twenty Days in the Shade". The New York Times. January 21, 1908.
  24. "Cream Skimmed from Savoy Comedy". The New York Times. September 6, 1908.
  25. "Much That is Quaint in 'The Brass Bottle'". The New York Times. August 12, 1910.
  26. Hornblow, Arthur (February 1920). "Mr. Hornblow Goes to the Play". The Theatre Magazine. 31: 100. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
  27. "Richard Bennett". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2015-03-27.
  28. Katz, Ephraim (1998). Klein, Fred; Nolan, Ronald Dean (eds.). The Film Encyclopedia (third ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 114. ISBN 9780062734921.

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