Richard Beymer

George Richard Beymer, Jr.[1] (born February 20, 1938) is an American actor, filmmaker and artist who is best known for playing the roles of Tony in the film version of West Side Story (1961), Peter in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) and Ben Horne on the television series Twin Peaks (1990–1991, 2017).

Richard Beymer
Beymer with Joanne Woodward in The Stripper (1963)
George Richard Beymer, Jr.

(1938-02-20) February 20, 1938
ResidenceFairfield, Iowa
OccupationActor, painter, sculptor, novelist
Years active1949–present
Height6 ft 2 in (188 cm)

Early life

Beymer was born in Avoca, Iowa, to George Richard Beymer, a printer, and his wife, Eunice (née Goss).[1] He and his family moved in 1940 to Los Angeles, California.

Acting career

Child actor

In 1949 Beymer began acting in television in a Los Angeles TV series for children Sandy Dreams (1949–53).[2] He did it for three years, rehearsing after school during the week and recording it on Saturdays. The show ended when he was 13.[3]

Beymer made his feature-film debut in Vittorio De Sica's Stazione Termini (1953).[4] De Sica cast him in part because his dark complexion made him look like Jennifer Jones' nephew.

He was under contract to Jones' husband, David O. Selznick for a year.[5] Selznick loaned him to Warners to play Jane Wyman's piano protege in So Big (1953).

The contract with Selznick only lasted a year. Beymer found himself in much demand on television: Cavalcade of America (1954) and Johnny Tremain (1957). He guest starred in 26 Men, Zane Grey Theater, Make Room for Daddy, The Gray Ghost, Navy Log, Whirlybirds, Sky King, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, and Schlitz Playhouse. He auditioned unsuccessfully for the role played by Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause (1954).[5][3]

20th Century Fox

Beymer achieved success when George Stevens cast him in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) playing Peter Van Daan.

Beymer was put under contract to 20th Century Fox and started to be regarded as an exciting future star.[5] Producer William Perlberg later said, "It's a thing that periodically happens out here. Somebody comes along and talk starts and agents and studios keep talking and talking. Like an avalanche, the talk gathers speed. Ultimately that 'somebody' turns out to be a big name in Hollywood only."[5]

After appearing in Playhouse 90 he had a support role in High Time (1960), a comedy with Bing Crosby and Tuesday Weld at 20th Century Fox. "I wanted to be a very good actor," said Beymer later. "I wanted to work and let the work stand for something."[5]

In June 1960 Beymer was cast in the lead role of Tony in West Side Story (1961), a huge hit. He shared a 1962 Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor with Bobby Darin and Warren Beatty.[6]

Beymer later said he "was miserable in West Side Story. I didn't know enough at the time because I lacked certain knowledge in acting... I came out ridiculous. I didn't stand up for what I should have and I didn't know enough. The blame should be on me."[7]

Beymer was reunited with Weld in the Fox comedy Bachelor Flat (1961). At Columbia he played the son of Rosalind Russell and Jack Hawkins in Five Finger Exercise (1962). Beymer later said he was "terrible" in that film.[8]

Beymer was given the role of Nick Adams in Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962) for Fox, with an all-star supporting cast. Producer Jerry Wald says he and director Martin Ritt agreed that Beymer was "the young actor I think stands the best chance of being the next Gary Cooper."[9] During filming Beymer met Sharon Tate and it was he who encouraged her to get into acting.[10] The film was a big flop.

Beymer had a significant role in the film The Longest Day (1962), which was successful,[4] but he was unhappy with his acting in the film. "They tried to make me the nice kid next door," he said. "That's just not me. They said just play you - but I am not the all American boy."[7]

In December 1962 Richard Zanuck of Fox wanted Beymer in Illicit based on a story by Vera Caspary but the story was not made.[11] Neither was A Promise at Dawn with Ingrid Bergman[12] after Fox studio shut down temporary due to cost overruns.[13]

Beymer started attending daily classes at the Actor's Studio. "I just want to learn and be as professional as a I can," he said.[14]

Producer Wald and director Franklin Schaffner cast Beymer in The Stripper (1963) with Joanne Woodward which was critically acclaimed but not a big hit. Beymer returned to New York.[8] "I got sick of the whole thing and I left," he said.[7]


In 1964 Beymer became involved in Freedom Summer in Mississippi. "You get tired of being a complainer, passive," he said.[15]

He assisted Barney Frank in rescuing Freedom Democrat forms in a rental truck that had been confiscated from arrested Freedom volunteers in Canton, Mississippi on Freedom Day (July 16, 1964).[16] During this time, he filmed the award-winning documentary A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer (1964), documenting the efforts of volunteers registering African-Americans to vote.[17][15]

In February 1964 he said all the films he had done except The Longest Day "should have been classroom work and never should have been shown publicly... I'm not a leading man. I"m a character actor. That is, I'm not a stereotyped leading man type. I'm kind of a schlepp at times... I don't care about billing and being a star. Being myself is the first thing."[7]

Beymer guest starred in episodes of Kraft Suspense Theatre, The Virginian, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Dr. Kildare, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Death Valley Days.[18] he did The Country Girl on stage.[19]

Beymer returned to features with Scream Free! (1969) co starring his West Side Story co star Russ Tamblyn, also known as Free Grass.[20]


Beymer turned to filmmaking with The Innerview (1973), which he wrote, produced and directed as well as starred.[21]

He starred in, wrote and directed episodes of Insight. He lived for two years in a commune and worked in Switzerland. he starred in a film Free Grass that was never released.[5]

"I never left the movies," Beymer said, "I just made different kinds of movies."[22]

Return to Acting

Beymer returned to Los Angeles in 1982 to reactivate his career.[5]

He appeared in Cross Country (1983). He had roles in Paper Dolls (1984), playing the husband of Mimi Rogers, and Generation (1985), Moonlighting, Dallas, The Bronx Zoo, Buck James, and Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989).

Beymer was widely seen in Twin Peaks (1990–91) playing Ben Horne. He followed it in Blackbelt (1992), and The Presence (1993).

He made three appearances on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Li Nalas in the episodes "The Homecoming", "The Circle", and "The Siege".

Beymer could also be seen in Under Investigation (1993), My Girl 2 (1994), State of Emergency (1994), The Disappearance of Kevin Johnson (1996), several episodes of 'Murder, She Wrote, A Face to Die For (1996), The Little Death (1996), Foxfire (1996), Elvis Meets Nixon (1997) and Home the Horror Story. He was in episodes of Flipper, The X-Files, Vengeance Unlimited, Profiler, and Family Law.[23]


He was in Sadie's Waltz (2008) then focused on directing documentaries: The Passing of a Saint (2010), It's a Beautiful World (2014), Richard Beymer's Before... the Big Bang (2016), I Had Bad Milk in Dehradun (2017), and Behind the Red Curtain (2017).[24]

Beymer reprised his role as Ben Horne in the third season of Twin Peaks in 2017.[25]

The avant-garde film The Innerview, which he directed, produced, wrote the screenplay for and edited, won the Josef von Sternberg Award at the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival in 1974. His 2010 film, The Passing of a Saint, chronicles the funeral rites of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.[26] In April 2014 his film of a trip to India with David Lynch, It's a Beautiful World, was released.[27]


In 2007 Beymer completed his first book, a self-published novel, Impostor: Or Whatever Happened to Richard Beymer?, a semi-autobiographical account of a young actor's struggle to find himself.[28]

As visual artist

Beymer's photographs of Twin Peaks cast and crew were featured in the gallery of behind the scenes photos on the Definitive Gold Box Edition for Twin Peaks, released on October 30, 2007. He is also a painter and sculptor.[26]

Personal life

As of 2010, Beymer resided in Fairfield, Iowa, where he continued to make films and to write, sculpt, and paint.[26] He practices Transcendental Meditation, to "cool out".[27]



Year Title Role Notes
1951 Fourteen Hours Uncredited
1953 Terminal Station Paul Stevens
1953 So Big Roelf (Age 12-16)
1957 Johnny Tremain Rab Silsbee
1959 The Diary of Anne Frank Peter Van Daan
1960 High Time Bob Bannerman
1961 West Side Story Tony Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1961 Bachelor Flat Mike Pulaski
1962 Five Finger Exercise Philip Harrington
1962 Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man Nick Adams
1962 The Longest Day Pvt. Dutch Schultz
1963 The Stripper Kenny Baird
1964 A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer Documentary short; director and writer
1969 Scream Free! Dean
1973 The Innerview Also director, writer, producer, editor and cinematographer
1983 Cross Country Evan Bley
1989 Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! Dr. Newbury Direct-to-video
1992 Blackbelt Eddie Deangelo
1993 Under Investigation Dr. Jerry Parsons
1994 My Girl 2 Peter Webb
1996 The Disappearance of Kevin Johnson Chad Leary
1996 Foxfire Mr. Parks
1998 Playing Patti
2000 Home the Horror Story Bob Parkinson
2008 Sadie's Waltz Garvus Short film
2010 The Passing of a Saint Documentary; director, editor and cinematographer
2014 It's a Beautiful World Documentary; director, editor and cinematographer
2016 Richard Beymer's Before the Big Bang Documentary; director, editor and cinematographer
2017 I Had Bad Milk in Dehradun Documentary short; director, editor and cinematographer
2017 Behind the Red Curtain Documentary short; director, editor and cinematographer


Year Title Role Notes
1954 Cavalcade of America Episode: "Gentle Conqueror"
1956–1957 Make Room for Daddy The Boyfriend / Freddie Baxter 2 episodes
1957 The Gray Ghost Luke Burnette Episode: "An Eye for an Eye"
1957 26 Men Tod Devers Episode: "Dead Man in Tucson"
1957 Zane Grey Theater Shep Jolland Episode: "The Bitter Land"
1958 Navy Log Ennis Thompson Episode: "The Soapbox Kid"
1958 Whirlybirds John Thompson Episode: "The Brothers"
1958 Sky King Joe Belden Episode: "Man Hunt"
1958 Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre Mark Episode: "On the Brink"
1958, 1968 Death Valley Days John Owens / Zeb Fallon 2 episodes
1959 Schlitz Playhouse Episode: "On the Brink"
1959 Playhouse 90 LeRoy Cadman Episode: "Dark December"
1965 Kraft Suspense Theatre Werner Schiff Episode: "The East Breach"
1965 The Virginian Mark Shannon / Frank Colter 2 episodes
1966 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Ralph Belmonte Episode: "Guilty or Not Guilty"
1966 Dr. Kildare Reverend Jack Elder 3 episodes
1967 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Harry Williams Episode: "The Survival School Affair"
1975, 1980 Insight Train Conductor / Josh / God 3 episodes
1981 The Girl on the Edge of Town Television film; cinematographer
1982 The Juggler of Notre Dame Television film; cinematographer
1984 Paper Dolls David Fenton 13 episodes
1985 Generation Allan Breed Television film
1986 Moonlighting Ray Adamson Episode: "All Creatures Great... and Not So Great"
1987, 1991
1993, 1996
Murder, She Wrote Various roles 6 episodes
1987–1988 Buck James Max 2 episodes
1987 Dallas Jeff Larkin Episode: "Bedtime Stories"
1988 The Bronx Zoo Mr. Locke Episode: "The Gospel Truth"
1990–1991 Twin Peaks Benjamin Horne 30 episodes
1992 Danger Island Ben Television film
1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Li Nalas 3 episodes
1994 State of Emergency Dr. Ronald Frames Television film
1996 A Face to Die For Dr. Matthew Sheridan Television film
1996 Flipper Andrew Cantrell Episode: "Sharks"
1996 The X-Files Dr. Jack Franklin Episode: "Sanguinarium"
1997 Elvis Meets Nixon Bob Haldeman Television film
1998 Vengeance Unlimited Douglas Bradford Episode: "Noir"
1999 Profiler Martin Fizer Episode: "Ceremony of Innocence"
2001 Family Law Richard Collins Episode: "Against All Odds"
2017 Twin Peaks Benjamin Horne 6 episodes


  1. Breymer profile,; accessed 27 June 2014.
  3. The DICK BEYMER STORY: He Thanks Bing Crosby for His First Big Break, but He Won a Starring Role in 'West Side Story' Thru His Own Talent Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 21 Aug 1960: b26.
  4. Brennan, Sandra. "Full Biography". Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  5. MOVIES: RICHARD BEYMER NEVER WAS 'THE SOFT YOUNG MAN' Rosenfield, Paul. Los Angeles Times 26 Dec 1982: m27.
  6. Beymer Gets Film Role New York Times 8 June 1960: 45.
  7. Actors 'Come Out Ridiculous' in Films; Richard Beymer Tells Why Alpert, Don. Los Angeles Times 23 Feb 1964: C4.
  8. A YOUNG EX-ACTOR RETURNS TO FILMS: Richard Beymer Writes and Produces Documentary By PETER BARTSpecial to The New York Times. New York Times 9 Sep 1964: 48.
  9. Louella Parsons:. (1961, Aug 02). Ernest hemingway's 'young man' film to honor gary cooper. The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973)
  10. Miss Tate: Old, New Hollywood Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times 18 Jan 1966: c11.
  11. Beymer Will Star in 20th's 'Illicit': Zanuck Lifts Star's Option; for Rosenberg's Production Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times22 Dec 1962: B6.
  12. The HEAT'S on BEYMER!: Did He Fly Too High Too Fast? Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 9 Sep 1962: c32.
  13. 4 Officials Leave Fox Posts; 3 Films Delayed: Levathes Will Take Over TV Division; Bergman, Stewart Movies Called Off Los Angeles Times 28 Aug 1962: A2.
  14. Richard Beymer Is Daily Student at Actors' Studio Los Angeles Times 22 Mar 1963: D12.
  15. Richard Beymer's South Side Story: ART SEIDENBAUM SEIDENBAUM, ART. Los Angeles Times October 5, 1964, pg. D1
  16. Watson, Bruce (2010). Freedom Summer. New York, New York: Viking Penguin. p. 328. ISBN 978-1-101-19018-0.
  17. Profile,; accessed June 28, 2014.
  18. Katherine Crawford in Suspense Segment Los Angeles Times 11 Mar 1965: d9.
  19. 2 Revivals Do Little to Inspire Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times 17 Oct 1966: C25.
  20. MOVIE CALL SHEET: John Saxon Set for 'Lead' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 11 Mar 1968: c32.
  21. MOVIE REVIEW: Beymer Goes Avant-Garde Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times 29 June 1973: h16.
  22. Twin Peaks' Stars Tamblyn, Beymer Share Twin Experience: Television: Actors at work on ABC series share a common bond... their roles in 'West Side Story' almost 30 years ago Wheelock, Julie. Los Angeles Times 6 Apr 1990: F23.
  24. Right Out of Hollywood, A Witness to History: Richard Beymer's Mississippi documentary is in demand Lee, Felicia R. New York Times 22 June 2014: AR10.
  25. Richard Beymer on Twin Peaks,; accessed June 22, 2015.
  26. Moore, James (March 2010). "Richard Beymer's Tribute to Maharishi – The Passing of a Saint". The Iowa Source. Archived from the original on March 14, 2012. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  27. "Richard Beymer talks "It's a Beautiful World" and more". Archived from the original on 2014-05-25. Retrieved 24 May 2014. There is a TM center here in Fairfield, Iowa, so I would come here for two or three weeks and cool out.
  28. Richard Beymer novel,; accessed June 28, 2014.

Further reading

  • Dye, David. Child and Youth Actors: Filmography of Their Entire Careers, 1914-1985. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1988, p. 18.
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