Robby Benson

Active - 1973 - 2019  |   Born - Jan 21, 1956   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

When 13-year-old Robby Benson appeared with "Josephine the Plumber" (Jane Withers) in a well-circulated TV commercial of the late 1960s, he was already a ten-year veteran of show business. The son of a writer and a stage actress, Benson went from the straw-hat theater circuit to the leading role of Oliver in a 1964 Japanese touring production. At fourteen he made his Broadway debut, and at that same time became the first of five actors to play the role of Bruce Carson on the TV daytime drama Search for Tomorrow. In films from 1972, Benson specialized in playing sensitive teenagers with severe emotional and/or physical problems. He also was frequently co-starred in romantic roles with young actress Glynnis O'Connor, notably in the 1973 film Jeremy and the 1977 TV production of Our Town. While his early theatrical films were generally okay, Benson was better served in made-for-TV movies: he was excellent as the dying son of author John Gunther in Death Be Not Proud (1975) and as George Burns' mentally retarded grandson in Two of a Kind (83). Benson endured an awkward period in the 1980s when, except for such career highlights as The Chosen (1981), he seemed to be pulling out the same bag of acting tricks in role after role. An effort to establish himself as a producer resulted in the unsuccessful Die Laughing (1979). He backed away from show business in 1984 when he underwent delicate open-heart surgery; the ordeal seemed to strengthen his resolve to broaden his performing skills. He starred as a tough Chicago cop in a brief TV series Tough Cookies (1986), and in 1988 directed his first film, Crack in the Mirror. Benson's most successful film project of recent years was one in which his face was never seen: as the growling, deep-voiced Beast in the Disney cartoon feature Beauty and the Beast (though touted in some articles as his voiceover debut, Benson had actually been dubbing TV cartoons for several years, notably the 1991 series Pirates of Dark Water).

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