Hollywood is in mourning this week after legendary Hollywood actor and writer Bill Richmond, known for his many collaborations with Jerry Lewis, passed away. He was 94 years-old.
Fans of Jerry Lewis are now calling for prayers for this beloved Hollywood figure.
Bill Richmond, who collaborated with Jerry Lewis on the screenplays for “The Ladies Man,” “The Nutty Professor” and a half-dozen other Lewis films before establishing a successful television career writing for Carol Burnett and others, died on June 4 at his home in Calabasas, Calif. He was 94.
His death was confirmed this week by his wife, Saria Kraft.
Mr. Richmond was working as a jazz drummer with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra in 1959, backing Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas, when Mr. Lewis, attending one of the shows, came backstage and introduced himself.
“We became almost instant friends,” Mr. Richmond told Written By magazine in 2011. “In the first place, I truly thought he was funny. Not in his act necessarily, but being around him — really funny in a way that I think is funny.”
Mr. Lewis hired his new friend to be the drummer for his stage band and then, sensing their comic rapport, asked him to collaborate on the screenplay for “The Ladies Man.” The film was a hit, and Mr. Richmond went on to share screenwriting credits with Mr. Lewis on “The Errand Boy” (1961), “The Nutty Professor” (1963), “The Patsy” (1964), “The Family Jewels” (1965) and “The Big Mouth” (1967).
His role, as he described it, was to set the stage for Mr. Lewis to ad-lib and indulge in physical comedy. “You’re creating for a guy who started out as a dumb act with this little record player playing in clubs — he couldn’t talk, couldn’t tell jokes, all he could do is be silly and pratfalls,” Mr. Richmond told Written By. “I realized I’m not going to write funny dialogue, but I’m going to try and put him in that situation.”
Mr. Richmond later made a smooth transition to television, first as a monologue writer for “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” and later, most notably, for “The Carol Burnett Show,” where he and his fellow writers won three Emmy Awards. “I had a sketch on every single show for the five years that I wrote for it,” he told the blog TV Store Online in 2015.
William Earle Richmond was born on Dec. 19, 1921, in Central City, Ky. His father, Leon, was a station agent for the Illinois Central Railroad in Eastview, Ky. His mother, the former Mary Elizabeth Ragland, was a homemaker.
A transfer by the railroad sent the family to Rockford, Ill., when Bill was 5. There, after hearing Benny Goodman on the radio, he joined the junior high school band and was handed a pair of drumsticks.
He attended the University of Illinois but left to enlist in the Marine Corps during World War II. He was trained as a fighter pilot and served in stateside posts.
After being discharged from the Marines, he headed to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career. “I wasn’t very good, but I could keep pretty good time and could look like I knew what I was doing,” he told The New York Times in 2012. “In a few months I actually got a job in a downtown bar and in due time was playing in a big band.”
In 1947 he married Diana Jannotta, who died in 1993. His second wife, the former Lorraine Sevre, died in 2007. In addition to Ms. Kraft, he is survived by two sons, Bill and Stephen; two daughters, Darlene McMullin and Melanie Klibanoff; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Please keep Richmond’s friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.