Paul Benjamin, a movie, tv and theater actor who usually appeared in dramas centered on the black American expertise, died on June 28 in Los Angeles. He was believed to be 84.
The demise was announced on social media by the director Spike Lee.
Mr. Benjamin was most likely finest referred to as M. L., considered one of the three “corner men,” street-corner philosophers who gathered every day underneath a seashore umbrella, in Mr. Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (1989). One of his comparatively few starring roles was as the chief of a financial institution heist in the crime drama “Across 110th Street” (1972); he was billed third, after Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto.
But his display profession, which lasted near half a century, additionally included roles in John Singleton’s “Rosewood” (1997), the story of a townwide bloodbath of African-Americans in 1920s Florida; “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (1979), the tv adaptation of Maya Angelou’s memoir; “Leadbelly” (1976), Gordon Parks’s biography of the influential blues musician; Robert Townsend’s music-group drama “The Five Heartbeats” (1991); the tv film “Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys” (1976); “Hoodlum” (1997), about Harlem gangsters between the wars; and the 1985 true-crime mini-series “The Atlanta Child Murders.”
According to most biographical references, Paul Benjamin was born on Jan. 1, 1938, in Pelion, S.C., the youngest of 12 youngsters of Fair Benjamin, a Baptist minister, and Rosa (Butler) Benjamin. But the 1940 census listed his age as 5, suggesting a 1935 start date.
After the deaths of each dad and mom when he was a little one, Paul moved to close by Columbia, the state capital, to dwell with an older brother and his household. He graduated from highschool there and attended Benedict College, a traditionally black liberal arts college, for about a 12 months earlier than transferring to New York to review performing with Herbert Berghof.
His desires of an performing profession started in childhood, but when he ever talked about them rising up, he would faux he was joking, he stated in a 1995 video interview.
“A mention of being an actor was like going to the moon,” he recalled. “If they had taken me seriously, I would have been run out of town.”
Mr. Benjamin made his stage debut in an early Shakespeare in the Park manufacturing, and his movie debut as a bartender in “Midnight Cowboy” (1969). He appeared in Off Broadway performs together with “Operation Sidewinder” and “Camino Real,” each in 1970.
Although he was a son of small-town South Carolina, he was usually solid as city characters in tv dramas, amongst them “Starsky and Hutch,” “Police Story,” “Kojak,” “ER” and “Law & Order.”
Over the years he appeared in big-budget movies alongside stars together with Clint Eastwood (“Escape From Alcatraz,” 1979), Barbra Streisand (“Nuts,” 1987) and Richard Pryor (“Some Kind of Hero,” 1982). In 2003 he performed a model-train hobbyist in “The Station Agent,” starring Peter Dinklage. His final movie function was in “Occupy, Texas” (2016), an indie drama about a younger slacker referred to as again to his hometown.
Mr. Benjamin was a playwright as nicely. The actress Paula Kelly gained an N.A.A.C.P. Image Award for her function in “Carrier,” a drama about South Africa he wrote in the mid-1980s.
Information on survivors was not instantly accessible.
After many years of performing, Mr. Benjamin appeared grateful for the alternatives he had had for expression. “The worst thing that can happen to a talent, an artist,” he stated in the 1995 interview, “is for the talent and creativity to go to waste.”