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Prentiss in As You Like It, 1963
Paula Prentiss
Background information
Birthname Paula Ragusa
Birthdate (1938-03-04) March 4, 1938 (age 83)
Birthplace San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Death date
Cause of death
alternate names
Occuptation(s) Actress
Years active 1960–present
Spouse(s) Richard Benjamin
(m. 1961)
Children 1 son, 1 daughter

Paula Prentiss (born Paula Ragusa; March 4, 1938) is an American actress best known for her film roles in Where the Boys Are, Man's Favorite Sport?, The Stepford Wives, What's New Pussycat?, In Harm's Way, The Black Marble, and The Parallax View,[1] and the cult television series He & She.

Early life

Prentiss was born Paula Ragusa in San Antonio, Texas, the daughter of Paulene (née Gardner) and Thomas J. Ragusa, a Social Sciences professor at San Antonio's University of the Incarnate Word, who was of Sicilian descent.

Before high school, Paula, who grew to Template:Height, was always the tallest person in class.[2][3][4][5] She attended Lamar High School in Houston, Texas.[6] In 1958 while studying drama at Northwestern University, she met future husband Richard Benjamin, who impressed her with his sophistication and height (he was taller than she was). While attending Northwestern she was discovered by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and was offered a film contract.[4][7]


Prentiss first became known as a comedic actress in the early 1960s with such films as Where the Boys Are, The Honeymoon Machine, Bachelor in Paradise, and The Horizontal Lieutenant.[1] In all four films Prentiss was paired with the Template:Height actor Jim Hutton, as they were the two tallest male and female contract players at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.[8]

She continued to star in comedies later with Rock Hudson in Man's Favorite Sport?, in The World of Henry Orient and What's New, Pussycat? with Peter Sellers, in Last of the Red Hot Lovers with Alan Arkin, in Move with Elliott Gould, and in director Billy Wilder's last film, Buddy Buddy, with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. She also appeared in the war films Catch-22 and In Harm's Way, the thriller The Parallax View with Warren Beatty and the horror cult-classic The Stepford Wives, based on Ira Levin's novel.

File:Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin 1967.jpg

Prentiss and Benjamin as the stars of He & She in 1967

For one season (1967–1968), Prentiss co-starred with her husband, Richard Benjamin, in the CBS sitcom He & She.[1] Prentiss was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Comedy.

Except for brief cameo roles, Prentiss had not appeared in a feature film for more than 30 years until 2016's I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a horror film directed by Oz Perkins that premiered Sept. 10, 2016 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Personal life

Prentiss and actor/director Richard Benjamin wedded on October 26, 1961.[4][9] In 1965, while filming What's New, Pussycat in Paris, Prentiss suffered a nervous breakdown that kept her out of film work for five years. She returned to work with Benjamin in the short-lived television series He & She.[4][9] The couple appeared together in such films as Catch-22 (1970) and Saturday the 14th (1981), the made-for-television films No Room to Run (made in Australia) and Packin' It In, as well as in various plays.[10][11] Benjamin also directed Prentiss in a brief appearance in Mrs. Winterbourne.


Prentiss and Benjamin have two adult children, Ross and Prentiss. Ann Prentiss, was Paula's younger sister and also an actress.


Film and television
Year Title Role Notes
1960 Where the Boys Are Tuggle Carpenter Laurel Award for Best Female Comedy Performance
Nominated—Top Female New Personality
1961 The Honeymoon Machine Pam Dunstan
Bachelor in Paradise Linda Delavane
1962 The Horizontal Lieutenant Molly Blue
1963 Follow the Boys Toni Denham
1964 Man's Favorite Sport? Abigail Page
The World of Henry Orient Stella Dunnworthy
Looking for Love Paula Prentiss Cameo as herself
1965 In Harm's Way Bev McConnel
What's New Pussycat Liz
1967-1968 He & She Paula Hollister 26 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
1970 Catch-22 Nurse Duckett
Move Dolly Jaffe
1971 Born to Win Veronica
1972 Last of the Red Hot Lovers Bobbi Michele
The Couple Takes a Wife Barbara Hamilton
1974 Crazy Joe Anne
The Parallax View Lee Carter
1975 The Stepford Wives Bobbie Markowe
1977 Having Babies II Trish Canfield
1978 No Room to Run Terry McKenna
1979 Friendships, Secrets and Lies Sandy
1980 The Black Marble Sgt. Natalie Zimmerman
Top of the Hill Norma Ellsworth Cully
Saturday Night Live Herself—Host Episode: Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss/The Grateful Dead
1981 Saturday the 14th Mary
Buddy Buddy Celia Clooney
1983 Packin' It In Dianne Webber
1992 Murder, She Wrote Leonora Holt Episode: Incident in Lot #7
1995 Burke's Law Carla Martinet Episode: Who Killed the Hollywood Headshrinker?
1996 Mrs. Winterbourne Maternity Nurse cameo
2007 Hard Four Sweet Cherrie cameo
2016 I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House Iris Blum


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Paula Prentiss- Biography, Yahoo!
  2. "The Word Online:2000-2001". University of the Incarnate Word. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  3. "In Memoriam: Summer 2001". University of the Incarnate Word. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Paula Prentiss Biography". Cratonkiwi. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  5. "Paula Prentiss". Filmbug. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  6. Mesinger, Maxine. "Lamar High marks 50th anniversary". Houston Chronicle. August 7, 1987. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
  7. "Paula Prentiss". Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  8. Paula Prentiss's commentary track on the DVD for Where the Boys Are
  9. 9.0 9.1 Armstrong, Lois (February 23, 1976). "Dick Benjamin & Paula Prentiss: Their Sunshine Boy Is the Baby Who 'Made Us Grow Up'". People. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  10. O'Haire, Patricia (September 22, 1998). "An Off-B'way Power Couple: Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  11. "Paula Prentiss". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved December 19, 2010.

External links