Born: March 4, 1938
Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
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, and the cult television series He & She.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 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m), was always the tallest person in class. She attended Lamar High School in Houston, Texas. 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.
Prentiss leapt to fame playing the role of Tuggle in Where the Boys Are (1960); her romantic co-star was Jim Hutton. The film was a hit and response to Prentiss and Hutton was very favourable, so MGM decided to reteam them in three more comedies, promoting them as a new William Powell and Myrna Loy: The Honeymoon Machine (1961) with Steve McQueen, Bachelor in Paradise (1961) with Bob Hope, and The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962). They were the two tallest male and female contract players at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Hutton and Prentiss were also meant to be in Follow the Boys (1963), a Where the Boys Are style comedy, but he dropped out, and Prentiss' co-star was Russ Tamblyn. Howard Hawks cast her as the female lead opposite Rock Hudson in Man's Favorite Sport? (1963) at Universal - her first film outside MGM. Hawks would later say: "Paula Prentiss was good, but she couldn't remember what she was doing from one shot to the next. Her shots never matched".
Prentiss appeared on stage in a production of As You Like It. She had excellent roles in The World of Henry Orient (1964) and In Harm's Way (1965) and made a cameo as herself in Looking for Love (1964). She also had a strong support part in What's New, Pussycat? (1965) with Peter Sellers.
While shooting What's New Pussycat? Prentiss had a nervous breakdown and took time out from acting. For one season (1967-1968), Prentiss co-starred with her husband, Richard Benjamin, in the CBS sitcom He & She. Prentiss was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Comedy.
In 1969 she appeared Off Broadway in a double bill, Arf and The Great Airplane Snatch.
Prentiss returned to films with a small role in Catch-22 (1970). She had the female lead in Move (1970) with Elliott Gould, and Born to Win (1971) with George Segal and was one of the leads in Last of the Red Hot Lovers with Alan Arkin. Neither of these were big hits so Prentiss did a TV movie The Couple Takes a Wife (1972).
She was the female lead in Crazy Joe (1974) and had a small but pivotal part in The Parallax View (1974) with Warren Beatty. She was second lead in The Stepford Wives (1975), alongside Katharine Ross.
In 1976 Prentiss and Benjamin appeared on Broadway in The Norman Conquests. Then they travelled to Australia to make No Room to Run (1977).
Prentiss was in Having Babies II (1977), Friendships, Secrets and Lies (1979), and Top of the Hill (1980). She had a star part in The Black Marble (1980) but it was not widely seen.
She did Saturday the 14th (1981) with her husband and was in director Billy Wilder's last film, Buddy Buddy (1981), with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. She then made Packin' It In (1983) with her husband and did a TV movie M.A.D.D.: Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (1983).
Prentiss guest starred on shows like Murder, She Wrote and Burke's Law.
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.
Prentiss and actor/director Richard Benjamin were married on October 26, 1961. Besides the series He & She. 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. 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.
|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|
|1961||Bachelor in Paradise||Linda Delavane|
|1962||The Horizontal Lieutenant||Lt. Molly Blue|
|1963||Follow the Boys||Toni Denham|
|1964||Man's Favorite Sport?||Abigail Page|
|1964||The World of Henry Orient||Stella Dunnworthy|
|1964||Looking for Love||Paula Prentiss|
|1965||In Harm's Way||Beverly McConnell|
|1965||What's New Pussycat?||Liz Bien|
|1971||Born to Win||Veronica|
|1972||Last of the Red Hot Lovers||Bobbi Michele|
|1974||The Parallax View||Lee Carter|
|1975||The Stepford Wives||Bobbie Markowe|
|1980||The Black Marble||Sgt. Natalie Zimmerman|
|1981||Saturday the 14th||Mary|
|1981||Buddy Buddy||Celia Clooney|
|2007||Hard Four||Sweet Cherrie|
|2016||I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House||Iris Blum|
|1967-68||He & She||Paula Hollister||Main role|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
|1972||The Couple Takes a Wife||Barbara Hamilton||TV film|
|1977||No Room to Run||Terry McKenna||TV film|
|1977||Having Babies II||Trish Canfield||TV film|
|1979||Friendships, Secrets and Lies||Sandy||TV film|
|1980||Top of the Hill||Norma Ellsworth Cully||TV film|
|1981||Mr. and Mrs. Dracula||Sonia Dracula||TV series|
|1983||Packin' It In||Dianne Webber||TV film|
|1983||M.A.D.D.: Mothers Against Drunk Drivers||Lynne Wiley||TV film|
|1992||Murder, She Wrote||Leonora Holt||"Incident in Lot 7"|
|1995||Burke's Law||Carla Martinet||"Who Killed the Hollywood Headshrinker?"|