READ RICHARDS
A repository of articles about (and by) Paul Richards
compiled by Lisa Oldham

 

1961




"A Five-Part Minor Masterpiece"
(from TV Channels - The Washington Post, 5/28/61)
by Cecil Smith

"In a hot projection booth on the Goldwyn lot in Hollywood, a roomful of men sat the other day watching 2.5 hours of film unfold. The projector clattered and whirred; the sound rasped and thundered; the film (a work print) softened and blurred. These things did not matter. The audience sat rapt while the light from the screen flickered across their faces. They were watching a minor masterpiece.

This was nobody's Ben Hur; it was a television show filmed in a breakneck 13 days on a budget (someone said) of a 'buck and a half'. Furthermore, the film will be sliced into five 30-minute segments to be shown on the next five consecutive Fridays on NBC's The Lawless Years. It was made specifically for this program and each of the five chapters is a complete story in itself.

Yet it seems a pity that these 2.5 hours of film cannot be shown as a whole--because this is a story with a single focus, a harsh and compelling portrait of a twisted genius: 'The Story of Louy K'.

Writer-director Allen Miner has drawn this celluloid portrait with depth and shading rare in television. Star Paul Richards, in the finest portrayal of his young career, has played Louy with a tortured intensity rare in any field of drama. With both, it was a labor of love. Both were and are completely fascinated by the character of Louy K.

Miner believes this is the finest work in his three-year association with The Lawless Years. The series, a forerunner to The Untouchables in studies of the gangsters of the 1920's, is based on the memoirs of ex-New York detective Barney Ruditsky (ably played by James Gregory). Ruditsky grew up with Louy on New York's East Side and followed him through his career.

Louy was a scholarly, mild rabbinical student when he immigrated to New York from Russia with his sister Anna (Carol Rossen) in the World War I era. Perhaps they had a family portrait taken, something like the formal pose they assume [on the cover shown above]. A gang of toughs caught and ravished young Anna. Louy swore revenge.

He destroyed his holy books and garments, took to the underworld, used his genius IQ to be the brains behind organized crime, to form the Syndicate. His only motive was to protect and care for his mentally ill sister. When she died, he walked away from gangdom, telling the Lepkes and the Lucianos and the like: 'You are all filth.' He gave away the millions crime had brought him.

Although Miner surrounds his star with fine actors--John Vivyan, Naomi Stevens, John Dennis, Stanley Adams and others--they are shadows supplementing his portrait of Louy. Says Paul Richards: 'Sometimes I think Allen reveals too much; he shows us this guy's soul.'"

"Murder--In Five Parts"
(from TV Week - Chicago Daily Tribune, 5/27/61)
by Seymour Korman


"The bloody era of Murder, Inc., is being brought to the television screen in five weekly episodes of The Lawless Years, the first on June 2. NBC is aware that the series may arouse as much controversy in racial and religious groups as did The Untouchables, but feels the story must be told.

Louy K., a fictional model of the man who was the head of the nationwide mob syndicate and established the Murder division as a subsidiary, is played by accomplished Paul Richards, stocky and dark-haired.

The script has him as a young rabbinical student who seeks vengeance in crime after he is forced to witness a brutal attack on his sister (played by Carol Rossen). This, according to Barney Ruditsky, the former New York policeman who is technical adviser on the show, is just how the syndicate came into being as a big business operation.

Throughout the five segments are characterizations or references to killers and racketeers such as Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Frank Costello, Legs Diamond, Lepke and Gurrah.

'The syndicate was run as a financial operation,' Richards explained, 'and its strong arm was Murder, Inc. When I have to order an assassination, I don't use any rough language. My order goes out: 'Tell the boys in Brooklyn to draw up a contract and take care of so-and-so.' That's how it was done. Louy K. isn't around when the machine guns pop off.'

If the series does bring a protest from the TV audience, it won't be the first time for Richards. He was the 'Man on the Ledge' in a Dragnet episode by that name, and his leap was the first time a suicide was shown on TV. That caused an uproar.

'Well, there are suicides,' Richards said, 'and there are criminals in all racial groups. We are not out to pick on any one of those groups; we are making a show that is a part, a sordid part, of American history.'

Richards, 36, has also been seen in Gunsmoke and Rawhide, and had a role in the film All the Young Men. He is married to Monica Keating, an actress."

*The name of the Dragnet episode mentioned in the article above was actually "The Big Jump". And, according to My Name's Friday... (a book about Dragnet by Michael J. Hayde), PR's character had a name (Walter Harrison) and didn't commit suicide, but was apprehended from the ledge by Jack Webb's Joe Friday.

UPDATE (9/14/07): Actually, according to a 6/2/61 Los Angeles Times story by Cecil Smith (author of the first review above), viewers of The Lawless Years got to see only a four-part minor masterpiece. After these reviews and photos were published, NBC pulled the first, establishing episode of the Louy K arc and showed the second episode instead. The first episode was abruptly shelved after Jewish religious leaders in New York objected to scenes in which rabbinical student Louy K furiously renounces his faith and becomes a crime boss to avenge the brutal assault on his sister. 

Smith pointed out that while the objections were understandable, the controversy could have been avoided. The Louy K episodes had been completed months earlier. NBC could have previewed the first episode then and had any offending scenes re-shot or edited before it was scheduled to air in the spring of 1961.

In fact, Jewish clergymen in Los Angeles had approved the script and the scenes before they were filmed. (Paul Richards was himself Jewish and apparently had no objection to filming the scenes.)

Writer-director Allen Miner explained to Smith, "I'm a Jew, a good Jew. I had rabbis on the set when we filmed it, I showed it to a board of rabbis here. They were not offended. This last-minute cancellation of the opening episode can wreck the show--it destroys the whole motivation for Louy's actions." 

But, NBC paid scant attention to The Lawless Years and waited until the last minute to pre-screen the first episode of Louy K. Then, it was too late to re-film or re-edit, and the episode was yanked  instead. Smith noted in a 6/5/61 follow-up article that, even without the first chapter, the second chapter of Louy K was "a taut, tingling melodrama, well-assembled and splendidly acted." 

1964

"Paul Richards:  Villain Turned Psychiatrist"
(from Pasadena Independent Star-News TV Week, 3/1/1964)
by Cynthia Lawry

"A meaty, crisis-filled role that permits a bit of scenery-chewing is an actor's dream. But his skills are revealed more often in his handling of quiet, less dramatic parts.

Thus, one of the most difficult acting assignments of the current television season has been taken on by Paul Richards, playing the younger of the two psychiatrists on ABC's Breaking Point series.

The series' producers have made a great thing of authenticity, so much so that a list of the patients' problems reads like the index of a textbook on psychiatry. Richards and his colleague, Eduard Franz, conduct themselves with professional questioning, probing delicately to nudge the patient to discover for himself the source of his troubles. The guest-star patients get the really dramatic parts.

Undoubtedly, Richards enjoyed flexing his acting muscles in the pre-Breaking Point days. Nowadays, his best line in a whole episode is likely to be, 'Mr. Ross, doesn't that suggest something to you?'

Until he emerged last September as Dr. Mac Thompson, Richards was one of the best bad guys in the acting business. He specialized in playing very convincing psychopathic killers, compulsive gunslingers and other unsavory characters.

A really effective specialist in villains can quite easily act himself right out of business. The television audience soon learns that when one of a handful of familiar faces appears upon the screen, chances are that at the climax, he'll often get a kooky look in his eyes and confess. This predictable behavior spoils the suspense so there's a constant hunt for new heavies.

The list of reformed television villains is long: Raymond Burr, George Maharis, John Vivyan, Robert Vaughn, Jack Elam and Richards are only a few of the actors who have managed to swap their black hats for white ones. 

Richards, quite naturally, is delighted with the side benefits of being the star of his own series, even if Breaking Point lasts only one season. At least, he has licked the actor's old Hollywood enemy:  typecasting. 

He has a strong personal interest in the series' theme. He was a psychology major at the University of California, Los Angeles, although he was side-tracked to acting in college, earning his Master's degree in theatre arts.

'The show has given me a real identity with a lot of viewers,' Richards noted recently. 'I honestly think that the series has helped many people with problems. If it has done nothing else, it has shown that other people are suffering from the same sort of thing.

'I get a great deal of terribly personal mail. People expose their most intimate problems--sexual, marital, personal relationships and self-doubts. Some ask for help.'

The viewers, of course, identify with the character Richards plays and feel they can trust him.

'These letters must be answered,' Richards says soberly. 'But, of course, I cannot advise them. I tell them to see their doctor or their priest or a psychiatrist. But I feel the mere fact they can write about their problems means they have taken their first step in the right direction.'

Ever since medical and psychiatric series became popular on television, debate has raged about whether they are harmful or helpful. It has been suggested that the hyper-sensitive viewers may start diagnosing symptoms based on incomplete knowledge. The American Medical Association called this 'TV-medicitis.'

Breaking Point has presented a whole series of dramatized case histories, ranging from the promiscuous woman to a guilt-ridden man. 

Richards, who takes the series very seriously, has frankly been disappointed in the way some of the themes have been handled.

'Occasionally, we'll throw out the promise of tackling a problem and then never fulfill it. We did one show about a man who was worried about his relationships with women, but then we backed away from this theme by concluding his fears were groundless.'

In a recent episode, the show tackled the problem a professional 'Don Juan,' a compulsive chaser of women. The final scenes had him ready to look his problem squarely in the eye. The actor approved.

'I think that's the way it should be,' noted Richards. 'We should present the thing and wind up with a glimmer of hope.'

The dark-haired actor is a native of Hollywood. After military service and college, he studied under Lee Strasberg in New York and Michael Chekov at the Moscow Art Theatre in Los Angeles.

He is married to actress Monica Keating, whom he met when he was a radio and TV actor in New York.

Richards says he cannot be concerned with the pending fate of the series.

'As an actor, I can't think about ratings or cancellations,' he noted. 'I must keep away from all of that and just concentrate on my own job, which is being an entertainer.'"

"Paul Richards Doesn't Worry About Ratings"
(from Chicago's Sunday American TV Roundup, 3/22/1964)
by Bill Irvin

"Paul Richards, who plays Dr. McKinley Thompson, a psychiatrist, in ABC-TV's Breaking Point series at 9 p.m. [Central] Mondays, is a rare breed of TV actor--he doesn't worry about ratings.

'My job is to do the best I can on the show,' said Paul recently when asked if he was concerned about the program's only fair standing in the audience ratings. 'I can't worry about things like that, too.'

The fact that Breaking Point has not been one of the season's top-rated shows is no reflection on Richards' portrayal of Dr. Thompson. The handsome Richards has given the part as warm and realistic an interpretation as any actor could be expected to bring to a difficult role.

When actors were being tested for the part of 'Dr. Mac,' a psychiatrist of compassion as well as courage, Richards introduced himself to the producer and explained that he had just learned of the part, adding, 'I know I wasn't invited, but may I try out?'

He waited on the doubtful chance that there would be time for him after the others had finished. He was the last tested.

When Richards' screen test was shown to an audience of VIP executives, they were impressed when he concluded his scene with this line to departing patient:

'If you need help, will you call me?,' which prompted one of the executives to observe, 'I'd call him.' The others concurred--and the role was Richards'.

Born in Los Angeles, Paul entered UCLA as a psychology major, and earned a master's degree in Theater Arts. He went to New York for his post graduate studies where he studied under Lee Strasberg of the Theater Wing. Subsequently, back on the west coast he studied with Michael Chekhov, a founder of the Moscow Art Theater.

During his New York stay, Paul met and married actress Monica Keating."

"Paul Richards:  Actor's Actor Discusses His Profession"
(from The Gettysburg (PA) Times, 3/21/1964)
by Ruth E. Thompson

"'No, studying with Lee Strasberg doesn't necessarily mean you're a method actor. In fact, classical [training] and the so-called 'method' are not at opposite ends of the earth. Call it what you will. You need both--you can't have all-technique or all-inspiration. There must be a marriage of the two. One learns from many teachers...and Strasberg was one of them when I was studying at The Theater Wing. If I owe any special debt, though, it's probably to Michael Chekhov, founder of the Moscow Art Theater, with whom I worked on the coast.' 

Speaking was Paul Richards, who rates that ultimate accolade 'an actor's actor,' so 'with it,' you forget he's acting.

He's seeable these Mondays starring on ABC's Breaking Point as psychiatrist Dr. 'Mac' Thompson. And, hopefully, a few lucky regional theater audiences will be catching him on-stage, too, this spring in a comedy.

YOUNG ABE LINCOLN

Richards, who'd make a splendid young Abraham Lincoln the next time somebody casts one, has a sensitively-sensible way of making the intangibles of acting considerably more tangible. He also has a delightful philosophical shrug for the nutty things than can happen. 

It was just ten years ago that he turned down a scholarship with the Royal Academy to go back to his hometown Hollywood, for a go at film.

'The scholarship was an honor, but the time comes when you must stop formal studying--though you keep learning all your life--and get down to work.'

SERVED IN WAR  

A psychology major at UCLA following two years of World War II service, Paul had gone on to take a Master's degree in drama at UCLA. Then he'd come to New York for post graduate studies at the Theater Wing, alma mater, too, of Richard Boone and Colleen Dewhurst: He also racked up an impressive list of credits in those major live TV shows, Studio One and Kraft Theater, when the movie bug bit. 

'So what did I get? Silent parts in talking pictures; walk-ons in Westerns. And after all that training!'

RODE A HORSE  

'But actually it turned out fine. After all, I did learn to ride a horse and progressed to playing a succession of villains. I loved it.'

Television, too, made its claims, and busy, busy, busy got to be his rule. Some producers continued to see him as a villain, others as a romantic leading man. But it was Paul himself who saw Breaking Point as right for him, asked to audition and was the immediate and unanimous choice of the producers.

PSYCHIATRISTS APPROVE 

Now the actor's actor has added a new laurel. He's a psychiatrist's idea of a psychiatrist. Paul was delighted and touched when one of the country's leading figures in the field broke away from a group lionizing him at a reception to introduce himself to Paul, commend his conception and portrayal and invited him to visit the august university and hospital with which the lion is connected. 

The conception and portrayal are not an accident. Paul and co-star Eduard Franz spent days observing various forms of therapy--children as well as adults--through two-way mirrors...

"Explains Richards: 'Learn anything as thoroughly as you can, then forget it and just allow it to happen...I try to play moment-to-moment truth, according to what the other actors are giving me.

"'Then, too,' he added with a modesty as real as it is startling, 'I get quite a thrill out of working with actors and actresses who were my own idols.'

"About Breaking Point: 'It's not a sickness show, you know...I feel what it's really about is health.

"'It's saying, 'Life is out there, just reach out and take it.' '

"'Before I started to work on it, I figured I knew a little about psychiatry, now I know that I know nothing. But I do identify with Mac...I am Mac, and the writers have been doing better and better and more and more developing the character as we go along.'

"'I'm so glad they're not tying me to the office. That circus ground [in "Child of the Center Ring"] for instance. I'd made a suggestion on that one that was vetoed fast.'

"'I thought it would be fun to eat cotton candy. After all, doesn't everyone at the circus? Then they explained that the stuff could come pretty expensive and I might end up eating nothing but for a couple of days. First, you'd have to hire the machine, and the man. Whenever shooting stopped a new batch would have to be spun and then chewed down to match where we left off in case I goofed.'

"Pity that a good series like this may not get a reprieve before it's had a chance to establish itself.

"But though the series' future may look dark, there's a million-carat-success prognosis for star Paul Richards."

1965

"The TV Actor Who's A Jack-Of-All-Roles"
(from The Detroit News TV Magazine, 6/20-26/1965)

My new favorite pic of PR!

"One of the best trained but hardest to identify TV actors is sad-eyed Paul Richards.

"Although he had his own series last season, ABC's Breaking Point, and has been in many TV dramatic shows this year, Richards' face is much more familiar than his name.

"He [has] guest-starred in Perry Mason and [recently] turned up again on Burke's Law as 'Grindle', a knife-thrower.

"'I've played gunslingers, a psychiatrist, Shakespearean roles and romantic leads,' he says.

"But he gives credit for his versatility to thorough training, starting with a master's degree in theater arts at UCLA.

"'Later I studied under Lee Strasberg and Michael Chekov, a founder of the Moscow Art Theater,' he says.

"'Chekov told me: "On the stage, you don't shout just to make noise; you fill the shout with meaning.' I've tried to do that.'"

1967

(Note: The article below was originally posted on this site as an 80th birthday tribute to Paul Richards.) 

PR ON TV

Paul Richards would have been 80 years old on November 23, 2004. In remembrance, I'm proud to present an article written by Paul Richards himself which was published in a local TV guide in 1967. The article reveals that not only did PR act on television, but he also understood the medium pretty well.

While he couldn't have foreseen modern devices such as VCRs, DVD/Blu-Ray players, DVR and TiVo, PR was correct in observing nearly 40 years ago that reruns had already taken away most of the "surprise" element that made early TV so exciting. What's surprising today is that viewers will pay good money to watch TV shows that have been endlessly rerun for free. Now, one can catch a missed episode or even an entire season of Gilligan's Island with the flick of a DVD remote.

And, PR was right about movies becoming more important on TV. Although now there are entire networks devoted to showing movies uncut without commercials, you can still watch an edited theatrical blockbuster repeated three nights in a row with ads on cable networks such as TNT or USA. So, maybe not everything has changed since 1967. 

PR was also right about TV playing "follow-the-leader", and, unfortunately, that hasn't changed. That's why today's airwaves are clogged with countless "reality" shows, American Idol rip-offs, and clones of CSI. (And, the Law and Order franchise will probably get its own channel any day now...)

Personally, I think TV would be much better if more actors like Paul Richards were still around. But, while we can't have Paul Richards back, perhaps we can (as PR pleads in his article) still "get with it" and fight for television that's less derivative and more original. --LLO

"A Look At the Good Old Days"

by Paul Richards, Guest Columnist

(Originally published in the 1/29/67 issue of Pasadena Independent Star-News TV Week)

"Television has become like an old and faithful wife. You don't want to kick her out of the house--but you don't expect any more surprises out of her.

The truth of the matter is that video audiences are gradually declining although they still number into the millions. And why shouldn't they? After all, there are almost 200 million people in this country--and you can be sure some of them are at home glued to the tube.

It is not that people are tired of television. They are just taking it for granted these days. That was not so in the past of sweet memory when the talk during the coffee break consisted of what Berle had done the night before...or Playhouse 90...or Kraft...or Caesar...or Dragnet.

But the surprise element has disappeared to a large degree now. If you missed an episode of a series it is no longer a calamity. The chances are you can catch it again in the re-run world. But in the 'old days' if you missed a play like Chayefsky's The Rabbit Trap you missed it for good. And if Jerry Lester and Dagmar got off a side-splitting bit of comedy business your friends had to tell you about it.

When I was in my series Breaking Point we worked very hard each week for a fresh angle of approach to our story. We did not want just another series about psychiatrists. I treated Breaking Point like a non-series in that every week was a new story--one that could be lifted out of the series segment per se and treated as an individual short film. I did not want to be predictable.

Television has a tendency to play follow-the-leader. It must sell products and if a series about a bunch of castaways on an island is a super electronic salesman the cry is 'let's have more shows like it'. A producer sees a likeable collie dog as a four-footed shelf emptier and searches around for his own huckster--be it a porpoise, or a talking horse.

I recently finished an episode of Bonanza, easily the most popular show on the air. But the Bonanza people are aware that even a faithful public could tire of the amiable 'Cartwrights' if they went their own pleasant ways week after week. I portrayed a man with problems, a boozed-up bounty hunter because my wife and kids were killed. The essential plot centers around me, but nothing is lost for the 'Cartwrights' because they, too, are totally involved. *

Without a crystal ball backing me up I can predict that big sponsors in the future will be laying their advertising dollars on the line for hit movies. The Bridge on the River Kwai proved this. The irony of this, of course, is that these movies are predictable; they were seen by millions in theaters before coming to the small screen.

But the public knew--or was told--that [these movies] were great, and they went along with the drumbeaters and watched them as their regular TV shows were chopped off the air. The message is getting to be: Movies are better than ever on TV.

I don't intend to dawdle in the past. But would you have watched a movie you'd already seen as opposed to watching the birth of Lucy's baby, Teddy Nadler rack up the highest winnings of The $64,000 Question, or Rod Serling's Patterns? Neither would I. So, old television viewers, let's get with it and fight."

*This is the only part of the article that puzzles me. PR did guest-star in an episode of Bonanza ("A Woman in the House") around this time, but its plot was totally different than the one he described above. In "A Woman in the House", he played a boozed-up cowhand who was jealous of his wife's close friendship with Ben Cartwright. Maybe PR played a boozed-up bounty hunter on another western, or maybe he described a "lost" episode of Bonanza? (Any Bonanza or PR experts out there who can clear up this mystery? Thanks! :->)


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