Saturday, December 10, 2005

 

Richard Pryor Dies

In Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling, writer/comedian/actor Richard Pryor, bravely (although, not completely successfully) attempted to take a no-holds-barred look at his life (mistakes and all), following a drug-related accident that burned more than 50 percent of his body. But Pryor had made a career -- and became a legend -- of being raw and open on stage and on screen about his life experiences. He died today, of a heart attack, just nine days after his 65th birthday. He had influenced a generation of up-and-coming comedians (particularly Eddie Murphy, who would often mention his admiration for Pryor, with whom he co-starred in the film Harlem Nights). Few may know that Pryor co-wrote Blazing Saddles, but it was his razor-sharp, groundbreaking stand-up films; his successful string of screen hits with co-star Gene Wilder (led by Silver Streak and Stir Crazy); and the goodwill he engendered from having survived his accident, that combined to certify Pryor's place in the popular culture of the 20th century. It’s ironic that is was Pryor’s access to mainstream success which ultimately led to the least satisfying phase of his career (with films such as Superman III and the remake of Brewster’s Millions exemplifying the bad choices made during this period), before he was forced to retire, due to an ongoing struggle with MS. Tonight, the marquee at Manhattan’s Laugh Factory simply said, “Make God Laugh.”

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