Richard Pryor

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Richard Pryor : biography

December 1, 1940 – December 10, 2005

The Richard Pryor Show premiered on NBC in 1977, but was canceled after only four episodes. Television audiences did not respond to the show’s controversial subject matter, and Pryor was unwilling to alter his material for network censors. During the short-lived series, he portrayed the first African-American President of the United States, spoofed the Star Wars cantina, took on gun violence, and in another skit, used costumes and visual distortion to appear nude.Silverman, David S. (2007). "You Can’t Air That": Four Cases of Controversy and Censorship in American Television Programming. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

In 1974, Pryor was arrested for income tax evasion and served 10 days in jail. He married actress Deborah McGuire in 1977, but they divorced in 1978. He soon began dating Jennifer Lee and they married in 1981. They divorced the following year.

In 1979, at the height of his success, Pryor visited Africa. Upon returning to the United States, Pryor swore he would never use the word "nigger" in his stand-up comedy routine again. YouTube (However, his favorite epithet, "motherfucker", remains a term of endearment on his official website.)

In the 1970s and 1980s, Pryor appeared in several popular films, including Lady Sings the Blues; The Mack; Uptown Saturday Night; Silver Streak; Which Way Is Up?; Car Wash; Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings; Greased Lightning; Blue Collar & Bustin’ Loose. In 1982, Pryor co-starred with Jackie Gleason in The Toy.

In 1983, Pryor signed a five-year contract with Columbia Pictures for $40,000,000.Staff writer (December 10, 2005). . BBC News. Retrieved January 11, 2010. This resulted in the mainstreaming of Pryor’s onscreen persona and softer, more formulaic films like Superman III, (which earned Pryor $4,000,000), Brewster’s Millions, Stir Crazy, Moving, and See No Evil, Hear No Evil. The only film project from this period that recalled his rough roots was Pryor’s semi-autobiographic debut as a writer-director, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, which was not a major success.

Pryor co-wrote Blazing Saddles, directed by Mel Brooks and starring Gene Wilder. Pryor was to play the lead role of Bart, but the film’s production studio would not insure him, and Mel Brooks chose Cleavon Little instead. Before his infamous 1980 freebasing accident, Pryor was about to start filming Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part I, but was replaced at the last minute by Gregory Hines. Pryor was also originally considered for the role of Billy Ray Valentine on Trading Places, before Eddie Murphy won the part.

Despite a reputation for constantly using profanity on and off camera, Pryor briefly hosted a children’s show on CBS in 1984 called Pryor’s Place. Like Sesame Street, Pryor’s Place featured a cast of puppets, hanging out and having fun in a surprisingly friendly inner-city environment along with several children and characters portrayed by Pryor himself. However, Pryor’s Place frequently dealt with more sobering issues than Sesame Street. It was canceled shortly after its debut, despite the efforts of famed puppeteers Sid and Marty Krofft and a theme song by Ray Parker, Jr. of Ghostbusters fame.

Pryor co-hosted the Academy Awards twice, and was nominated for an Emmy for a guest role on the television series, Chicago Hope. Network censors had warned Pryor about his profanity for the Academy Awards, and after a slip early in the program, a 5-second delay was instituted when returning from a commercial break. Pryor is also one of only three Saturday Night Live hosts to be subjected to a rare 5-second delay for his 1975 appearance (along with Sam Kinison in 1986 and Andrew Dice Clay in 1990).

Pryor developed a reputation for being demanding and disrespectful on film sets, and for making selfish and difficult demands. In his autobiography Kiss Me Like a Stranger, co-star Gene Wilder says that Pryor was frequently late to the set during filming of Stir Crazy, and that he demanded, among other things, a helicopter to fly him to and from set because he was the star. Pryor was also accused of using allegations of on-set racism to force the hand of film producers into giving him more money. Also from Wilder’s book:

In 1989, he appeared in Harlem Nights, a comedy-drama crime film starring Eddie Murphy. It was a financial success, grossing three times the amount it cost to make it (worldwide) and is well known for starring three generations of black comedians (Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Redd Foxx).

Death

Richard Pryor’s star at the [[Hollywood Walk of Fame covered with flowers, beer bottles, fan letters etc.]] On December 10, 2005, Pryor suffered a heart attack in Encino, California. He was taken to a local hospital after his wife’s attempts to resuscitate him failed. He was pronounced dead at 7:58 am PST. He was 65 years old. His widow Jennifer was quoted as saying, "At the end, there was a smile on his face." He was cremated and his ashes were given to his family.