“The next 58 years will be a breeze”: An interview with RiverRun Master of Cinema awardees Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin

The RiverRun International Film Festival has been held since 1998. Originally held in Brevard, NC, the festival now takes place in Winston-Salem. Held this year from April 4 – 14, 2019, the festival is screening 172 films from 47 countries—71 features and 101 shorts.

Each year, a pillar in the film industry is recognized with the Master of Cinema award. This year, that award goes to husband and wife Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin, and film producer and head of Orion pictures Mike Medavoy.

Prentiss and Benjamin have been married for 58 years. Paula Prentiss is best known for her 1960s and 1970s roles including “Where the Boys Are” (1960), “The Honeymoon Machine” (1961) and “What’s New Pussycat” (1965). She co-starred with Jim Hutton in three films. Her film “Man’s Favorite Sport?” (1964) with Rock Hudson will screen at the festival. Richard Benjamin both acts and directs. His directorial debut was the Peter O’Toole film “My Favorite Year” and he also directed “The Money Pit” (1986) and “Mermaids” (1990). His acting roles include “Goodbye, Christopher Columbus” (1969) and “The Sunshine Boys” (1975), which is screening at the festival. The two acted together on the TV show “He and She” as well as “Catch-22” (1970), “Saturday the 14th” (1981), and the Broadway play “The Norman Conquests” (1975).

I had the opportunity to interview actress Paula Prentiss and actor/director Richard Benjamin via phone on Sunday, April 7:

Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin in the 1960s

Comet Over Hollywood: Tell me about how you two met.

Richard Benjamin: We met at Northwestern University. Paula had transferred from Randolph-Macon College. And Paula had transferred from Randolph-Macon. She was a year ahead of me and I came from New York, New York City, and that’s where we met. And the first second I saw her, I thought, that’s it for me, so … I don’t know how long it took her to feel the same way exactly, you can ask her, but I knew that was it.

Paula Prentiss: Well let me see. I was at a women’s college beforehand and the dating that we had was off to other universities. I was at Randolph–Macon Women’s College, I went to the University of Virginia, went to Yale one time. But I thought to myself, I have to find some guy that I really like. These individual dating trips are a little … I don’t know what I thought. But anyway, that’s one of the reasons I transferred from Randolph–Macon Women’s College.

And when I saw Dick … He was very cute. Tall and thin and stuff like that, and I thought, I didn’t know much about acting, but he was supposed to be a director so perhaps this will work. I tried out for a play, even though I was very inexperienced in acting, and he liked me. So then when we had rehearsals, we were left alone in the rehearsal room…

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Musical Monday: “Follow the Boys” (1963)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

Follow the boysThis week’s musical:
Follow The Boys” –Musical #303

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Richard Thorpe

Starring:
Connie Francis, Paula Prentiss, Dany Robin, Janis Paige, Russ Tamblyn, Richard Long, Roger Perry, Ron Randell

Plot:
-Four women- Bonnie (Francis), Toni (Prentiss), Michele (Robin) and Liz (Paige)- travel to the Rivera to meet their Navy boyfriends and husbands when they go on shore leave.
-Bonnie came from North Dakota to surprise her husband, who thinks she is still at home.
-Wealthy Toni comes to see her playboy fiance Lt. Peter Langley. But Michele is also there to see Peter as a bill collector.
-Liz is tired of being a “seagull”-Naval wives that follow their husbands to each port- and wants her Lt. Commander husband to settle down.
As the girls are waiting at a French port, they learn the ship is landing in Italy instead. The four women team up to travel to meet the men.

Trivia:
-Connie Francis’s second film after “Where The Boys Are.” The film is supposed to be an unofficial sequel, according to “Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969” by Thomas Lisanti
-Filming locations include: Cannes, France; Nice, France; Santa Margherita Ligure, Genoa, Liguria, Italy
-Filmed in Panavision and Metrocolor

Russ Tamblyn and Paula Prentiss, Richard Long, and Dany Robin, Roger Perry and Connie Francis, Ron Randell and Janis Paige

Russ Tamblyn and Paula Prentiss, Richard Long, and Dany Robin, Roger Perry and Connie Francis, Ron Randell and Janis Paige


Highlights:

-The French Rivera and Italy in gorgeous, vibrant color.

Notable Songs:
-“Italian Lullaby” sung by Connie Francis
-“Follow the Boys” sung by Connie Francis
-“Intrigue” sung Connie Francis

My Review:
Though this is categorized as a musical, it’s more a romantic comedy where Connie Francis sings at the drop of the hat: Connie picks up a baby and sings a lullaby, Connie goes to an Italian party and is asked to sing, Connie turns on the radio and sings.
This is pretty common in frothy 1950s and 1960s films. Young singing stars such as Frankie Avalon, James Darren or Connie Francis are cast in films and have a four or five songs to spotlight their singing talents.
In many of her films, Francis has man trouble. In “Where the Boys Are,” she has trouble nabbing a guy. This time in “Follow the Boys,” she is married but he can’t get leave to see her.
I love seeing Janis Paige, Paula Prentiss and Russ Tamblyn in pretty much every film, and the scenery in the film is beautiful.
However, even with a star-studded cast, “Follow the Boys” is really merely okay.
The plot is tedious and I don’t care for the French actress Dany Robin.

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