Richard Beymer, Actor, b. George Richard Beymer, Avoca, Iowa, February 20, 1938.
A post World War II migration of Iowa war veterans to the big cities found Richard Beymer's parents moving to Los Angeles. It was there that Beymer made his first appearance before the cameras, in a live L.A. television show in 1950. From there it would take only a couple years before Beymer was offered his first role in the movies. Director Vittorio De Sica would select the young man for a role in Indiscretion of an American Wife (original title in Italy was Stazione Termini) where a combination of Italian and American production companies would shoot inside a train station in Rome with the likes of Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones headlining.
Beymer would make appearances in several films over the next few years, but his first big splash would come with his role as Peter Van Dean in The Diary of Anne Frank in 1959. Critical and popular recognition would lead him to roles in Blake Edwards' 1960 film High Time and then his first huge starring role. In 1961 he would score a coup in being picked for the lead role of Tony in the film adaptation of West Side Story. The film was a huge box office success and won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Despite the accolades, Beymer's reviews for his performance were less than enthusiastic and a star was not born. According to the legends, co-star Natalie Wood rarely spoke to Beymer and all but ignored him on the set, leading to a lack of chemistry between romantic leads that is a rare aberration in a best picture winner.
Beymer would make a trio of films the following year, none of which really makes the list of memorable Hollywood nostalgia. Five Finger Exercise, Adventures of a Young Man and Bachelor Flat tried to capitalize on the recognition of Richard Beymer as Tony from West Side Story but they were less than adequate fare. Then would come The Longest Day. The film was jam packed with stars, from John Wayne to Robert Mitchum to Henry Fonda and anyone else with a decent war film resume at the time. The film had five directors and took on with varying degrees of success the story of the D-Day invasion. However, the film may have provided Richard Beymer with another coup. As Private Dutch Schultz, he shared the film's final scene with Richard Burton.
After a lead role in the 1969 bikers and drug addicts film Free Grass in which he co-starred with Russ Tamblyn, Beymer dropped out of the world of acting. He became active in the Mississipi Summer Project drive to register African-Americans to vote in Mississipi and made a documentary of the events that became the foundation for the film Mississipi Burning.
He would dedicate a great deal of time, effort and energy over the next few years to write, direct, produce and act in the avant-garde independent film The Innerview which was released to international film festivals in 1974. This film would catch the eye of a different crop of filmmakers, including David Lynch.
Beymer would continue to work in the world of independent films and make a few appearances in films during the 1980s. Then, in 1989, he was cast in Twin Peaks and took on the role he is now best known for by many, that of Benjamin Horne, sort of like J.R. Ewing with a chemical imbalance.
Beymer continues to act, although his films in recent years have been mostly below average fare. He has also made appearances in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and The X-Files and once upon a time actually did a guest spot on Dallas. His main concentration is on making films, as a cinematographer and editor, and in composing his own music.
Research assistance from allmovie.com
and People Online