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Jerry Paris Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (2)  | Trade Mark (1)  | Trivia (3)  | Personal Quotes (5)

Overview (4)

Born in San Francisco, California, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA  (brain tumor)
Birth NameWilliam Gerald Paris
Height 6' 1½" (1.87 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Glimpsed here and there throughout the 1950s, usually in amiable supporting roles on film, it was as in television that Jerry Paris found his true calling. In front of the camera, however, most fans will remember him as Jerry Helper, the next-door neighbor of Rob and Laura Petrie (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore) on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961).

He was born William Gerald Paris on July 25, 1925, in San Francisco, California. His father was a Russian immigrant; his mother, the former Esther Mohr, remarried when Jerry was a small child. Jerry's new stepfather, Milton Grossman, eventually adopted the boy and Jerry thereafter used the name William Gerald Grossman while growing up. He reverted back to his real name when he became an actor. He graduated from both New York University and UCLA, and studied at the Actor's Studio after serving in the Navy during WWII. Starting off onstage in such plays as "The Front Page". He appeared dramatically on Broadway twice, making his debut in "Medea" (1947) in the bit part as a soldier, and later appearing in a 1952 revival of "Anna Christie", which starred Celeste Holm.

He turned to films in 1949 with unbilled bits but slowly progressed to a higher acting tier in such durable films as Outrage (1950), The Wild One (1953), The Caine Mutiny (1954), Marty (1955), The Naked and the Dead (1958) and The Great Impostor (1960). Hyperactive in nature, the tall, dark-haired actor was often cast as the genial or helpful pal of the star. He never found that one film role that might have moved him beyond the secondary character ranks. TV, however, would become a more accepting medium. After appearing as a regular in the series The Untouchables (1959) in 1959, Jerry found himself in classic company on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961) in 1961 as next-door-neighbor Jerry Helper, and (of course) pal to Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.

Loose and fun-loving, Jerry loved to keep the laughs going on- and off-stage and continued to do so -- behind the camera. It was comic actor and "Dick Van Dyke Show" producer Carl Reiner who gave Jerry his first chance to direct on one of the show's episodes. The actor took to it like a duck to water. By the mid-60s, Jerry was a regular director on the show and won an Emmy for his efforts during the 1963-1964 season. Highly encouraged (he also won a Directors Guild Award down the road), he decided to abandon acting and concentrate solely on behind-the-camera work. Working on such movies as Viva Max (1969) and Star Spangled Girl (1971), he eventually returned to familiar territory (TV sitcoms) and found his niche helming several popular shows including Happy Days (1974) (twice Emmy-nominated) and The Odd Couple (1970).

Now and then, Jerry would return to movie-making and helmed his last feature in 1986, Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986), the year of his death. Diagnosed with brain cancer, he died of complications following surgery. He was 60 years young. Predeceased by his wife, Ruth (Benjamin) Paris, who died in 1980, the couple had three children.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Family (2)

Spouse Ruth Benjamin (19 December 1954 - 13 August 1980)  (her death)  (3 children)
Children Julie Paris
Tony Paris
Andrew Paris

Trade Mark (1)

Frequently appeared in small (one scene) roles

Trivia (3)

Father of Julie Paris, Tony Paris, and Andrew Paris (best known for his role as Bud Kirkland in the "Police Academy" movies).
Directed 84 of the 158 episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961) after being hired as an actor to play next-door neighbor Jerry Helper, a dentist. He found he had a real gift for directing and went on to direct Happy Days (1974) and the pilot for Laverne & Shirley (1976).
There is some irony in his directing Henry Winkler as "The Fonz" in Happy Days (1974), Winkler's character deriving his style from Jerry and other Black Rebels Motorcycle Club members in The Wild One (1953).

Personal Quotes (5)

[on the difficulties of being a tall actor] You ever see a picture called The Flying Missile (1950)? I was in it, and Glenn Ford starred. We were on a submarine and I was looking out of the periscope all the time. Only it would look bad if we had to lower the periscope for Ford after I finished looking out of it. So I spent the whole picture crouched over.
[on becoming a director] At last I can paint the whole canvas. How's that for a figure of speech, eh? When I was a character actor, I was painting only one color--blue or green, as it were. Now I can work on the whole movie.
[on unnecessary violence in films] There have been violent pictures that were masterpieces. I think of pictures like Gone with the Wind (1939), Bonnie and Clyde (1967), "The Battle of Algiers" [aka The Battle of Algiers (1966)]) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). These pictures knew how to employ violence. I took my kid to see "Gone with the Wind", and the scene where the street is filled with dying soldiers, she found tremendously moving. But then she went to see Point Blank (1967)--I wouldn't have let her but, somehow, she went without me realizing what kind of movie it was--and here was all this brutality, shooting, torture. What does it mean in a context like that?
You name it. I was the co-pilot, the best friend, the roommate, the army buddy. In three movies I was second banana to Bonzo the monkey. Remember Bonzo? He was the #1 monkey in Hollywood, bigger even than [Cheetah] until he was killed in a tragic fire. Let's see. I was in Bonzo Goes to College (1952) and in Monkey Business (1952), and another one, Monkey Business (1952), also had Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant but, as I recall, Bonzo got equal billing. Bonzo had a trainer who started to talk as if he were the monkey. Hell, the monkey was making the money. One day the trainer tells me I have a part in Bonzo's next picture because Bonzo likes me. Can you imagine that? Getting the part because the monkey likes you?
My trouble as an actor was twofold: I was too tall and I wasn't handsome enough. Richard Widmark wanted me in a couple of movies, and they told him I was too tall; I'd make him look short. Widmark said what the hell, we can dig a hole. And I remember I was Robert Taylor's roommate in D-Day the Sixth of June (1956) and I had to sit down all the time. Yeah. I remember the scene where I was leaving and I was supposed to bid him goodbye. The director told me to sit on the bed. What's this? I said. I'm leaving, and I'm sitting on the bed? The director says, "Give him a can of beer or something. He can be drinking a can of beer, and then we cut to him outside the door".

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