LOS ANGELES -- Three-time Emmy Award-winning comedy TV writer and screenwriter Bill Richmond died on June 4 at home in Calabasas, CA, at age 94.
From The Nutty Professor to The Carol Burnett Show, Richmond carved out a lengthy, prolific career in Hollywood as a comedy writer who flourished on both the big and small screen for four decades.
Emmy-nominated six times from 1974 through 1978, Richmond shared three Primetime Emmy Awards for his work on The Carol Burnett Show (Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series) in 1974, 1975, and 1978. In addition, he received a Writers Guild Award for the comedy/variety series in 1975 (Variety: Series or Special: Musical or Comedy), as well as four other WGA nominations for his work on The Flip Wilson Show (1970), The Carol Burnett Show (1978-79), and The Tim Conway Show (1981).
Richmond is perhaps best known for co-writing a string of popular screen comedies starring Jerry Lewis, including such films as The Nutty Professor (1963), which was later remade in 1996 as a hit vehicle for Eddie Murphy, The Ladies Man (1961), The Errand Boy (1961), The Patsy (1964), The Family Jewels (1965), The Big Mouth (1967), and Cracking Up (1983), all co-written with Lewis. Richmond also made several cameo appearances in Lewis’ films, such as portraying Stan Laurel in The Bellboy and the piano player in The Patsy, and wrote for The Jerry Lewis Show.
Writer-producer Richmond’s television writing credits also included Blossom (supervising producer), All in the Family, Three’s Company, Welcome Back, Kotter, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, The Flip Wilson Show, What’s Happening, The John Laroquette Show, Scorch, Charlie & Company, Double Trouble, I Dream of Jeannie, and The Tim Conway Show (head writer).
Born in Kentucky on December 19, 1921, he was raised in Rockford, IL. Following military service as a Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II – during which USMC Lt. W.E. Richmond flew the Grumman TBF Avenger, Vought F4U Corsair and Douglas SBD Dauntless – Richmond moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of being a jazz musician.
During his 14 years as a jazz and big band drummer from 1946-1960, Richmond became a sought-after studio session musician. He also toured nationally, performing in iconic venues and supper clubs. Over the course of his musical career, he worked with vocalists including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Mel Torme, as well as musicians including Chet Baker, Benny Carter, Harry James, Les Brown, and Nelson Riddle. Richmond later caught the eye of comedian Jerry Lewis, who hired him as a musician for his stage act’s band, a role which soon led to their fruitful creative collaboration.
A WGAW member since 1960, Richmond was also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS), SAG-AFTRA, and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 47.
Richmond is survived by his wife, Saria Kraft, four children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Mobile Village Kitchen at peace4kids.org.
A private luncheon for his family, TV, film, and musician colleagues, lifelong friends, and close associates at Lakeside Country Club and Calabasas Golf Club will honor him on June 25 in Woodland Hills.
For a profile piece on Richmond that appeared in the April/May 2011 issue of Written By Magazine, click here.
For a photo of the late Bill Richmond, click here. (Photo credit: Tom Keller.)