Passing of a Character Actor (and something of a personal hero): Peter Mark Richman — a life well lived

Richman in an appearance on the prime-time soap opera Dynasty

Actor Peter Mark Richman passed away on January 21st of this year at age 93. A veteran of stage, screen and television, he was one of the most prolific character actors of his and several other generations. He was also someone I admired and take inspiration from as an example of life’s possibilities, and the things one can achieve through hard work and persistence.

Richman did not initially start off as an actor, though the desire probably was always there. He began his career in sports. He played for one of the early professional football leagues (the Allegheny League, to be specific) as a running back for several seasons before a leg injury cut his career short.

After football, his elder brother convinced him to get an education at pharmacy college. Richman recounted in one interview that he figured he’d wash out within a couple weeks and be back home in Philadelphia. He stuck it out, however, and became a successful pharmacist managing his own pharmacy in suburban Philly.

For most people, the story could end happily there. Local boy makes good, and all that. But for Richman, it was only the beginning. The draw of the stage and his ambition to be on it reached critical mass, and Richman gave up a secure, very comfortable middle-class life to pursue his passion and gambled that he could make it as an actor in New York.

It turned out to be a good gamble. After some lean months, Richman landed his first role in 1953, and never looked back. By the time of his retirement in 2011, Richman had become a familiar face in almost every genre television had to offer. He had 500 individual appearances in no less than 111 different television series. He also appeared in several feature films and a number of plays.

No, Richman never took home an Oscar, or an Emmy. He was a “jobbing actor”, through and through. But he was prolific, and always in demand. There are thousands of actors out there right now who would happily trade their own grandmother (and probably several other relatives) for a career like that.

Ah, but the story still doesn’t end there. As roles continued to come in, Richman scratched other creative itches. Not merely satisfied with reading scripts, he began to write them, writing and starring in several small, but well-received plays. From there he also wrote several fiction novels, and even began painting, with over a dozen successful exhibits in the Los Angeles art scene.

Perhaps most impressive of all, at least by Hollywood standards, is he met the love of his live in those early days in New York, and remained married to her until his death, 67 years later. They raised five children, including award-winning composer Lucas Richman, who has scored several major films.

If ever there were an example of “A life well-lived”, it would be Peter Mark Richman. Rest ye well.

One aging Gen-X-er’s thoughts on life, humor, film, and whatever else tickles my fancy at the moment.