Bill Richmond, a three-time Emmy winning TV writer and screenwriter whose credits include The Carol Burnett Show and numerous collaborations with Jerry Lewis died on June 4 in his Calabasas home. He was 94.
Born in Kentucky, Richmond, who grew up in Illinois, served in the Marines during World War II as a fighter pilot, afterward moving to Los Angeles where he broke into entertainment as a Jazz drummer, playing with such notables as Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Nelson Riddle, Les Brown, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Mel Torme, among many others. Richmond spent 14 years as a professional musician but by the late ’50s became interested in retiring from music and switching careers to comedy writing. His opportunity came when he was asked to join Jerry Lewis’ band, through which he began pitching gags to the comedian.
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He was soon made one of Lewis’ official writers, his first major project being Lewis’ second directorial effort, the 1961 comedy The Ladies Man. Originally paired with Mel Brooks on the script, he ended up co-writing it with Lewis directly, sparking a relationship that would continue through for more than 20 years. Richmond ended up co-writing half of the films Lewis directed between 1961 and 1983, including The Errand Boy, The Nutty Professor, The Patsy, The Family Jewels, The Big Mouth, and in 1983, Cracking Up. Richmond also made notable cameos in several of Lewis’ films, and wrote for The Jerry Lewis Show.
Richmond became a very prolific television writer and was nominated for Emmy Awards 6 times between 1974 and 1978, winning three shared Primetime Emmys for his contributions to The Carol Burnett Show. Other accolades include a Writers Guild Award for the series in 1975, and four other WGA nominations in the decade. In addition, he wrote for and/or produced several other classic television shows, including Laugh-in, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, I Dream of Jeannie, Welcome Back Kotter, Three’s Company, All in the Family, The Flip Wilson Show, What’s Happening, and The Tim Conway Show.
A WGAW member from 1960, Richmond was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS), SAG-AFTRA, and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 47. He’s survived by his wife, Saria Kraft, four children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A private luncheon for his family, colleagues, friends and close associates will be held at Lakeside Country Club, and Calabasas Golf Club will honor him on June 25 in Woodland Hills. In lieu of flowers, his family has requested contributions be made to the Mobile Village Kitchen at peace4kids.org.
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