Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Peter Mark Richman: The Pharmacist-Turned-Actor

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Peter Mark Richman: The Pharmacist-Turned-Actor

Article excerpt

Recognized mostly for hundreds of television roles dating back to the 1950s, Peter Mark Richman broke into film alongside Gary Cooper in the 1956 civil war western "Friendly Persuasion."

Years earlier, a family member attempting a little friendly persuasion of his own almost pressed young Mark into a different career path.

"My father died when I was 16, and my brother was kind of a surrogate father," recalled Richman from his home in Los Angeles. "He was a pharmacist, and I worked in his store as a teenager. He thought I should get a real education, so I ended up reluctantly going to pharmacy school. I expected to flunk out after six weeks but stuck it out, graduated and became a licensed pharmacist in two states."

However, the attraction of the stage proved more enticing than dispensing penicillin.

"I managed a drugstore for a year but always wanted to act," said Richman, who studied at New York's Actors Studio before finding his way onto the East Coast stages in the early 1950s.

"I was touring in a play called 'The Rainmaker' with Eva Marie Saint in New England when my agent called to say producer/director William Wyler wanted me to do a screen test for 'Friendly Persuasion.' I caught a private plane out west and got the role."

Richman says working with Cooper, a living legend in 1956, was a joy.

"He was just terrific, a hell of a guy, and very learned -- far from the 'yup' character he often depicted in some films. When exchanging dialogue, he really digested what you said before replying -- there was a thinking process going on rather than just reciting lines. His career began as a film extra and told us he was jealous because some of us had stage experience, and he always wanted to do theater."

In the credits for "Friendly Persuasion," Richman is listed as simply Mark Richman. He took the daring step of modifying his name mid-career in 1971.

"I added 'Peter' because my wife and I joined a spiritual movement called Subud, which required having a name that matched your inner life," explained Richman. …

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