Sometimes an obit’s juiciest, strangest details are contained at the end. For instance, I was referred this week (by friend M. Faust) to the mini-bio/obit that is circulating around the Net for actress Ann Prentiss, who is best known for three things: being Paula Prentiss’s younger sister; being one of the female leads in Altman’s terrific California Split; and starring in the short-lived but well-remembered superhero sitcom Captain Nice.
She was born Ann Ragusa and had pretty regular TV work in the Sixties, plus bit parts in a few other films. What is most amazing about reading her bios and obits, though, is that she died on January 12th of this year in prison at the age of 69, serving a 19-year sentence for having solicited the murder of her father and her brother-in-law, Richard Benjamin. The conviction was also for “making terrorist threats, assault with a firearm, and battery.” I’m not sure which family member she battered, but this is quite a surprise, as Benjamin and Paula Prentiss have had one of Hollywood’s longer-lasting, quieter marriages over the past few decades. Ann was apparently not the shy, retiring type.
Ann P. is good in California Split (on the right), but she seemingly never quite clicked in Hollywood, perhaps because she looked and acted much like her older sister. I’ve liked Benjamin and Paula P. since my childhood viewings of He and She and Quark. His subsequent career as a director has been very spotty (some titles, after the entertaining My Favorite Year and Racing With the Moon: My Stepmother is an Alien, Mermaids, and Marci X); of course, no matter how really bad his movies have gotten, nobody deserves an armed assault on their ass.
This case certainly didn’t have the “sex appeal” of Lindsay Lohan serving a shortened sentence for a drunk-driving offense, but you’d think Ann’s arrest might’ve been given a little bit of tabloid press at some point. I guess the readers of the Enquirer and TMZ don’t remember The Stepford Wives or Goodbye, Columbus — never mind a critical hit/box-office flop like California Split….