Humorist. Author. Born Robert Charles Benchley in Worcester, Massachusetts. Very little is known about his childhood as he never related anything but humorous tales about it rather than realities. In 1898, however, his idolized older brother, Edmund, was killed in the Spanish-American War. Benchley attended South High School from 1904 until 1907, when his late brother’s fiancée, Lillian Duryea, provided the funds for a transfer to Phillips Exeter Academy. He lent his talents to the Dramatic Club and drew illustrations for the yearbook and literary magazines at school. He then attended Harvard, again with the aid of Lillian Duryea where was editor of The Lampoon. He graduated in 1912 and moved to New York City where he became managing editor of Vanity Fair Magazine. He was then a reporter for the New York Tribune, and shared an office with Dorothy Parker. From 1920 to 1929 he ran the drama department of Life Magazine and from there moved to The New Yorker where he was the drama columnist from 1929 to 1940. With colleagues Dorothy Parker and Robert E. Sherwood he was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table. His collected essays were published in ‘Of All Things,’ ‘Benchley Beside Himself,’ ‘Inside Benchley,’ and ‘Chips Off the Old Benchley.’ In 1938 he published his last collection of original works. During the 1930s he wrote over thirty comic short films, the titles of which usually began with "How to…". Each starred Benchley as a lecturer or as his alter-ego, Joe Doakes. His ‘How to Sleep’ won an Academy Award in 1938. He also worked frequently as a character actor in feature films, including Alfred Hitchcock's ‘Foreign Correspondent,’ ‘I Married a Witch,’ ‘The Sky's the Limit’ and 1941’s ‘The Reluctant Dragon.’ In 1943, Benchley announced that he had finished writing and retired. He died two years later of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was the father of author Nathaniel Benchley and grandfather of author Peter Benchley.
Bio by: Iola
Gertrude Darling Benchley