Born in the Bronx, New York to Russian Jewish immigrant parents (Isidor “Ira” and Rita Blucher Miller), Richard Miller served in the U.S. Navy for a few years and earned a prize title as a middleweight boxer. He settled in Los Angeles in the mid-1950s, where he was noticed by producer/director Roger Corman, who cast him in most of his low-budget films, often as dislikeable sorts, such as a vacuum-cleaner salesman in Not of This Earth (1957). His most memorable role would have to be that of the mentally unstable, busboy/beatnik artist Walter Paisley, whose clay sculptures are suspiciously lifelike in A Bucket of Blood (1959) (a rare starring role for him), and he is also fondly remembered for his supporting role as the flower-eating Vurson Fouch in Corman’s legendary The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).
Miller spent the next 20 years working in Corman productions, and starting in the late 1970s was often cast in films by director Joe Dante, appearing in credited and uncredited walk-on bits as quirky chatterboxes, and stole every scene he appeared in. He has played many variations on his famous Walter Paisley role, such as a diner owner (Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)) or a janitor (Chopping Mall (1986)). One of his best bits is the funny occult-bookshop owner in The Howling (1981). Being short (so he never played a romantic lead or a threatening villain) with wavy hair, long sideburns, a pointed nose and a face as trustworthy as a used-car dealer’s, he was, and is to this day, an immediately recognizable character actor whose one-scene appearances in countless movies and TV shows guarantee audience applause.
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