LOS ANGELES - Richard Pryor startled audiences with his foul-mouthed routines, but his universal and frequently personal insights propelled him into one of Hollywood's biggest stars.
The pioneering comedian, whose audacious style influenced generations of standup artists, died Saturday of a heart attack at age 65, said his business manager, Karen Finch. He had been ill for years with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system.
"By expressing his heart, anger and joy, Richard Pryor took comedy to its highest form," Steve Martin said.
A series of hit comedies and concert films in the '70s and '80s helped make Pryor one of Hollywood's highest paid stars, and he was one of the first black performers with enough leverage to cut his own deals. In 1983, he signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures.
His films included "Stir Crazy," "Silver Streak," "Which Way Is Up?" and "Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip."
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