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Grumpy actor Dabney Coleman dies at 92

Grumpy actor Dabney Coleman dies at 92


Dabney Coleman, the mustachioed actor who specialized in mischievous villains like the chauvinistic boss in “9 to 5” and the evil TV director in “Tootsie,” has died. He was 92 years old.

Coleman died Thursday at his home in Santa Monica, his daughter, Quincy Coleman, said in a statement to The Associated Press. She said he took his last earthly breath peacefully and exquisitely.

The great Dabney Coleman literally created, or defined, in a truly singular and unique way, an archetype as a character actor. He was so good at what he did that it's hard to imagine the movies and television of the last 40 years without him, wrote Ben Stiller on X.

For two decades, Coleman worked in films and television shows as a talented but largely unnoticed performer. That changed abruptly in 1976 when he was cast as the incorrigibly corrupt mayor of the hamlet of Fernwood in “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” a satirical soap opera so over-the-top that no network touched it.

Producer Norman Lear was eventually able to syndicate the series, which starred Louise Lasser in the title role. It quickly became cult. Coleman's character, Mayor Merle Jeeter, was particularly popular, and his masterful, comically deadpan delivery was not overlooked by film and network executives.

Standing six feet tall with a sweeping black mustache, Coleman went on to make his mark in many popular films, including as a stressed-out computer scientist in War Games, Tom Hanks' father in Youve Got Mail, and a manager in fighting fires in The Towering Inferno. .

He won a Golden Globe for The Slap Maxwell Story and an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Peter Levin's 1987 small-screen legal drama Sworn to Silence. Some of his recent credits include Ray Donovan and a recurring role on Boardwalk Empire, for which he won two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

In the 1980 breakthrough hit “9 to 5,” he was the bigoted, sexist, selfish, lying and hypocritical boss who tormented his unsung subordinates Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton until they turned the tables.

In 1981, he was Fonda's caring and well-mannered boyfriend, who asks her father (played by her real father, Henry Fonda) if he can have sex with her during a visit to her parents' vacation home in “On Golden Pond”. »

Opposite Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie,” he was the obnoxious director of a daytime soap opera that Hoffman's character joins by pretending to be a woman. Coleman's other films included “North Dallas Forty,” “Cloak and Dagger,” “Dragnet,” “Meet the Applegates,” “Inspector Gadget” and “Stuart Little.” He reunited with Hoffman as a real estate developer in Brad Silberling's “Moonlight Mile” with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Coleman's obnoxious characters didn't translate as well to television, where he starred in a handful of network comedies. Although some became cult series, only one lasted more than two seasons, and some critics questioned whether a series featuring a main character without any redeeming qualities could attract a mass audience.

“Buffalo Bill” (1983-84) is a good example. It starred Coleman as “Buffalo Bill” Bittinger, the smart, arrogant and stupid daytime talk show host who, unhappy at being relegated to the small market of Buffalo, New York, lashes out to everyone around him. Although intelligently written and featuring a fine cast, it only lasted two seasons.

Another was 1987's “The Slap Maxwell Story,” in which Coleman was a failed small-town sportswriter trying to save a faltering marriage while wooing a beautiful young journalist on the side.

Other failed attempts to find a mass television audience include “Apple Pie,” “Drexells Class” (in which he played an inside trader) and “Madman of the People,” another news show in which he appeared. confronted this time with his young boss. who was also his daughter.

He fared best in a starring role in “The Guardian” (2001-2004), in which he played the father of a crooked lawyer. And he enjoyed the role of Principal Prickly in the Disney animated series “Recess” from 1997 to 2003.

Behind all this bravery was a reserved man. Coleman insisted he was really, really shy. “I've been shy all my life. This perhaps comes from the fact that he is the last of four children, all very handsome, including a brother who was the handsome Tyrone Power. Maybe it's because my father died when I was 4, he told the Associated Press in 1984. “I was extremely small, just a little guy who was there, the kid who did not create any problems. I was attracted to fantasy and I created games for myself.

As he grew older, he also began to leave his mark on pompous authority figures, most notably in 1998's “My Date With the President's Daughter,” in which he was not only a selfish, self-centered President of the United States, but also a helpless one. father of a teenage daughter.

Dabney Coleman, his real name, was born in 1932 in Austin, Texas. After two years at the Virginia Military Academy, two at the University of Texas and two in the Army, he was a law student at age 26 when he met another Austin native. , Zachry Scott, who starred in “Mildred Pierce” and other films.

“He was the most dynamic person I have ever met. He convinced me that I should become an actor and I literally left the next day to study in New York. He didn't think it was too wise, but I made up my mind,” Coleman told the AP in 1984.

Early credits included TV shows such as “Ben Casey,” “Dr. Kildare,” “The Outer Limits,” “Bonanza,” “The Mod Squad,” and the film “The Towering Inferno.” He appeared on Broadway in 1961 in A Call on Kuprin. He played Kevin Costner's father in Yellowstone.

Twice divorced, Coleman is survived by four children, Meghan, Kelly, Randy and Quincy, as well as grandchildren Hale and Gabe Torrance, Luie Freundl and Kai and Coleman Biancaniello.

My father built his time here on earth with a curious mind, a generous heart and a soul aflame with passion, desire and humor that tickled the funny bone of humanity, Quincy Coleman wrote in his honor.




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