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Actor Dabney Coleman, Bad Boss of '9 to 5,' Dies at 92

Actor Dabney Coleman, Bad Boss of '9 to 5,' Dies at 92

 


By Bill Trott

(Reuters) Dabney Coleman, an actor who brought a glorious touch of intelligence to the screen playing comic villains, mean-spirited bosses and downright jerks in films such as 9 to 5 and Tootsie, has died at 92 .

Coleman took his last earthly breath peacefully and exquisitely on Thursday at his home in Santa Monica, Calif., his daughter Quincy Coleman said in a statement Friday on behalf of the family.

Although he is best known for his arrogant, unctuous and uncaring characters, Coleman said it was all an act.

“I'm the one joking,” Coleman told the New York Times.

He's just a guy that I play, just for fun, you know, he said.

Not all of Coleman's characters were cadets. He won an Emmy as a lawyer in the 1987 TV movie Sworn to Silence and played Jane Fonda's dentist boyfriend in the 1981 film On Golden Pond and a federal security official in War Games from 1983.

His last on-screen credit was playing John Dutton Sr. in the television series Yellowstone in 2019.

Coleman was born on January 3, 1932, in Austin, Texas. He studied law and served in the United States Army before trying his hand at acting.

His early work in the 1960s and 1970s included one-off roles on various television shows, as well as a semi-regular role as Marlo Thomas' neighbor on That Girl.

His first film work was The Slender Thread in 1965, directed by his acting teacher and friend, Sydney Pollack, who would later hire him for Tootsie.

Coleman's breakout role and the one he said was his favorite came in 1976 in producer Norman Lears' television series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. He played Merle Jeeter, the creepy mayor who has an affair with the title character, in this soap opera parody and in the spin-offs Fernwood Tonight and Forever Fernwood.

His first major film role and the one that established his acting persona came in 1980 as Franklin Hart, the sexist and selfish business executive who harasses the underlings played by Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin until that they take it hostage and increase the productivity of the company by 9 to 10 years. 5.

Coleman was no longer likable two years later in Tootsie as a soap opera director who clashes with Dustin Hoffman's drag-dressed title character.

In 1983, he took the comic villain role even further in his first leading role on television. On the short-lived sitcom Buffalo Bill, he played a radio talk show host whose idea of ​​a tender marriage proposal was: You're better than 90 percent of these bimbos.

It's fun to play these characters because they're so well-defined, Coleman told People magazine in 1983.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he also starred in the sitcoms The Slap Maxwell Story as a sports editor, Drexells Class as a corporate raider turned teacher, and Madman of the People as a magazine columnist working for his daughter . None of the shows lasted more than two seasons.

More recent roles included HBO's Boardwalk Empire in 2010-11 as the man who once controlled Atlantic City, New Jersey. His role had to be rewritten when Coleman was diagnosed with throat cancer, which left him unable to speak at times.

A dedicated tennis player, Coleman has been married and divorced twice. He had four children with his second wife, actress Jean Hale.

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 bones of humanity, his daughter's statement said.

(Reporting by Bill Trott in Washington; additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Will Dunham)

Sources

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