Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pat Corley R.I.P.

Character actor Pat Corley died September 11 of congestive heart failure. He was 76 years old. Corley was probably best known as Phil the barkeeper on the TV series Murphy Brown.

Corley was born on June 1, 1930 in Dallas, Texas. His introduction to the world of entertainment came as a ballet dancer in the Stockton Ballet. He served in the Army during the Korean War. Following the war, Corley moved to New York City. There he attended the American Theatre Wing. He and his wife both performed in summer stock. Eventually Corley scored his first role on Broadway in the Actors Studio production, Blues for Mr. Charlie. By 1969 he would make his first appearance in a TV series, in a bit part in N.Y.P.D.. His first appearance in a feature film would be in Super Cops in 1974.

The bulk of Corley's acting career would be spent on television. Over the years he guest starred in such series as Get Christie Love, Kojak, Lou Grant, Coach, and Moonlighting. Corley would eventually receive regular or recurring roles in various TV series. He was a regular in the series Bay City Blues (1983), Fresno (1986), and He's the Mayor (1986). His two best known television roles would be in two classic series. On Hill Street Blues he played coroner Wally Nydorf. On Murphy Brown he played Phil, the owner of Phil's Bar where the team of news magazine FYI relaxed.

Corley also appeared in several films. Among the movies in which he appeared were Audrey Rose, Night Shift, True Confessions, and Purgatory Flats. His last appearance on screen was in the film Come Early Morning in 2006.

Corley also had a career on stage. He appeared in the off Broadway play The Peace Creeps. On Broadway he appeared in Of Mice and Men and Sweet Bird of Youth.

I must say that I am truly saddened by the death of Pat Corley. Aside from Elden the painter (played by the late Robert Pastorelli), Phil was always my favourite character on Murphy Brown. He was the humourous sage who dispensed advice from his bar, the lone voice of sanity in Washington D.C. on the show. I also enjoyed his as Wally Nydorf, the coroner on Hill Street Blues. Even though it was not a regular role, Nydorf remains one of the most memorable characters on the show for me. In the Eighties and Nineties he was easily one of the most talented character actors on television. It is sad to think he is gone.

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