Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Late Great Dabney Coleman

Dabney Coleman, who appeared on the TV shows Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; Buffalo Bill; and The Slap Maxwell Story, and in such movies as 9 to 5 (1980), Tootsie (1982), and You've Got Mail (1998), died on May 16 2024 at the age of 92.

Dabney Coleman was born on January 3 1932 in Austin, Texas. His father died of pneumonia when Dabney Coleman was four, and his mother moved the family to Corpus Christi. He attended the Virginia Military Institute. In 1953 he was drafted into the United States Army. He served in the Special Services Division for two years. After his service, Dabney Coleman studied law at the University of Texas at Austin.

It was actor Zachary Scott, a friend of Mr. Coleman's first wife Anne Harrell, who convinced him to become an actor. He then left college and went to New York where he studied acting  with Sanford Meisner at the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. He made his debut on Broadway in A Call on Kuprin in 1961. He made his television debut in 1961 in an episode of Naked City. In the Sixties he had a recurring role as Dr. Leon Bessmer, a neighbour of the title character Ann Marie, in the first season of the TV series That Girl. He guest starred on the shows Armstrong Circle Theatre, Alcoa Premiere, Ben Casey, Breaking Point, Arrest and Trial, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Dr. Kildare, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Outer Limits, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Hazel, The Donna Reed Show, 12 O' Clock High, The F.B.I., The Fugitive, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, Run for Your Life, I Dream of Jeannie, The Flying Nun, The Invaders, Dundee and the Culhane, Iron Horse, Judd for the Defence, Death Valley Days, The Mod Squad, Then Came Bronson, Bonanza, Dan August, and Nanny and the Professor. He made his move debut in The Slender Thread (1965), The Scalphunters (1968), The Trouble with Girls (1969), Dowhill Racer (1969), and I Love My Wife (1970).

In the Seventies Dabney Coleman had a recurring role on the soap opera Bright Promise. He was a semi-regular on the shows Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Forever Fernwood. He starred on the show Apple Pie. He guest starred on the shows The Bold Ones: The New Doctors; Owen Marshall, Counsellor at Law; Banyon; Room 222; Ironside; Search; The Wide World of Mystery; Griff; Columbo; Kojak; The F.B.I.; Sons and Daughters; The Manhunter; Mannix; Medical Centre; McMillan & Wife; Medical Story; The Mary Tyler Moore Show; Cannon; Switch; Bert D'Angelo/Supersta; The Streets of San Francisco; Police Story; Petrocelli; Fernwood 2 Night; Quincy, M.E.; The Love Boat; Diff'rent Strokes; and Barnaby Jones. He appeared in the movies Cinderella Liberty (1973), The Dove (1974), The Towering Inferno (1974), Bogard (1975), Bite the Bullet (1975), The Other Side of the Mountain (1977), Midway (1976), Viva Knievel! (1977), Rolling Thunder (1977), The Other Side of the Mountain Part II (1978), Go Tell the Spartans (1978), North Dallas Forty (1979), Nothing Personal (1980), Pray TV (1980), How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980), Melvin and Howard (1980), and Nine to Five (1980).

In the Eighties he starred on the shows Buffalo Bill and The Slap Maxwell Story. He guest starred on the shows Dolby and It's Gary Shandling's Show. He appeared in the mini-series Fresno. He appeared in the movies On Golden Pond (1981), Modern Problems (1981), Young Doctors in Love (1982), Tootsie (1982), WarGames (1983), The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), Cloak & Dagger (1984), The Man with One Red Shoe (1985), Dragnet (1987), Hot to Trot (1988), Where the Heart Is (1990), Short Time (1990), and Meet the Applegates (1990).

In the Nineties Dabney Coleman starred on the TV shows Drexell's Class and Madman of the People. He was the voice of Principal Peter Prickly on the animated TV series Recess. He guest starred on the shows Columbo, Directed By, and The Wonderful World of Disney. He was a guest voice on the animated shows The Magic School Bus, Jumaji, and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. He appeared in the movies There Goes the Neighbourhood (1992), Amos & Andrew (1993), The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), Clifford (1994), Judicial Consent (1995),  Un amour de sorcière (1997), You've Got Mail (1998), Giving It Up (1999), Inspector Gadget (1999), Stuart Little (1999), and Taken (1999).

In the Naughts he appeared in the movies The Climb (2002), Moonlight Mile (2002), Where the Red Fern Grows (2002), Domino (2005), and Hard Four (2007). He reprised his role as Principal Prickly in the animated movie Recess: School's Out (2001). He was a regular on the shows The Guardian, Courting Alex, Heartland, and Boardwalk Empire. He was a recurring voice on the animated show Pound Puppies. He guest starred on the shows The Zeta Project, Law & Order and Special Victims Unit.

In the Teens he continued to appear on Boardwalk Empire. He guest starred on the shows Ray Donovan, NCIS, For the People, and Yellowstone. He appeared in the movie Rules Don't Apply (2016).

Even though he was known as a nice guy in real life, Dabney Coleman was perhaps best known for playing jerks in movies and on TV shows. And there can be no doubt he was good at it. Perhaps his most famous movie role was misogynistic, double-crossing boss Franklin Hart Jr. in Nine to Five. In The Man with One Red Shoe, eh played the duplicitous CIA deputy director Burton Cooper. On television he was the title character on Buffalo Bill, an egomaniacal talk show host. He also played the title character on The Slap Maxwell Story, a self-centred, none too honest sportswriter for a newspaper.

While Dabney Coleman was very good at playing jerks, he could play other sorts of roles. Many will remember him as Dr. Leon Bessemer, the laid-back obstetrician who was Ann Marie's neighbour on That Girl. In the movie Cloak & Dagger, Dabney Coleman played a widowed father struggling to connect with his son. In On Golden Pond he played dentist Dr. Bill Ray, who tried hard to impress the father of his girlfriend Chelsea (Jane Fonda), played by Henry Fonda. Dabney Coleman was a remarkable actor with great range. While he was best known for playing jerks, he could play a number of other types of characters as well.

No comments: