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Dabney Coleman
Dabney Coleman (actor).jpg
Coleman in 2001
Dabney Wharton Coleman

(1932-01-03)January 3, 1932
Died May 16, 2024(2024-05-16) (aged 92)
Occupation Actor
Years active 1961–2019
  • Ann Courtney Harrell
    (m. 1957; div. 1959)
  • Jean Hale
    (m. 1961; div. 1984)
Children 4
Military career
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1953–1955

Dabney Wharton Coleman (January 3, 1932 – May 16, 2024) was an American actor. Coleman's best known films include 9 to 5 (1980), On Golden Pond (1981), Tootsie (1982), WarGames (1983), Cloak & Dagger (1984), The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), You've Got Mail (1998), Inspector Gadget (1999), Recess: School's Out (2001), Moonlight Mile (2002), and Rules Don't Apply (2016).

Coleman's television roles included the title characters of Buffalo Bill (1983–1984) and The Slap Maxwell Story (1987–1988), as well as Burton Fallin on The Guardian (2001–2004), the voice of Principal Peter Prickly on Recess (1997–2001), and Louis "The Commodore" Kaestner on Boardwalk Empire (2010–2011). He won one Primetime Emmy Award from six nominations and one Golden Globe Award from three nominations.


Coleman in The Towering Inferno (1974)

Coleman was a character actor with roles in well over 60 films and television programs to his credit. He trained with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City from 1958 to 1960.

Coleman made his Broadway debut in the short-lived A Call on Kuprin in 1961. In a 1964 episode of Kraft Suspense Theatre titled "The Threatening Eye", Coleman played private investigator William Gunther. Two years later, he played Dr. Leon Bessemer with Bonnie Scott as his wife Judy, neighbors and friends of the protagonist in Season 1 of That Girl, episode 3, "Never Change a Diaper on Opening Night". Noted for his moustache which he grew in 1973, he appeared in the sitcom wearing horn-rimmed glasses and with no facial hair. Other early roles in his career included a U.S. Olympic skiing team coach in Downhill Racer (1969), a high-ranking fire chief in The Towering Inferno (1974), and a wealthy Westerner in Bite the Bullet (1975). He portrayed an FBI agent in Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan (1975).

Coleman landed the main antagonist part of Franklin Hart, Jr., a sexist boss on whom three female office employees get their revenge in the 1980 film 9 to 5. It was this film that established Coleman in the character type with which he was most identified, and frequently played afterwards – a comic relief villain. Coleman followed 9 to 5 with the role of the arrogant, sexist, soap opera director in Tootsie (1982). He broke from this type somewhat in other film roles. He appeared in the feature film On Golden Pond (1981), playing the sympathetic fiancé of Chelsea Thayer Wayne (Jane Fonda). He also played a military computer scientist in WarGames (1983), and, in 1984, he played a dual role as a loving, but busy father, as well as his son's imaginary hero, in Cloak & Dagger. In 1986 Coleman co-starred opposite Carol Burnett in the cult 1986 satirical miniseries Fresno. He also played in the 1990 comedy Short Time.

Over the years, Coleman shifted between roles in serious drama and comedies, the latter of which often cast him as a variation of his 9 to 5 character. Coleman received his first Emmy nomination for his lead role, as a skilled, but self-centered TV host, in the critically acclaimed, though short-lived, TV series Buffalo Bill. In 1987, he received an Emmy Award for his role in the television film Sworn to Silence. Coleman played a con artist Broadway producer in The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), a lisping Hugh Hefner-ish magazine mogul in the comedy Dragnet (1987), Bobcat Goldthwait's boss in the 1988 talking-horse comedy Hot to Trot, and befuddled banker Milburn Drysdale in the feature film The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), the last of which reunited him with 9 to 5 co-stars Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Continuing his streak of comic foils, Coleman played Charles Grodin's sleazy boss, Gerald Ellis, in Clifford (1994), co-starring Martin Short.

From 1997 to 2001, Coleman provided the voice of Principal Prickly on the animated series Recess. He also played in You've Got Mail (1998), as well as in Inspector Gadget (which reunited him with his WarGames co-star Matthew Broderick).

Coleman appeared as a casino owner in 2005's Domino. He received acclaim as Burton Fallin in the TV series The Guardian (2001–2004). For two seasons, from 2010 to 2011, Coleman was a series regular on HBO's Boardwalk Empire. His most recent roles were a small part in Warren Beatty's Howard Hughes comedy Rules Don't Apply in 2016, and a guest role as Kevin Costner's dying father in Yellowstone, in 2019.

On November 6, 2014, Coleman received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Personal life and death

Coleman was born in Austin, Texas on January 3, 1932. He attended Virginia Military Institute, and the University of Texas at Austin. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1953 and served in Europe. He was married and divorced twice. He was married to Ann Courtney Harrell from 1957 to 1959 and Jean Hale from 1961 to 1984. He had four children: daughter Kelly, son Randy, and daughter Quincy with Jean Hale, and daughter Meghan.

In 1998, Coleman worked with fellow actor Bronson Pinchot at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, to help protect local forests and helped lead a campaign to educate others on how to care for and protect forests nationwide.

Coleman was an avid tennis player, winning celebrity and charity tournaments. He played mainly at the Riviera Country Club as well as in local tournaments. His favorite sports team was the St. Louis Browns, which are now the Baltimore Orioles.

Coleman died at his home in Santa Monica, California, on May 16, 2024, at the age of 92.



Year Title Role Notes
1965 The Slender Thread Charlie
1966 This Property Is Condemned Salesman
1968 The Scalphunters Jed
1969 The Trouble with Girls Harrison Wilby
1969 Downhill Racer Mayo
1970 I Love My Wife Frank Donnelly
1973 Cinderella Liberty Executive Officer
1974 The Dove Charles Huntley
1974 The Towering Inferno SFFD Deputy Chief 1
1974 Black Fist Heineken
1975 Bite the Bullet Jack Parker
1975 The Other Side of the Mountain Dave McCoy
1976 Midway Captain Murray Arnold
1977 Viva Knievel! Ralph Thompson
1977 Rolling Thunder Maxwell
1978 The Other Side of the Mountain Part 2 Dave McCoy Uncredited
1978 Go Tell the Spartans Helicopter pilot Uncredited
1979 North Dallas Forty Emmett Hunter
1980 Nothing Personal Dickerson
1980 How to Beat the High Cost of Living Jack Heintzel
1980 Melvin and Howard Judge Keith Hayes
1980 9 to 5 Franklin M. Hart, Jr.
1980 Pray TV Marvin Fleece
1981 On Golden Pond Dr. Bill Ray
1981 Modern Problems Mark Winslow
1982 Young Doctors in Love Dr. Joseph Prang
1982 Tootsie Ron Carlisle
1983 WarGames Dr. John McKittrick
1984 The Muppets Take Manhattan Martin Price / Murray Plotsky
1984 Cloak & Dagger Jack Flack / Hal Osborne
1985 The Man with One Red Shoe Burton Cooper
1987 Dragnet Jerry Caesar
1988 Hot to Trot Walter Sawyer
1990 Where the Heart Is Stewart McBain
1990 Short Time Burt Simpson
1990 Meet the Applegates Aunt Bea
1992 There Goes the Neighborhood Jeffrey Babitt
1993 Amos & Andrew Police Chief Cecil Tolliver
1993 The Beverly Hillbillies Milburn Drysdale
1994 Clifford Gerald Ellis
1994 Judicial Consent Charles Mayron
1997 Witch Way Love Joel Andrews
1998 You've Got Mail Nelson Fox
1999 Giving It Up Jonathan Gallant
1999 Inspector Gadget Police Chief Quimby
1999 Stuart Little Dr. Beechwood
1999 Taken Ethan Grover
2001 Recess: School's Out Principal Peter Prickly Voice
2001 Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street Principal Peter Prickly Voice
2002 The Climb Mack
2002 Moonlight Mile Mike Mulcahey
2003 Where the Red Fern Grows Grandpa
2003 Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade Principal Peter Prickly Voice
2003 Recess: All Growed Down Principal Peter Prickly Voice
2005 Domino Drake Bishop
2007 Hard Four Spray Loomis
2016 Rules Don't Apply Raymond Holliday final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1961 Naked City Resident Episode: "Landscape with Dead Figures"
1963 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Tom Esterow Season 1 Episode 30: "Dear Uncle George"
1964 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Sergeant Lou Snyder Season 2 Episode 31: "Isabel"
1964 The Outer Limits Dr. Williams / Lieutenant Howard / James Custer 3 episodes
1964–1966 The Fugitive Steve / Officer George Graham / Floyd / Sergeant Keith 4 episodes
1965 I Dream of Jeannie Lieutenant George Webb Episode: "Anybody Here Seen Jeannie?"
1965 The Donna Reed Show Rallye Master Episode: "A-Haunting We Will Go"
1966–1967 That Girl Dr. Leon Bessemer 8 episodes
1967 The Invaders John Carter / Captain Mitchell Ross 2 episodes
1967 Dundee and the Culhane Sheriff Wrenn Episode: "The Jubilee Raid Brief"
1967 The Flying Nun Submarine Captain Premiere episode
1968–1969 Bonanza Ivar Peterson / Clyde 2 episodes
1969 The Mod Squad John Episode: "The Guru"
1970 The F.B.I. Ty Episode: "Incident in the Desert"
1970 The Brotherhood of the Bell Agent Shepard Television film
1971–1972 Bright Promise Dr. Tracy Graham Recurring role
1973 Room 222 Gary Webster Sr. Episode: "Rights of Others"
1973 Dying Room Only Robert Mitchell Television film
1973 The President's Plane Is Missing Senator Bert Haines Television film
1973–1991 Columbo Hugh Creighton / Detective Murray 2 episodes
1974 The F.B.I. SAC Barnes Episode: "Survival"
1974 Bad Ronald Mr. Wood Television film
1974 Kojak Alex Linden Episode: "Therapy in Dynamite"
1974–1975 McMillan & Wife Walter Jennings / Hansen 2 episodes
1975 Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan Paul Mathison Television film
1975 Barnaby Jones George Clark Episode: "A Taste for Murder"
1975 Mannix Howard Graham Episode: "A Ransom for Yesterday"
1976 The Mary Tyler Moore Show Congressman Phil Whitman Episode: "The Seminar"
1976–1977 Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman Merle Jeeter 148 episodes
1977 Fernwood 2 Night Merle Jeeter Premiere episode
1977 Quincy, M.E. Officer Peter O'Neil / Dr. Burt Travers 2 episodes
1978 Apple Pie "Fast Eddie" Murtaugh 8 episodes
1978 Maneaters Are Loose! McCallum Television film
1978 The Love Boat Van Milner Episode "The Last Hundred Bucks"
1979 Barnaby Jones Brad Adamson Episode "Indoctrination In Evil"
1979 Diff'rent Strokes Fred Tanner Episode: "Arnold's Girlfriend"
1983–1984 Buffalo Bill Bill Bittinger 26 episodes
1986 Fresno Tyler Cane 5 episodes
1986 Murrow CBS President William S. Paley Television film
1987 Sworn to Silence Martin Costigan Television film
1987–1988 The Slap Maxwell Story Slap Maxwell 22 episodes
1988 Baby M Gary Skoloff 2 episodes
1991 Never Forget William Cox Television film
1991–1992 Drexell's Class Otis Drexell 18 episodes
1994–1995 Madman of the People Jack "Madman" Buckner 16 episodes
1995–1997 The Pinocchio Shop Nolan Howell Series regular, 78 episodes
1997 The Magic School Bus Horace Scope Voice, episode: "Sees Stars"
1997–2001 Recess Principal Peter Prickly Voice, main role
1997 Jumanji Ashton Phillips Voice, 2 episodes
1998 My Date with the President's Daughter President Richmond Television film
1998 Exiled: A Law & Order Movie Lieutenant Kevin Stolper Television film
2001–2004 The Guardian Burton Fallin 67 episodes
2002 The Zeta Project Thomas Boyle Voice, episode: "Hunt in the Hub"
2006 Courting Alex Bill Rose 12 episodes
2007 Heartland Dr. Bart Jacobs 6 episodes
2009 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Frank Hager Episode: "Snatched"
2010–2011 Pound Puppies Mayor Jerry Voice, 4 episodes
2010–2011 Boardwalk Empire Commodore Louis Kaestner 24 episodes
2016 Ray Donovan Mr. Price Episode: "Federal Boobie Inspector"
2019 NCIS Corporal John Sidney Episode: "The Last Link"
2019 For the People Donald Newman Episode: "One Big Happy Family"
2019 Yellowstone John Dutton Jr. Episode: "Sins of the Father" (Final role)

Music videos

Year Title Artist Role Notes
2019 "Star Maps" Aly & AJ Himself

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Buffalo Bill Nominated
1984 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Nominated
1984 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
1987 CableACE Awards Actor in a Movie or Miniseries Murrow Nominated
1987 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Sworn to Silence Won
1988 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy The Slap Maxwell Story Won
1988 Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Sworn to Silence Nominated
1988 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series The Slap Maxwell Story Nominated
1988 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Baby M Nominated
1991 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Columbo: "Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star" Nominated
2011 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Boardwalk Empire Won
2012 Won

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Dabney Coleman para niños

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