Actor Dabney Coleman, who was known for playing grumpy people, dies at age 92.

Dabney Coleman
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Actor Dabney Coleman, known for his moustached roles as smarmy villains like “9 to 5″‘s chauvinist boss and “Tootsie”‘s evil TV director, has passed away. His age was ninety-two.

Thursday was Coleman’s death.

The legendary Dabney Coleman established a new standard for character actors in his own special style. It is difficult to fathom the film and television industries of the past four decades without him, Ben Stiller wrote on X, praising his exceptional talent.

Coleman toiled away as an accomplished but mostly overlooked actor in film and television for twenty years. “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” was a satirical soap opera that aired in 1976 and portrayed the mayor of the little town of Fernwood as an inherently corrupt individual. The role was so extreme that no network dared to air it.

The show, which featured Louise Lasser in the lead role, was syndicated after producer Norman Lear eventually succeeded. Its cult following grew rapidly. Film and television executives paid close attention to Coleman’s humorous deadpan delivery, which he displayed well as Mayor Merle Jeeter.

Famous roles for the six-foot-tall, black-mustachioed Coleman include a worried computer scientist in “War Games,” the father of Tom Hanks in “You have Got Mail,” and a firefighter in “The Towering Inferno.”

His performances in “The Slap Maxwell Story” earned him a Golden Globe, and in “Sworn to Silence,” Peter Levin’s 1987 television legal drama, he took home an Emmy for best supporting actor. “Ray Donovan” and a two-SAG-winning recurring role on “Boardwalk Empire” are among his most recent credits.

Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin played his underappreciated female employees until they flipped the script on him in the revolutionary 1980 hit “9 to 5.” He was portrayed as a “sexist, arrogant, dishonest, hypocritical bigot” boss.

During a 1981 visit to her parents’ holiday house, he asks Henry Fonda, who played her real-life father, if he can sleep with Fonda. Fonda was Fonda’s loving, well-mannered boyfriend at the time.

In the film “Tootsie,” Dustin Hoffman’s character joins a daytime soap opera while posing as a woman, and he plays the role of the annoying director. “North Dallas Forty,” “Cloak and Dagger,” “Dragnet,” “Meet the Applegates,” “Inspector Gadget,” and “Stuart Little” were among Coleman’s other features. He played a land developer alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in Brad Silberling’s “Moonlight Mile,” reuniting him with Hoffman.

Coleman appeared in a few network comedies, but his outrageous personas did not work quite as well there. Despite their cult followings, only one of these shows managed to remain on air for more than two seasons, and critics wondered how viewers could be interested in a show with such a tragic protagonist.

“Buffalo Bill” (1983–1984) served as an exemplar. Coleman played the role of “Buffalo Bill” Bittinger, a haughty, conceited, and utterly dimwitted daytime talk show presenter who, enraged by his demotion to the Buffalo, New York, small-time market, explodes at everyone in his path. It had a great ensemble cast and was cleverly scripted, but it only ran for two seasons.

“The Slap Maxwell Story” (1987) was another. Coleman played the role of a sportswriter from a small town who failed at his job and was attempting to salvage his marriage while simultaneously pursuing a romance with a stunning young reporter.

He also tried to appeal to a wide television audience with shows like “Apple Pie,” “Drexell’s Class” (in which he portrayed an inside trader), and “Madman of the People,” a newspaper broadcast in which he had a falling out with his daughter’s boss.

His co-starring performance as the corrupt lawyer’s father in “The Guardian” (2001–2004) was more successful. Additionally, from 1997 to 2003, he delighted in lending his voice to the Disney animated series “Recess” as Principal Prickly.

The man behind all that bravado was quiet and introverted. Coleman maintained his shyness was an exaggeration. “I have always been reserved. It could be a result of being the youngest of four siblings, all of whom were exceptionally good-looking; one of my brothers was even more so than Tyrone Power. One possible explanation he offered to The Associated Press in 1984 was that he lost his father at the age of four. I was only a little kid who was there and did not cause any problems; I was quite little. Fantasy piqued my interest, and I found myself making video games.

The role of an egotistical, self-absorbed president of the US and a naïve father to a teenage girl was his most memorable in 1998’s “My Date With the President’s Daughter,” but he also started to leave his imprint on haughty authority figures as he got older.

He was born in Austin, Texas in 1932, although his real name is Dabney Coleman. He met fellow Austinite and “Mildred Pierce” and other film star Zachry Scott when he was 26 years old and a law student after serving two years in the Army, two years at the University of Texas, and two years at the Virginia Military Academy.

I have never met someone with so much energy as he possessed. I departed for New York the very following day to pursue acting classes after he persuaded me to do so. Even though he did not believe it was a good idea, Coleman told The AP in 1984 that she had already made up her mind.

“Ben Casey,” “Dr. Kildare,” “The Outer Limits,” “Bonanza,” “The Mod Squad,” and the film “The Towering Inferno” were among the early credits. It was not until 1961 that he made his Broadway debut in “A Call on Kuprin.” On “Yellowstone,” he portrayed Kevin Costner’s dad.

Coleman has four children—Meghan, Kelly, Randy, and Quincy—and is survived by both of his divorces.

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