Dabney Coleman, Actor Audiences Loved to Hate, Is Dead at 92

He remained a busy if relatively anonymous actor for a decade, appearing in a wide range of television comedies and dramas and in small roles in major films like “The Towering Inferno” (1974). Then, in 1976, he landed the role that would set the tone for much of his career: Merle Jeeter, the snarky stage father of a child evangelist (and later mayor of the fictional town of Fernwood), in the soap opera satirical by Norman Lear. “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”

Mr. Coleman later said of the series: “It had a very strange, offbeat type of humor, the key to which was playing it straight.” This, he added, was “where I got into this type of character.”

It was also, he says, that his jet-black mustache became an indispensable accessory to his retinue of unsavory characters. “Everything changed” when he grew a mustache, he would say later. “Without it, I looked like Richard Nixon.”

If he was about to be typecast as an unrepentant thug, he made the most of it. “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” was critically acclaimed but was never a real success (and neither was its sequel, “Forever Fernwood,” in which Mr. Coleman reprized his role). But Colin Higgins’ 1980 ensemble comedy, “9 to 5,” was a box office success and a breakthrough in Mr. Coleman’s career.

His character, the boss of office workers played by Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, was — as was said several times in the film, including by Mr. Coleman himself in a fantasy sequence — a “ sexist, selfish, liar.” , hypocritical bigot. Reviewing “9 to 5” in The Times, Vincent Canby wrote that Mr. Coleman, playing a “crazy villain,” gave “the funniest performance in the film.”

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News Source : www.nytimes.com


With a penchant for words, Eleon Smith began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, Smith landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, Eleon also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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