Dabney Coleman, ‘9 to 5’ Star and ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Actor, Dies at 92

Dabney Coleman, the Emmy-winning character actor who starred in the 1980 comedy classic “9 to 5” and whose career in film and television spanned six decades, died Thursday at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 92.

Coleman’s death was confirmed to Variety by his daughter, Quincy Coleman.

“My father crafted his time here on earth with a curious mind, a generous heart, and a soul on fire with passion, desire and humor that tickled the funny bone of humanity,” Quincy Coleman said in a statment. “As he lived, he moved through this final act of his life with elegance, excellence and mastery. A teacher, a hero, and a king, Dabney Coleman is a gift and blessing in life and in death as his spirit will shine through his work, his loved ones and his legacy… eternally. And always, ‘A goddamn, good looking man.’”

A stage actor early in his career, Coleman reached a new level of prominence in the ’80s after landing the role of Franklin Hart, Jr., the misogynistic boss that Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton’s leading trio conjure revenge fantasies about overthrowing in “9 to 5.”

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Finishing its run as the second-highest domestic release of 1980, the film launched Coleman as a casting go-to for arrogant heels, with another prominent role as a bigoted soap opera director in Sydney Pollack’s 1982 best picture nominee “Tootsie.” Pollack and Coleman were close collaborators, having worked on each other’s first three films together.

Similar satirical send-ups of authority figures came with Coleman’s performances in the 1993 film adaptation of “The Beverly Hillbillies” and the 1994 cult comedy favorite “Clifford,” as well as his voice role as Principal Prickly on the ’90s animated series “Recess.”

Coleman was also a decorated dramatic actor, winning an Emmy for his performance in the 1987 TV film “Sworn to Silence,” which followed tensions in an Amish community after a series of murders. In 2011 and 2012, he shared Screen Actors Guild awards for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series for his work among the cast of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Additionally, he earned his first Emmy nomination in 1983 starring in the celebrated but short-lived talk show sitcom “Buffalo Bill.”

Born Jan. 3, 1932 in Austin, Texas, Coleman’s father died when the actor was four. Raised by his mother, he attended the Virginia Military Institute before serving in the Army and then studying law at the University of Texas. Shortly before graduating, Coleman elected to drop out and become an actor, moving to New York where he was trained by Sanford Meisner.

Coleman’s Broadway debut came in 1961 with a role in “A Call on Kuprin.” TV guest credits followed, with the actor putting also together an impressive resume as a character actor with notable feature film credits that include “The Towering Inferno,” “WarGames,” “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” “Dragnet” and “You’ve Got Mail.” After the turn of the millennium, he starred as a decorated attorney in the CBS series “The Guardian,” which ran three seasons. More recent credits include a role as the ailing father to Kevin Costner’s character in “Yellowstone” and an appearance in Warren Beatty’s 2016 feature “Rules Don’t Apply.”

Coleman married and divorced twice; first to Ann Courtney Harrell from 1957 to 1959, then to Jean Hale from 1961 to 1984. He is survived by his children, Meghan, Kelly, Randy and Quincy Coleman; and his grandchildren, Hale and Gabe Torrance, Luie Freundl and Kai and Coleman Biancaniello.

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