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

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


He remained a busy if comparatively nameless character actor for a decade after that, showing on a variety of each comedies and dramas on TV and in small elements in large motion pictures like “The Towering Inferno” (1974). Then, in 1976, he landed the function that might set the tone for a lot of his profession: Merle Jeeter, the underhanded stage father of a kid evangelist (and later the mayor of the fictional city of Fernwood), on Norman Lear’s satirical cleaning soap opera “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”

Mr. Coleman later mentioned of the sequence, “It had a really unusual, off-the-wall kind of humor, the important thing to which was enjoying it straight.” It was, he added, “the place I bought into such a character.”

It was additionally, he mentioned, when his jet-black mustache turned an indispensable accent to his retinue of unsavory characters. “Everything modified” when he grew the mustache, he later mentioned. “Without it, I seemed like Richard Nixon.”

If he was on his solution to being typecast as an unrepentant lout, he made essentially the most of it. “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” was critically acclaimed however by no means a bona fide hit (neither was its follow-up, “Forever Fernwood,” on which Mr. Coleman reprised his function). But Colin Higgins’s 1980 ensemble comedy, “9 to five,” was a box-office smash and Mr. Coleman’s profession breakthrough.

His character, the boss of the workplace staff performed by Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, was — as was mentioned greater than as soon as within the film, together with by Mr. Coleman himself in a fantasy sequence — a “sexist, egotistical, mendacity, hypocritical bigot.” Reviewing “9 to five” in The Times, Vincent Canby wrote that Mr. Coleman, enjoying a “lunatic villain,” gave “the funniest efficiency within the movie.”

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