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Dabney Coleman, Star Of 9 To 5, WarGames & More, Passes Away

May 17, 2024 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Dabney Coleman 9 to 5 Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

Dabney Coleman, the legendary character actor known for his work in films like 9 to 5 and shows like Boardwalk Empire, has passed away. Deadline reports that Coleman passed on Thursday in Santa Monica at the age of 92.

A statement from Coleman’s daughter Quincy on behalf of the family read:

““My Father, Dabney Wharton Coleman, took his last earthly breath peacefully and exquisitely at 92 in his Santa Monica home on Thursday May 16th, 2024 at 1:50pm. 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. 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.”

Coleman had a career that spanned six decades and included 180 acting credits to his name. While he was known primarily for his comedic work in the likes of 9 To 5, Tootsie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, and Inspector Gadget, he compiled an extensive set of dramatic roles as well such as WarGames, Cloak & Dagger and the aforementioned Boardwalk Empire, where he played Commodore Louis Kaestner.

Coleman trained as an actor with the famed Sanford Meisner in the late 1950s before he made his Broadway debut in 1961 with A Call on Kuprin. His first official screen credit came that year on an episode of the ABC police procedural Naked City. Coleman would soon be working regularly on TV, with appearances on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Outer Limits, The Fugitive, I Dream Of Jeannie and more.

Coleman found more prominent roles in the 1970s, such as a fire department chief in the 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno and the wealthy Jack Parker in the 1975 Western Bite the Bullet with Gene Hackman and Candice Bergen. He played Mayor Merle Jeeter in the satirical soap Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in 1976 and 1977. But it was his role as the odious boss Franklin Hart Jr. in 9 to 5 that launched him into fame as a character actor. Coleman would play the role of the comedic villain in several projects after including Tootsie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Hot to Trot, and more.

He would occasionally play against type, playing a computer scientist in WarGames and a father in Cloak & Dagger, and received his first Emmy nomination for his lead role in the short-lived sitcom Buffalo Bill. His Emmy win came with the TV film Sworn to Silence in 1987.

Coleman worked regularly all the way up to the early 2010s, appearing in the likes of You’ve Got Mail, Stuart Little, Inspector Gadget, and the 1993 adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies. His later TV roles included the CBS drama The Guardian, the animated series Recess, FOX’s sitcom Drexell’s Class and much more. Coleman received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2014, and his final on-screen role was as John Dutton Jr., the father of Kevin Costner’s lead character, in Yellowstone in 2019.

On behalf of 411, our condolences to the family, friends and many fans of Mr. Coleman.

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Dabney Coleman, Jeremy Thomas