Dabney Coleman, the bad boss of '9 to 5', dies at 92


Dabney Coleman, the beloved actor who played the famous scoundrel who supervised Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton in the movie “9 to 5,” has died. He was 92 years old.

Coleman's death was confirmed by his daughter Quincy Coleman, who said he died “peacefully and exquisitely” at his home Thursday afternoon.

“My father crafted his time here on Earth with a curious mind, a generous heart and a soul burning with passion, desire and humor that tickled humanity,” she said in a statement obtained by The Times. “While he lived, he moved forward in this final act of his life with elegance, excellence and mastery.

“A teacher, a hero and a king, Dabney Coleman is a gift and a blessing in life and death, as his spirit will shine through his work, his loved ones and his legacy… eternally.”

No cause of death was given.

The actor, who also starred in the television series “The Guardian” and “Boardwalk Empire” and had a guest role as John Dutton Sr. on “Yellowstone,” was nominated for six Emmy Awards. He won in 1987 for the television movie “Sworn to Silence.” He also starred in the films “Tootsie,” “On Golden Pond,” “War Games,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Where the Heart Is.”

“I like to say funny things, not say funny things. There's more acting involved than simply saying that supposedly funny line that many sitcoms are based on. “I don't want to make jokes,” the actor told The Times in 1991, when he earned a reputation as TV's king of curmudgeons on the offbeat TV comedies “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” “Buffalo Bill” and “ “The Slap Maxwell.” History.”

“I lean toward the bad,” said Coleman, who was in his 50s at the time. “I like that. It's fun and it will never stop being fun because you can't do it in your real life. At least you can't get away with it.”

Born on January 3, 1932 in Austin, Texas, to Melvin Randolph Coleman and Mary Wharton, the actor was the youngest of four children and was raised by his mother after his father died of pneumonia when Coleman was 4 years old. He grew up in Corpus Christi.

With a background as eclectic as his characters, Coleman studied at the Virginia Military Institute and served in the U.S. Army in Europe in 1953 and, as an avid player, played for the U.S. Army tennis team while stationed there for two years.

He continued his education at the University of Texas, where he studied law and met his first wife, Ann Harrell. Through her, he met actor Zachary Scott, who inspired him to drop out of college and pursue acting, a career to which he admits he came “late in life.” Coleman and Harrell married in 1957 and divorced in 1959.

Coleman and his second wife, Jean Hale, married in 1961. They traveled to Los Angeles, where he began appearing regularly on television on shows such as “Naked City” and “The Outer Limits.”

In the 1970s, she landed notable roles in “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and in the feature films “Downhill Racer” and “The Towering Inferno.” But his career as a comedy scoundrel took off in 1980 when he landed the role of the “sexist, selfish, lying, hypocritical bigot” Franklin Hart Jr. in Colin Higgins' radical feminist comedy, “9 to 5.” Coleman said that he had always “had more fun playing bad guys” and enjoyed the “rottenness” of his chauvinistic character.

“Any amount of rot he wants to show is perfect for this character because he has no redeeming quality,” he said in a 1980 interview. “He's a bad person, but that's the fun of it, but it's also the reason why anyone who take it seriously and say, 'Well, that's not how all male bosses are,' you're missing the point. “They missed what we were trying to do, which is try to make a fun movie.”

Looking back on his role in the film, Coleman was surprised to star in the middle of “these three icons,” he said in Brian Beasley's 2017 documentary “Not Such a Bad Guy: Conversations With Dabney Coleman.”

He played similar roles in “Modern Problems” and “Tootsie” and took on more serious roles in “On Golden Pond” and “Cloak and Dagger.” On television, she also starred in the acclaimed but short-lived series “Buffalo Bill” in the early 1980s and won a Golden Globe for her role in the late 1980s comedy “The Slap Maxwell Story.”

Coleman told The Times that he accepted a role on the comedy series “Drexell's Class” in 1991 to gain visibility that he believed could land him major feature film roles. At the time he wanted to work with filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. He granted his wish in 2010 when she appeared in the first two seasons of HBO's “Boardwalk Empire,” which was produced by Scorsese. He played Commodore Louis Kaestner, mentor to Steve Buscemi's Enoch “Nucky” Thompson in the mob drama.

The actor also had a memorable guest role on Kevin Costner's hit drama “Yellowstone,” appearing in the second season finale as Costner's father in the final moments of his life. The role was his last on-screen credit.

Coleman is survived by her children Meghan, Kelly, Randy and Quincy Coleman and her grandchildren Hale and Gabe Torrance, Luie Freundl and Kai and Coleman Biancaniello, according to her daughter's statement.

Former Times staff writer Patrick Kevin Day contributed to this report.

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