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Dabney Coleman, actor of ‘9 to 5’ and ‘On Golden Pond’ fame, dead at 92

Dabney Coleman seen in New York City in April 1990, actor of ‘9 to 5’ and ‘On Golden Pond’ fame, dead at 92.
George Chinsee/WWD/Penske Media/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Dabney Coleman seen in New York City in April 1990, actor of ‘9 to 5’ and ‘On Golden Pond’ fame, dead at 92.

By Alli Rosenbloom, CNN

(CNN) — Dabney Coleman, a veteran film and television actor known for roles in “9 to 5,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Tootsie,” has died. He was 92.

Coleman died on Thursday at his home in Santa Monica, according to a statement from his daughter Quincy Coleman sent to CNN by the late actor’s manager Jeff Goldberg.

“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,” Quincy Coleman’s statement read. “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.”

An Austin, Texas native, Coleman studied law and served in the US Army before pursuing acting as a career, according to a biography. His Hollywood career spans decades, beginning in the early 1960s up until his final credit in 2019, when he appeared on an episode of “Yellowstone.”

A gifted comedic actor who moved between movies and television, Coleman was often cast as a bad guy or at best, a lovable jerk. That included roles in the Academy Award-winning film “On Golden Pond,” the sci-fi drama feature “WarGames” and perhaps most famously as the firmly pre-#MeToo, highly lecherous boss in the movie “9 to 5,” in which he starred opposite Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

Coleman worked extensively in television through the 1960s and ‘70s, often in guest roles before landing the soap-opera spoof “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” He appeared in a recurring part on the sitcom “That Girl” in the mid-1960s, but another decade passed before he landed the role of Merle Jeter on “Hartman” in 1976, which Coleman, in a 2012 interview, would call “the turning point in my career.”

“That’s kind of where it all started, as far as people’s belief that I could do comedy, particularly that negative, caustic, cynical kind of guy,” he told the AV Club, in a nod to some his note notable roles like in “9 to 5.”

Coleman really broke out, though, in the 1980s, including supporting roles in the Oscar-winning comedy “Tootsie” opposite Dustin Hoffman, “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” and starring in a pair of critically acclaimed if relatively short-lived TV series, “Buffalo Bill” and “The Slap Maxwell Story.”

Coleman received Emmy nominations for both of those series, but won his only Emmy – out of six total nominations – for “Sworn to Silence” a 1987 dramatic TV movie. Coleman also won a Golden Globe in 1988 for his performance in “Slap Maxwell.”

Other roles included playing Mr. Drysdale in the movie version of “The Beverly Hillbillies” and the ruthless Commodore in the HBO drama “Boardwalk Empire” along with his more recent turn in the hit drama “Yellowstone.”

On Friday, Goldberg added that “it has been a great privilege to have represented Dabney and to have been able to call him my friend. He will be missed greatly.”

Coleman is survived by his children Meghan, Kelly, Randy, and Quincy, and grandchildren Hale and Gabe Torrance, Luie Freundl, and Kai and Coleman Biancaniello, according to his manager.

“The great Dabney Coleman literally created, or defined, really – in a uniquely singular way — an archetype as a character actor,” actor Ben Stiller wrote on X on Friday. “He was so good at what he did it’s hard to imagine movies and television of the last 40 years without him.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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CNN’s Brian Lowry contributed to this report.

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