Dabney Coleman, 1932-2024: Requiescat in Pace

Dabney Coleman, 1932-2024. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution)

On Friday, we were saddened to learn of the passing of an American icon of both big and small screen, as actor Dabney Coleman passed away at the age of 92. The cause of death was not released:


Dabney Coleman, the popular comic actor from 9 to 5, Tootsie and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman whose many redeeming qualities including a knack for portraying characters who had none, has died. He was 92. 

Coleman died Thursday at his home in Santa Monica, his daughter, singer Quincy Coleman, told The Hollywood Reporter.

“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,” she said. “As he lived, he moved through this final act of his life with elegance, excellence and mastery.    

Coleman headlined in several short-lived television programs, as well as his movie roles, the Hollywood Reporter story continued:

The Emmy-winning actor also portrayed an irascible talk show host in upstate New York on NBC’s Buffalo Bill, but that critical favorite lasted just 26 episodes.

He had at least three other cracks at headlining his own sitcom, but ABC’s The Slap Maxwell Story, Fox’s Drexell’s Class and NBC’s Madman of the People never made it through their first seasons before being canceled. 

My first exposure to Dabney Coleman's trademark irascibility was in his role as Dr. Joseph Prang in the 1982 soap opera spoof "Young Doctors in Love," which featured not only a great cast but the added humor of the background public-address announcements, including such gems as "Due to a mix-up in Urology, no apple juice will be served in the cafeteria today." Coleman's Dr. Prang was in charge of the incoming interns. When discussing specialties, he turned to "little person" Gary Friedkin's undersized Dr. Milton Chamberlain and asked, "Let me guess, proctology?"


Amazingly Dabney Coleman's start in show business was in selling Rambler automobiles on television.

 He also starred in the lead role in the sadly short-lived television show "Buffalo Bill," as well as a host of other television and movie roles, including "Nine to Five" and "War Games." 

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Coleman even took his trademarked insensitivity to guest roles, such as hosting "Saturday Night Live."

 Most recently, he played John Dutton Sr., father to Kevin Costner's John Dutton on "Yellowstone." Coleman showed his real skill in a heartbreaking scene, where the senior Dutton is essentially saying goodbye to his son.
 It's common enough to poke fun at celebrities, and honestly, too many of them give us good reason to do so. But there are others, like Dabney Coleman, who we remember not only for their talent, for their ability to make us laugh, to make us think, and to make us feel, but for the parts of our own lives we remember them being indirectly involved in. I remember watching "War Games" on our first cable television hook-up with my infant daughter in my arms; that infant is now 42 years old. I remember sitting in that same chair and watching "Buffalo Bill," and the name Dabney Coleman associated with any film or TV show would make me give it some consideration.

Rest well, Mr. Coleman. The world of entertainment was a better place for your involvement.


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