Actor Dabney Coleman

Dabney Wharton Coleman (born January 3, 1932) is an American actor.

Coleman’s best known films include The Towering Inferno (1974), 9 to 5 (1980), On Golden Pond (1981), Tootsie (1982), WarGames (1983), Cloak & Dagger (1984), The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), You’ve Got Mail (1998), Recess: School’s Out (2001), Moonlight Mile (2002), and Rules Don’t Apply (2016).

Coleman’s television roles include the title character in Buffalo Bill (1983–1984), Burton Fallin in The Guardian (2001–2004), the voice of Principal Peter Prickly in Recess (1997–2001), and Louis “The Commodore” Kaestner in Boardwalk Empire (2010–2011). He has won one Primetime Emmy Award from six nominations and one Golden Globe Award from three nominations.

Early life

Coleman was born in Austin, Texas, the son of Melvin Randolph and Mary Wharton (née Johns) Coleman. He entered the Virginia Military Institute in 1949, then studied law at the University of Texas before turning to acting. He was drafted in 1953 to the United States Army and served in Europe.


Coleman is a character actor with roles in well over 60 films and television programs to his credit. He trained with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in New York City from 1958 to 1960.[citation needed] Early roles in his career included a U.S. Olympic skiing team coach in the 1969 Downhill Racer, a high-ranking fire chief in The Towering Inferno (1974), and a wealthy Westerner in Bite the Bullet (1975). He portrayed an FBI agent in Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan (1975).

He landed the main antagonist part of Franklin Hart, Jr., a sexist boss on whom three female office employees get their revenge in the 1980 film 9 to 5. It was this film that established Coleman in the character type with which he is most identified, and has frequently played since – a comic relief villain. Coleman followed 9 to 5 with the role of the arrogant, sexist, soap opera director in Tootsie (1982), further enforcing audiences’ identification of him as a smarmy, devious foil to a film’s main character. He broke from this type somewhat, however, in several other film roles. He appeared in the feature film On Golden Pond (1981), playing the fiancé of Chelsea Thayer Wayne (Jane Fonda), he also played a military computer scientist in WarGames (1983), a dual role as a loving, but busy father, and his son’s imaginary hero, in 1984’s Cloak & Dagger, and an aging cop who thinks he is terminally ill in the 1990 comedy Short Time.

Over the years, Coleman has consistently shifted between roles in serious drama and comedies, the latter of which often cast him as a variation of his 9 to 5 character. Coleman received his first Emmy nomination for his lead role, as a skilled, but self-centered TV host, in the critically acclaimed, though short-lived, TV series Buffalo Bill. In 1987, he received an Emmy Award for his role in the TV movie Sworn to Silence. Coleman played a con artist Broadway producer in The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), a lisping Hugh Hefner-ish magazine mogul in the comedy Dragnet (1987), Bobcat Goldthwait’s boss in the 1988 talking-horse comedy Hot to Trot, and befuddled banker Milburn Drysdale in the feature film The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), the last of which reunited him with 9 to 5 co-stars Lilly Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Continuing his streak of comic foils, Coleman played Charles Grodin’s sleazy boss, Gerald Ellis, in Clifford (1994), co-starring Martin Short.

From 1997 to 2001, Coleman provided the voice of Principal Prickly on the animated series Recess. He also played a philandering father in You’ve Got Mail (1998). Coleman appeared as a casino owner in 2005’s Domino. He received acclaim as Burton Fallin in the TV series The Guardian (2001–2004). For two seasons, from 2010 to 2011, Coleman was a series regular on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. His most recent roles were a small part in Warren Beatty’s Howard Hughes comedy Rules Don’t Apply in 2016, and a guest role as Kevin Costner’s dying father in Yellowstone, in 2018.

On November 6, 2014, Coleman received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Personal life

Coleman resides in Los Angeles, California. He has been divorced twice. He was married to Ann Courtney Harrell from 1957 to 1959 and Jean Hale from 1961 to 1984. He has four children, including three by Hale: Kelly, Randy, and Quincy.

In 1998, Coleman worked with fellow actor Bronson Pinchot at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, to help protect local forests and helped lead a campaign to educate others on how to care for and protect forests nationwide.

Coleman is an avid tennis player, winning celebrity and charity tournaments. He played mainly at the Riviera Country Club as well as in local sanctioned tournaments. His all-time favorite sports team is the St. Louis Browns.



Year Title Role Notes
1965 The Slender Thread Charlie
1966 This Property Is Condemned Salesman
1968 The Scalphunters Jed
1969 The Trouble with Girls Harrison Wilby
1969 Downhill Racer Mayo
1970 I Love My Wife Frank Donnelly
1973 Cinderella Liberty Executive Officer
1974 The Dove Charles Huntley
1974 The Towering Inferno SFFD deputy chief 1
1974 Black Fist Heineken
1975 Bite the Bullet Jack Parker
1975 The Other Side of the Mountain Dave McCoy
1976 Midway Captain Murray Arnold
1977 Viva Knievel! Ralph Thompson
1977 Rolling Thunder Maxwell
1978 The Other Side of the Mountain Part 2 Dave McCoy Uncredited
1978 Go Tell the Spartans Helicopter pilot Uncredited
1979 North Dallas Forty Emmett Hunter
1980 Nothing Personal Dickerson
1980 How to Beat the High Cost of Living Jack Heintzel
1980 Melvin and Howard Judge Keith Hayes
1980 9 to 5 Franklin M. Hart, Jr.
1980 Pray TV Marvin Fleece
1981 On Golden Pond Dr. Bill Ray
1981 Modern Problems Mark Winslow
1982 Young Doctors in Love Dr. Joseph Prang
1982 Tootsie Ron
1983 WarGames Dr. John McKittrick
1984 The Muppets Take Manhattan Martin Price / Murray Plotsky
1984 Cloak & Dagger Jack Flack / Hal Osborne
1985 The Man with One Red Shoe Burton Cooper
1987 Dragnet Jerry Caesar
1988 Hot to Trot Walter Sawyer
1990 Where the Heart Is Stewart McBain
1990 Short Time Burt Simpson
1990 Meet the Applegates Aunt Bea
1992 There Goes the Neighborhood Jeffrey Babitt
1993 Amos & Andrew Police Chief Cecil Tolliver
1993 The Beverly Hillbillies Milburn Drysdale
1994 Clifford Gerald Ellis
1994 Judicial Consent Charles Mayron
1997 Witch Way Love Joel
1998 You’ve Got Mail Nelson Fox
1999 Giving It Up Jonathan Gallant
1999 Inspector Gadget Police Chief Quimby
1999 Stuart Little Dr. Beechwood
1999 Taken Ethan Grover
2001 Recess: School’s Out Principal Peter Prickly Voice
2002 The Climb Mack
2002 Moonlight Mile Mike Mulcahey
2003 Where the Red Fern Grows Grandpa
2005 Domino Drake Bishop
2007 Hard Four Spray Loomis
2016 Rules Don’t Apply Raymond Holliday
2019 Aly & Aj: Star Maps Video short
TBA Someday Sometime Ivan Fogel Pre-production


Year Title Role Notes
1961 Naked City Resident Episode: “Landscape with Dead Figures”
1964 The Outer Limits Dr. Williams / Lt. Howard / James Custer 3 episodes
1964 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Tom Esterow Episode: “Dear Uncle George”
1964-1966 The Fugitive Steve / Officer George Graham / Floyd / Sergeant Keith 4 episodes
1965 I Dream of Jeannie Lt. George Conway 1 episode
1965 The Donna Reed Show Rallye Master Episode: “A-Haunting We Will Go”
1966-1967 That Girl Dr. Leon Bessemer 8 episodes
1967 The Invaders John Carter / Capt. Mitchell Ross 2 episodes
1967 Dundee and the Culhane Sheriff Wrenn Episode: “The Jubilee Raid Brief”
1968-1969 Bonanza Ivar Peterson / Clyde 2 episodes
1969 The Mod Squad John Episode: “The Guru”
1970 The F.B.I. Ty Episode: “Incident in the Desert”
1970 The Brotherhood of the Bell Agent Shepard
1973 The President’s Plane Is Missing Sen. Bert Haines TV movie
1973-1991 Columbo Hugh Creighton / Detective Murray 2 episodes
1974 Bad Ronald Mr. Wood TV movie
1974 Kojak Alex Linden Episode: “Therapy in Dynamite”
1974-1975 McMillan & Wife Walter Jennings / Hansen 2 episodes
1975 Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan Paul Mathison TV movie
1975 Barnaby Jones George Clark Episode: “A Taste for Murder”
1976 The Mary Tyler Moore Show Congressman Phil Whitman Episode: “The Seminar”
1976-1977 Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman Merle Jeeter 148 episodes
1977 Fernwood Tonight Merle Jeeter, Mayor of Fernwood Premier episode
1977 Quincy, M.E. Officer Peter O’Neil / Dr. Burt Travers 2 episodes
1978 Apple Pie “Fast Eddie” Murtaugh 8 episodes
1978 Maneaters Are Loose! McCallum TV movie
1979 Diff’rent Strokes Fred Tanner 2 Episodes “Arnold’s Girlfriend (Parts 1 & 2)”
The Love Boat 1 episode “The last hundred buck”
1983-1984 Buffalo Bill Bill Bittinger 26 episodes
1986 Fresno Tyler Cane 5 episodes
1986 Murrow CBS President William S. Paley TV movie
1987-1988 The Slap Maxwell Story Slap Maxwell 22 episodes
1991 Never Forget William Cox TV movie
1991 Columbo Hugh Creighton Episode: “Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star”
1991-1992 Drexell’s Class Otis Drexell 18 episodes
1994-1995 Madman of the People Jack “Madman” Buckner 16 episodes
1995–1997 The Pinocchio Shop Nolan Howell Series regular, 78 episodes
1997 The Magic School Bus Horace Scope Voice, Episode: “Sees Stars”
1997-2001 Recess Principal Peter Prickly Main cast
Voice, 127 episodes
1997 Jumanji Ashton Phillips Voice, Episodes: “The Palace of Clues” and “An Old Story”
1998 My Date with the President’s Daughter President Richmond Episode: “My Date with the President’s Daughter”
1998 Exiled: A Law & Order Movie Lieutenant Kevin Stolper TV movie
2001-2004 The Guardian Burton Fallin 67 Episodes
2006 Courting Alex Bill Rose 12 Episodes
2007 Heartland Dr. Bart Jacobs 6 episodes
2009 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Frank Hager Episode: “Snatched”
2010-2011 Pound Puppies Mayor Jerry Voice, 4 episodes
Season 1 only
2010-2011 Boardwalk Empire Commodore Louis Kaestner 24 episodes
2016 Ray Donovan Mr. Price Episode: “Federal Boobie Inspector”
2019 NCIS Cpl. John Sidney Episode: “The Last Link”
2019 For the People (2018 TV Series) Donald Newman Episode: “One Big Happy Family, S2 E5”
2019 Yellowstone John Dutton Episode: “Sins of the Father, S2 E10”

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Buffalo Bill Nominated
1984 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Nominated
1984 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
1987 CableACE Awards Actor in a Movie or Miniseries Murrow Nominated
1987 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Sworn to Silence Won
1988 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy The Slap Maxwell Story Won
1988 Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Sworn to Silence Nominated
1988 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series The Slap Maxwell Story Nominated
1988 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Baby M Nominated
1991 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star Nominated
2011 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Boardwalk Empire Won
2012 Won

External Links

Actor Dabney Coleman – Wikipedia

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