Dabney Coleman
Coleman in 2001
Dabney Wharton Coleman[1]

(1932-01-03) January 3, 1932 (age 92)
Years active1961–present
Ann Courtney Harrell
(m. 1957; div. 1959)
(m. 1961; div. 1984)
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1953–1955[2]

Dabney Wharton Coleman (born January 3, 1932)[1] is an American actor. Coleman's best known films include 9 to 5 (1980), On Golden Pond (1981), Tootsie (1982), WarGames (1983), Cloak & Dagger (1984), The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), You've Got Mail (1998), Inspector Gadget (1999), Recess: School's Out (2001), Moonlight Mile (2002), and Rules Don't Apply (2016).[3]

Coleman's television roles include the title characters of Buffalo Bill (1983–1984) and The Slap Maxwell Story (1987–1988), as well as Burton Fallin on The Guardian (2001–2004), the voice of Principal Peter Prickly on Recess (1997–2001), and Louis "The Commodore" Kaestner on Boardwalk Empire (2010–2011). He has won one Primetime Emmy Award from six nominations and one Golden Globe Award from three nominations.


This section of a biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately from the article and its talk page, especially if potentially libelous.Find sources: "Dabney Coleman" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (January 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

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 Theatre[4] in New York City from 1958 to 1960.

In a 1964 episode of "Kraft Suspense Theater" titled, "The Threatening Eye", Coleman played private investigator William Gunther. Two years later, he played Dr. Leon Bessemer with Bonnie Scott as his wife Judy, neighbors and friends of the protagonist in Season 1 of That Girl, episode 3, "Never Change a Diaper on Opening Night". Noted for his moustache which he grew in 1973,[5] he appeared in the sitcom wearing horn-rimmed glasses and with no facial hair.[6] Other early roles in his career included a U.S. Olympic skiing team coach in the 1969 Downhill Racer,[7] a high-ranking fire chief in The Towering Inferno (1974),[8] 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).[9]

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.[10] 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). He broke from this type somewhat in other film roles. He appeared in the feature film On Golden Pond (1981),[11] playing the sympathetic fiancé of Chelsea Thayer Wayne (Jane Fonda). He also played a military computer scientist in WarGames (1983), and, in 1984, he played a dual role as a loving, but busy father, as well as his son's imaginary hero, in Cloak & Dagger.[12] He played an aging cop who thinks he is terminally ill in the 1990 comedy Short Time.[13]

Over the years, Coleman has 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 television film Sworn To Silence.[14] Coleman played a con artist Broadway producer in The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984),[15] 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 Lily 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.[16]

From 1997 to 2001, Coleman provided the voice of Principal Prickly on the animated series Recess.[17] He also played a philandering father in You've Got Mail (1998), as well as a less-than-impressionable police commissioner in Inspector Gadget (which reunited him with his Wargames co-star Matthew Broderick).

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.[16] His most recent roles were a small part in Warren Beatty's Howard Hughes comedy Rules Don't Apply in 2016,[18] and a guest role as Kevin Costner's dying father in Yellowstone, in 2018.[19]

On November 6, 2014, Coleman received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[20]

Coleman in The Towering Inferno (1974)

Personal life

Coleman resides in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood.[21] He attended Virginia Military Institute,[22][23] and the University of Texas at Austin.[24] He was drafted in the United States Army in 1953 and served in Europe.[23] He has been married and divorced twice. He was married to Ann Courtney Harrell from 1957 to 1959 and Jean Hale from 1961 to 1984. He has four children, daughter Meghan with his first wife, and daughter Kelly, son Randy and daughter Quincy with his second.[25]

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.[citation needed]

Coleman is an avid tennis player, winning celebrity and charity tournaments. He played mainly at the Riviera Country Club as well as in local tournaments.[26][27] His favorite sports team is the St. Louis Browns,[28] which are now the Baltimore Orioles.[29]



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 Carlisle
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 Andrews
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[30]
2001 Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street Principal Peter Prickly Voice[30]
2002 The Climb Mack
2002 Moonlight Mile Mike Mulcahey
2003 Where the Red Fern Grows Grandpa
2003 Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade Principal Peter Prickly Voice[30]
2003 Recess: All Growed Down Principal Peter Prickly Voice[30]
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 Webb Episode: "Anybody Here Seen Jeannie?"
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"
1967 The Flying Nun Submarine Captain Premiere episode
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 Television film
1973 Room 222 Gary Webster Sr. Episode: "Rights of Others"
1973 Dying Room Only Robert Mitchell Television film
1973 The President's Plane Is Missing Sen. Bert Haines Television film
1973–1991 Columbo Hugh Creighton / Detective Murray 2 episodes
1974 The F.B.I SAC Barnes Episode: "Survival"
1974 Bad Ronald Mr. Wood Television film
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 Television film
1975 Barnaby Jones George Clark Episode: "A Taste for Murder"
1975 Mannix Howard Graham Episode: "A Ransom for Yesterday"
1976 The Mary Tyler Moore Show Congressman Phil Whitman Episode: "The Seminar"
1976–1977 Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman Merle Jeeter 148 episodes
1977 Fernwood 2 Night Merle Jeeter Premiere 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 Television film
1978 The Love Boat Van Milner Episode "The Last Hundred Bucks"
1979 Barnaby Jones Brad Adamson Episode "Indoctrination In Evil"
1979 Diff'rent Strokes Fred Tanner Episode: "Arnold's Girlfriend"
1983–1984 Buffalo Bill Bill Bittinger 26 episodes
1986 Fresno Tyler Cane 5 episodes
1986 Murrow CBS President William S. Paley Television film
1987 Sworn To Silence Martin Costigan Television film
1987–1988 The Slap Maxwell Story Slap Maxwell 22 episodes
1991 Never Forget William Cox Television film
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"[30]
1997–2001 Recess Principal Peter Prickly Voice, main role
1997 Jumanji Ashton Phillips Voice, 2 episodes
1998 My Date with the President's Daughter President Richmond Television film
1998 Exiled: A Law & Order Movie Lieutenant Kevin Stolper Television film
2001–2004 The Guardian Burton Fallin 67 episodes
2002 The Zeta Project Thomas Boyle Voice, episode: "Hunt in the Hub"[30]
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[30]
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 Donald Newman Episode: "One Big Happy Family"
2019 Yellowstone John Dutton Jr. Episode: "Sins of the Father"

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


  1. ^ a b "Dabney Coleman". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved August 17, 2022.
  2. ^ https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/coleman-dabney-1932. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ "Dabney Coleman". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2008. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008.
  4. ^ Frankel, Glenn (2021). Shooting Midnight Cowboy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374719210.
  5. ^ it's displayed in an episode of Columbo, season 2 ('73), episode 8 (Double Shock), portraying police sergeant Murray.Sellers, John. "Boardwalk Empire's Dabney Coleman on His Career of Playing Hall of Fame Assholes," Vulture (New York), Friday, November 19, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2022.
  6. ^ ABC Photo Archives image of Dabney Coleman with Bonnie Scott, Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell from "Paper Hats and Everything," the 22nd episode of Season 1 of That Girl which originally aired on Thursday, February 9, 1967. Retrieved November 2, 2022.
  7. ^ Encyclopedia of Sports Films. Scarecrow Press. 2011. p. 135. ISBN 9780810876538.
  8. ^ Higgins, Bill (July 12, 2018). "Hollywood Flashback: The Biggest Stars Battled a 'Towering Inferno' in 1974". The Hollywood Reporter.
  9. ^ Film Actors. IFilm. 2003. p. 550. ISBN 9781580650465.
  10. ^ "Dabney Coleman Biography". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 1, 2022.
  11. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 4, 1981). "Fonda at His Peak in 'On Golden Pond'". The New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2022.
  12. ^ "Cloak & Dagger May Be the Most Messed-Up Kids Movie of the '80s". August 24, 2016.
  13. ^ "Short Time movie review & film summary". rogerebert.com.
  14. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 1437. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
  15. ^ Wiegand, Chris (May 25, 2021). "The Muppets Take Manhattan: an irresistible tribute to Broadway dreamers". The Guardian.
  16. ^ a b Harris, Will (October 23, 2012). "Dabney Coleman on Boardwalk Empire and why WarGames doesn't make sense". The A.V. Club.
  17. ^ Harris, Will (August 2021). "A Handful of Excised Moments from A Few A.V. Club Interviews". Retrieved June 1, 2022.
  18. ^ "Rules Don't Apply Review". IGN. November 16, 2016. Retrieved June 1, 2022.
  19. ^ "'Yellowstone': Dabney Coleman To Guest Star As Kevin Costner's Father In Season 2 Finale". Deadline Hollywood. August 22, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2022.
  20. ^ Saval, Malina (November 6, 2014). "Dabney Coleman Receives a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame". Variety. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  21. ^ Dabney Coleman, The Movieland Directory, 2010, archived from the original on October 12, 2013
  22. ^ McConnico, Patricia (February 2000). "Dabney Coleman". TexasMonthly. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  23. ^ a b Meisler, Andy (September 5, 1994). ""What? Mean Spirited? Dabney Coleman defends his persona"". The New York Times. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  24. ^ "Dabney Coleman '53". txphidelt.com. Retrieved June 25, 2022.
  25. ^ "Jean Hale". Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  26. ^ Wallace, David (July 11, 1983). "As TV's Macho Buffalo Bill, Dabney Coleman Finds That Sexism Breeds Success". People. Vol. 20, no. 2.
  27. ^ Scott, Vernon (January 17, 1982). "Dabney Coleman Gradually Working His Way to Top". UPI. Retrieved June 25, 2022 – via TimesDaily.
  28. ^ Christine, Bill (June 20, 1987). "Long Gone But Still Beloved : St. Louis Browns' Fans Work to Keep Strange Legacy Alive". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 17, 2023.
  29. ^ McCallum, Jack. "Slap Crackles and Pops," Sports Illustrated, November 16, 1987. Retrieved August 11, 2021
  30. ^ a b c d e f g "Dabney Coleman (visual voices guide)". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved November 20, 2023. A green check mark indicates that a role has been confirmed using a screenshot (or collage of screenshots) of a title's list of voice actors and their respective characters found in its opening and/or closing credits and/or other reliable sources of information.