Richard Deacon photo

Richard Deacon

Birth name:
Date of Birth:
8 August 1921 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Height:
6' 2" (1.88 m)
Richard Deacon was the bald, bespectacled character actor most famous for playing television producer Mel Cooley on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" from 1961 to 1966. In the first season of "Dick Van Dyke," he continued to appear on his previous series, "Leave it to Beaver," concurrently, playing Fred Rutherford on the latter show.Born on May 14, 1921 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the tall, bass-voiced Deacon took to the boards as a stage actor. At the beginning of his career, stage legend Helen Hayes told Deacon that he would never become a leading man but encouraged him to become a character actor. It was good advice, as Deacon's show business career lasted decades and only was terminated by his death.Because of his looks and authoritative voice, Deacon usually was typecast as a humorless or foul-tempered authority figure. He became a highly regarded supporting-player in motion pictures, complimented by many of the leading actors he played opposite of, including Jack Benny, Lou Costello, and Cary Grant. But it was in television that Deacon really thrived.It was his five-year gig on "The Dick Van Dyke Show", where he earned television immortality playing the long-suffering brother-in-law of Alan Brady (the faux-TV star for whom Dick Van Dyke and his companion writers, Morey Amsterdam and Rose-Marie, wrote for). Deacon's character was constantly harassed by Amsterdam's diminutive character Buddy Sorrell. After the show ceased production (still at the top of the ratings, Van Dyke had terminated the series in order to pursue movie stardom), Deacon co-starred on the TV situation comedy The Mothers-in-Law (1968) with Kaye Ballard and Eve Arden. (Deacon replaced original series co-star Roger C. Carmel as Ballard's husband in the second season after Carmel was fired from the series by producer Desi Arnaz for refusing to accept a pay-cut.)After the show was canceled, Deacon returned to work as a free-lance actor. Back on the boards, Deacon appeared in the long-running Broadway production of "Hello Dolly" as Horace Vandergelder, opposite Phyllis Diller as the eponymous heroine in the 1969-70 season. Deacon continued appearing on television and in the movies until his death.In real life, Deacon was a gourmet chef. In the 1980s, he hosted a Canadian TV program on microwave cookery, and even wrote a companion book on the subjectOn the night of August 8, 1984, he was stricken by a heart attack in his Beverly Hills home. He was rushed to Cedars Sinai Hospital, where he died later that night. He was 63 years old.
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