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Richard Deacon
Born May 14, 1921(1921-05-14)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died August 8, 1984 (aged 63)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1953–1984

Richard Deacon (May 14, 1921 – August 8, 1984), born in Philadelphia, was an American television and motion picture actor.

Contents

Career

The bald and usually bespectacled character actor often portrayed imperious authority figures. He made appearances on The Jack Benny Show, as a salesperson and on NBC's Happy as a hotel manager. He had a brief role in Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds (1963), and a larger role in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), as a physician in the "book-end" sequences added to the beginning and end of this film after its original previews. He portrayed the real life and historically infamous Chairman of the Columbia Aircraft Corp, Charles Levine. In February of 1927 Mr. Levine would refuse to sell Charles Lindbergh his company’s recently acquired Bellanca monoplane for Lindbergh’s famous trans-atlantic flight unless his company could choose the crew. Deacon would immortalize the scene in the 1957 release of the Billy Wilder/Jimmy Stewart adaptation of Lindbergh’s Pulitzer Prize winning account of his famous flight, The Spirit of St. Louis.[1] His best-known roles are "Mel Cooley" on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) and "Fred Rutherford" on Leave It to Beaver (1957-1963), although Deacon played "Mr. Baxter" in the 1957 "Beaver" pilot episode "It's a Small World" [2]. He co-starred as Tallulah Bankhead's butler on a classic episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour called, "The Neighbor Next Door". He also played "Roger 'Cutes' Buell" on TV's The Mothers-in-Law (1967-1969). In Carousel (1956), the film adaptation of the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein stage musical, Deacon had a bit role as the policeman who admonishes Shirley Jones (Julie) and John Dehner (Mr. Bascombe) about Gordon MacRae (Billy Bigelow) in the famous "bench scene." It was one of the few films in which he did not wear glasses, as were his roles in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), and the 1954 costumer Desiree, where he played Jean Simmons' elder brother, an 18th-century Marseilles silk merchant.

Deacon also appeared in the sitcoms How to Marry a Millionaire, Get Smart; The Addams Family, in which he administers Cousin Itt a battery of psychological tests in the May 1965 episode "Cousin Itt and the Vocational Counselor"[3]; and The Munsters episode "Pike's Pique". In 1966, he appeared on Phyllis Diller's short-lived TV sitcom The Pruitts of Southampton (1966).[4] He also guest starred in many other sitcoms in the 1960s, including Mr. Ed and The Donna Reed Show. In 1969, he co-starred on Broadway as Horace Vandergelder in the long-running musical Hello, Dolly!, opposite Phyllis Diller.[4] He also appeared as a guest on the 1970s game show Match Game. He appeared too in Frank Lovejoy's detective series, Meet McGraw, which aired on NBC from 1957-1958.

Personal life

In real life, he was a gourmet chef. In the 1970s and 1980s, he wrote a series of cookbooks and hosted a television series on microwave cooking. He would stand behind a desk and say to customers, "I'm standing behind here because in a moment of spontaneity, I sold my pants."

Deacon died from cardiovascular disease in 1984. He was cremated.

Posthumously, it was revealed that Deacon was gay, and his interview with Boze Hadleigh was published in Hadleigh's Hollywood Gays,[5] although during his lifetime he made no particular secret of his sexual orientation.

References

  1. ^ The Spirit of St. Louis (book), 1993 Minnesota Historical Society Press, pp 71-76
  2. ^ Leave It to Beaver (1957 TV series), episode: "It's a Small World" at IMDB
  3. ^ The Addams Family TV series, episode: "Cousin Itt and the Vocational Counselor" at IMDB
  4. ^ a b Diller, Phyllis; Buskin, Richard (2005). Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse: My Life in Comedy. New York: The Penguin Group. p. 211. ISBN 1-58542-396-3.  
  5. ^ (ISBN# 1-56980-083-9/PN1995.9.H55H33), pp.67-76

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