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The Dick Van Dyke Show

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Richard Deacon

Comic actor Richard Deacon built a reputation for playing pompous, stuffy, balding, overbearing men, mostly in TV comedy shows throughout the 1950s and 1960s. His film appearances were usually small but memorable roles.

Richard Deacon was born in 1922 in Philadelphia. From 1956 to 1969 he was steadily employed in one sitcom after another. Among other roles, he played Sherman Hull, the resort manager on The Charlie Farrel Show, and Roger Finley on the short-lived series Date with the Angels. But Deacon's first classic character was created in the fall of 1957 when he was signed to play Fred Rutherford on Leave It to Beaver. In this role, Deacon's comedic range was evident as he portrayed both the egotistical braggart who was Ward Cleaver's colleague, and the fuddy-duddy stuffed shirt who was Lumpy's father.

In 1961, while continuing with sporadic appearances on Beaver, Deacon was hired to appear on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Here, he developed another classic character: Mel Cooley, Rob Petrie's boss and producer of The Alan Brady Show. Mel's main personality trait was his utter humorlessness -- ironic, considering he was producing a comedy show.

In 1967, Deacon played Phyllis Diller's nemesis, Mr. Baldwin, on The Pruitts of Southampton. The following year, he replaced Roger C. Carmel as Roger Buell on the final season of The Mothers-In-Law, which also featured Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard.

Deacon returned to prime-time television for one year as Sheriff Masters on the adventure series B.J. and the Bear. His classic TV guest spots include The Twilight Zone and The Munsters. He was also featured in the films The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956), which he considered his favorite, and Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963).

Despite his reputation as one of Classic TV's most joyless fuddy-duddies, Richard Deacon is warmly remembered. He died on August 8, 1984.