Richard Deacon (actor)

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Richard Deacon
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Born (1921-05-14)May 14, 1921
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died August 8, 1984(1984-08-08) (aged 63)[1]
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Cardiovascular disease
Alma mater Bennington College
Occupation Film and television actor
Years active 1953–1984

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


This tall, bald and usually bespectacled character actor often portrayed pompous, prissy, and/or imperious figures. He made appearances on The Jack Benny Program as a salesman and a barber, and on NBC's Happy as a hotel manager. He had a brief role in Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds (1963) as Mitch's (Rod Taylor) neighbor who advises Melanie (Tippi Hedren) that Mitch has gone to Bodega Bay for the weekend. He played 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.

In Billy Wilder's 1957 film adaptation of Charles Lindbergh’s The Spirit of St. Louis, Deacon portrayed the chairman of the Columbia Aircraft Corporation, Charles A. Levine, who, in February 1927, refused to sell Lindbergh his company's recently acquired Bellanca monoplane for Lindbergh’s trans-atlantic flight unless his company could choose the pilot.[2]

His best-known roles are milksop Mel Cooley (Producer of "The Alan Brady Show") on CBS's 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".[3] He co-starred as Tallulah Bankhead's butler in a classic episode of The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour called "The Celebrity Next Door". Deacon played Roger Buell on the second season of TV's The Mothers-in-Law (1967–1969), having replaced Roger C. Carmel in the role. He played "Principal 'Jazz-Bow' Conroy" in The Danny Thomas Show (1958). He also appeared in the 1960 Perry Mason episode The Case of the Red Riding Boots as Wilmer Beaslee.

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 Désirée, where he played Jean Simmons' elder brother, an 18th-century Marseilles silk merchant. Philadelphia-native Deacon played the role of Morton Stearnes' butler, George Archibald, whose courtroom testimony is a turning point in The Young Philadelphians (1959), starring Paul Newman. He played an imbibing Justice of the Peace, Reverend Zaron, in the classic 1957 Budd Boetticher-directed western Decision at Sundown.

Deacon appeared in many sitcoms, including It's a Great Life, The People's Choice, How to Marry a Millionaire, Guestward, Ho!, Pete and Gladys, The Donna Reed Show, The Real McCoys (in the episode "The Tax Man Cometh", he clashes with series star Walter Brennan as Grandpa Amos McCoy over property tax assessments in the San Fernando Valley), Get Smart, Bonanza (a deceitful character who cheats the Cartwrights during their visit to San Francisco), and The Rifleman (episode "The Hangman", in an uncredited role). In episode 5 of the first 1964 season of The Munsters, "Pike's Pique", he plays a Water District Commissioner, Mr. Pike, buying the underground right to lay pipe. In The Addams Family, he administers Cousin Itt a battery of psychological tests in the May 1965 episode "Cousin Itt and the Vocational Counselor".[4] In 1966, he appeared on Phyllis Diller's short-lived television sitcom, The Pruitts of Southampton.[5] He also guest starred in the NBC family drama National Velvet, and in the ABC/Warner Bros. crime drama Bourbon Street Beat, and played Mr. Whipple on The Twilight Zone in the 1964 episode "The Brain Center at Whipple's". In 1967, Deacon played Ralph Yarby, director of security for lumber baron D.J. Mulrooney, in Disney's The Gnome-Mobile. In 1968, he played Dean Wheaton in the Walt Disney film Blackbeard's Ghost. He also was an occasional panelist in the 1970s/early 1980s versions of Match Game.

In 1969, he co-starred on Broadway as Horace Vandergelder in the long-running musical Hello, Dolly!, reuniting him onstage with Diller, who played the musical's zany title character.[5]

In 1983, Deacon reprised his role of Fred Rutherford in the television movie Still the Beaver, a sequel to the TV series Leave it to Beaver, which aired from 1957 to 1963. When the television movie spawned a series of the same name on The Disney Channel, he was to reprise the role once again but passed away weeks before the series began production.

In 1984, Deacon had a cameo role in the teen comedy film Bad Manners (also known as Growing Pains).

Personal life[edit]

A lifelong bachelor, Richard Deacon was forced to be a closeted gay man,[6] whose secrecy enabled him to work for companies like Disney and other family-friendly studios.[7] Deacon was a gourmet chef. In the 1970s and 1980s, he wrote a series of cookbooks and hosted a Canadian television series on microwave cooking.[1]


Deacon died from cardiovascular disease in 1984, at age 63. His remains were cremated.

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Richard Deacon Dead at 62;A Comic Film and TV Actor". The New York Times. 11 August 1984. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  2. ^ The Spirit of St. Louis (book), 1993 Minnesota Historical Society Press, pp 71–76
  3. ^ Leave It to Beaver (1957 TV series), episode: "It's a Small World" at IMDb
  4. ^ The Addams Family TV series, episode: "Cousin Itt and the Vocational Counselor" at IMDb
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Webb, Clifton and David L. Smith (2011). Sitting Pretty: The Life and Times of Clifton Webb. Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 219. ISBN 978-1604739961. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  7. ^ Griffin, Sean (2000). Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: The Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out. New York: NYU Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-0814731239. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 

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