Richard Deacon

Active - 1954 - 1984  |   Born - May 14, 1922   |   Died - Aug 8, 1984   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Very early in his stage career, Richard Deacon was advised by Helen Hayes to abandon all hopes of becoming a leading man: instead, she encouraged him to aggressively pursue a career as a character actor. Tall, bald, bespectacled and bass-voiced since high school, Deacon heeded Ms. Hayes' advice, and managed to survive in show business far longer than many of the "perfect" leading men who were his contemporaries. Usually cast as a glaring sourpuss or humorless bureaucrat, Deacon was a valuable and highly regarded supporting-cast commodity in such films as Desiree (1954), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Kiss Them For Me (1957), The Young Philadelphians (1959) and The King's Pirate (1967), among many others. Virtually every major star who worked with Deacon took time out to compliment him on his skills: among his biggest admirers were Lou Costello, Jack Benny and Cary Grant. Even busier on television than in films, Richard Deacon had the distinction of appearing regularly on two concurrently produced sitcoms of the early 1960s: he was pompous suburbanite Fred Rutherford on Leave It to Beaver, and the long-suffering Mel Cooley on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Deacon also co-starred as Kaye Ballard's husband on the weekly TV comedy The Mothers-in-Law (1968), and enjoyed a rare leading role on the 1964 Twilight Zone installment "The Brain Center at Whipples." In his last decade, Richard Deacon hosted a TV program on microwave cookery, and published a companion book on the subject.

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