Richard Deacon was one of the most recognizable and memorable character actors on television from the 1950’s until his death in 1984. Born in Philadelphia, Deacon intended to be an actor in a leading role. While working with actress Helen Hayes, she told him that he would probably never be cast a leading man but encouraged him to be a character actor. That proved to be excellent advice which provided steady work for him for decades.
A bald, bespectacled man with a beautiful baritone voice and authoritative presence, he appeared in scores of TV shows such as Mister Ed, Donna Reed, Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, Make Room For Daddy, and The Mothers In Law, to name a few. He was typically cast in the role of a humorless and foul-mood individual. He even had a part in the movie, “The Happy Hooker Goes To Washington.” But he is best remember in two roles in two separate sitcoms from the 1950’s and 1960’s.
In the hit sitcom Leave It To Beaver (1957-1963), Deacon played the father of Wally Cleaver’s best friend Lumpy Rutherford. Fred, as Deacon’s character was known, was also the business partner of Ward Cleaver, Wally’s dad. Fred always thought the best of Lumpy yet was ignorant about his extracurricular activities outside of school, so when Lumpy would embarrass the family, Fred would say, “Lumpy you goof!” When in the company of Ward, when Fred was be on his way, he would say, “well, Ward old man, see you at the salt mines tomorrow!”. The Beaver show ran one season on the CBS Television Network then moved to ABC until its cancellation in 1963.
He is probably best known for his role as Mel Cooley, the brother of Alan Brady on the Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966 on CBS). Mel was the producer of the Alan Brady Show (which was supposedly a network show) and his job was to keep the writers of the show (Van Dyke, Rose Marie, and Morey Amsterdam) on point so that Alan (played by Carl Reiner who was the producer of the Van Dyke Show in real life) didn’t yell and screen at him. In this role, Deacon was that humorless, foul mood character to the writers but a total wimp when he had to deal with Alan Brady. Deacon made appearance on this show concurrently with appearances on The Beaver Show.
In real life, Deacon was a lifelong bachelor and a gourmet cook. He wrote a series of cookbooks and later hosted a show on Canadian TV on microwave cooking. On August 8, 1984, Deacon passed away from heart disease and his remains cremated.
Thank you, Mr. Deacon, for being a part of television’s golden era. Remember our veterans and those who gave their lives so that we can be free this Memorial Day weekend. See you next time.
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