Charles Kimbrough, Emmy-Nominated Actor Who Played Jim Dial In Murphy Brown, Has Died At 86

As is the case with so many actors who are able to find fame and fortune on television, Charles Kimbrough was primarily a stage actor. Most people will remember him for his work on “Murphy Brown,” but upon hearing word of his passing, my mind immediately jumped to two shows by Stephen Sondheim. The amount of times I have listened to him croon the melancholically hopeful tune “Sorry-Grateful” from the original Broadway cast recording of “Company” is immeasurable, a performance for which Kimbrough received his sole Tony nomination in 1971. The same goes for watching the filmed Broadway production of “Sunday in the Park with George” (my favorite musical of all time), where he plays the hilariously elitist art critic Jules paired with the great Dana Ivey. In some ways, his performance in “Sunday” is a precursor to what he does in “Murphy Brown” that would delight millions.

Prior to his time on the television show, Kimbrough would appear on Broadway on a regular basis. Rarely a year passed between productions. He was an actor who could maneuver his way between both straight plays and musicals, a rarity for Broadway actors. Now, not every show he did was a hit. He was in a revival of Luigi Pirandello’s “The Rules of the Game” that only lasted 12 performances, but that is a rousing success compared to the musical appropriately “One Night Stand” which didn’t even make it to opening night, shuttering after just eight previews. But it didn’t matter. He could always find the next gig. When you are a genre and form straddling character actor, you can work. His “Murphy Brown” career is a one in a million shot, but Charles Kimbrough’s stage career is one every actor should look to for inspiration.

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