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Murphy Brown Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

The popular TV series "Murphy Brown" followed the exploits of opinionated, but lovable, investigative journalist Murphy Brown (played by Candice Bergen) and her motley crew at the fictional newsmagazine "FYI." Acclaimed for its feminist lead heroine and insights into real-world politics throughout the early '90s, the series poked fun at everything from the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal to, more controversially, then-Vice President Dan Quayle's pointed criticisms on single parenthood — an attack he levied at the show itself when Murphy's character opted to raise a child on her own — often with hilarious, though thoughtful, results. 

Featuring a stellar cast led by Bergen, Faith Ford, Joe Regalbuto, Charles Kimbrough and Grant Shaud, "Murphy Brown" received widespread acclaim during its 10-season run from 1988-'98, earned 62 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and 18 wins, and even enjoyed a brief revival in 2018.

Unfortunately, now that so much time has passed since the show's original run, several key "Murphy Brown" cast members have passed away — some without the proper attention they deserved. This list is designed to honor the legacy of these actors, and help fans remember the lasting impact they made in their cherished roles so many years ago. 

Pat Corley

Pat Corley entertained audiences for over four decades. The actor kicked off his career with a brief role in 1968's TV series "N.Y.P.D." and went on to appear in everything from "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training" to "Moonlighting." And while gigs in popular shows such as "Murder, She Wrote" and "Night Court" are certainly commendable, Corley's most memorable role came on "Murphy Brown" as snarky bar owner Phil from 1988 to 1996.

Throughout the series, the "Murphy Brown" crew would frequent Phil's bar, aptly named Phil's, and listen to its owner's engrossing, often outlandish, stories regarding some of Washington D.C.'s most powerful individuals. The character passed away on the show in the Season 9 episode "Phil's Dead – Long Live Phil's," but returned for the series finale "Never Can Say Goodbye: Part 1" in 1998 claiming that he was forced to work with the C.I.A. in order to fake his death and go into hiding for knowing too much about the Whitewater controversy surrounding Bill and Hillary Clinton.

"Suffice to say, the skills of a bartender are lost on the Amish," he muses before urging Murphy to continue her battle with cancer — a subplot that ran through the entire final season. "If you're gonna lose this one, lose it big and loud. No going gently into that good night for you, kid. You are Murphy Brown," he says before two C.I.A. agents haul him away.

Following "Murphy Brown," Corley took part in half a dozen projects, including "Hey, Arnold," before dying of congestive heart failure in September of 2006 at the age of 76. In the "Murphy Brown" revival, Phil's Bar is run by Phil's sister Phyllis (Tyne Daly).

Robert Pastorelli

Robert Pastorelli portrayed Murphy Brown's philosophy-spouting, anti-capitalist house painter Eldin Bernecky as a recurring character for six seasons but eventually left the series to star in the short-lived TV show "Double Rush." Eldin made a surprise return to Murphy's home in the series finale, sharing his adventures painting "in a tiny little peasant village at the base of the Pyrenees." He returns to see how Murphy is handling her brush with cancer and, randomly, proposes to her in order to do the right thing — a bid Murphy predictably turns down, though she does allow Eldin to return to his original role painting politically charged murals about her home.

During his time on "Murphy Brown," Pastorelli certainly made his mark with his witty reflections on life and well-timed, hilarious rapport with star Candice Bergen. In fact, Eldin, who was based on real-life painter Gabe Kis, was so popular that, after four seasons spent as Murphy's consummate artist, the producers decided to keep him around as Murphy's nanny for a few more seasons.

Sadly, Pastorelli died on March 8, 2004 at the age of 49 from a narcotics overdose. The actor battled depression and heroin addiction following the mysterious death of his girlfriend in 1999, an event that coincided with his declining career.

Pastorelli left behind an impressive resume of TV and film appearances, including Kevin Costner's Academy Award-winning "Dances with Wolves," the Bruce Willis action thriller "Striking Distance," the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle "Eraser," and the John Travolta comedy "Michael." He was last seen in 2005's "Be Cool," also featuring Travolta.

Jay Thomas

Actor Jay Thomas appeared on "Murphy Brown" nine times during Seasons 2-4 as the lovable though morally inept tabloid talk show host Jerry Gold, who engaged in a romantic fling with Murphy for a time. The role nabbed Thomas two Emmys for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.

Thomas snagged the role after his previous stint on "Cheers" ended rather prematurely. As the story goes, Thomas, who played Eddie LeBec, husband of Rhea Perlman's Carla, from 1987-'89, appeared on a radio show and joked that the "Cheers" gig was "brutal" because "I have to kiss Rhea Perlman." The comments rightly angered Perlman, who complained to producers, leading to the character's offscreen death in the Season 8 episode "Death Takes a Holiday on Ice."

Luckily for Thomas, he secured the role on "Murphy Brown" and later went on to appear in films such as "Mr. Holland's Opus," "Monkey Business," "Dragonfly," and "The Santa Clause 2." The actor also appeared as Marty Grossman in the critically acclaimed series "Ray Donovan" from 2013-'17 before dying from cancer on August 24, 2017 at the age of 69.

Thomas was also known for his annual holiday appearances on "The Late Show with David Letterman," where he would often regale Letterman with "the greatest talk show story of all time," much to the delight of the late night host. 

John Hostetter

John Hostetter portrayed John, the stage manager at "FYI," appearing in 62 of the show's 247 episodes. His character was often left scrambling alongside Grant Shaud's uptight producer Miles Silverberg to refocus the crew whenever the news program flew off the rails, notably during an episode in Season 1 in which the FYI gang is held hostage by a gunman.

The actor certainly enjoyed plenty of success in Hollywood, appearing in high-profile TV shows such as "MacGyver," "Who's the Boss?," "NYPD Blue," "JAG," and "ER," and films such as "Heartbreak Ridge," "Beverly Hills Cop II," "No Way Out," and "Star Trek: Insurrection," to say nothing of his voice work as Bazooka on the animated series "G.I. Joe" and the film "G.I. Joe: The Movie." 

Later in his life, Hostetter took up painting. In an interview with Tami Salame on WDSC's Faces & Places, the late actor discussed how art ultimately became his creative passion, leading to his work with Jonah's Cat's Art Gallery in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Sadly, following an acting career that spanned nearly 30 years, Hostetter died on September 2, 2016 after a long battle with cancer at the age of 69.

Garry Marshall

Garry Marshall's role on "Murphy Brown" was of the supporting variety, but still notable. The acclaimed writer, producer, actor, and director appeared on the show from Seasons 6 through 9 as Stan Lansing, the extremely hands-on network president whose propensity for calling his staff "nitwits" and "idiots" led to plenty of hilarious (and prickly) encounters with the main cast.

Even so, this extended cameo was a blip on Marshall's overwhelming body of work that includes wearing a variety of hats on classic television shows such as "The Lucy Show," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Mork and Mindy," "Laverne & Shirley," and "Happy Days."

Marshall's talents bled onto the big screen as well — he directed pictures like "Nothing in Common" with Tom Hanks, "Overboard" with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, "Beaches" with Bette Midler, "Pretty Woman" and "Runaway Bride" with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, and "The Princess Diaries" with Anne Hathaway. He also has over 85 acting credits to his name, including memorable bits in "Hocus Pocus," "A League of Their Own," "Orange County," and Disney's "Race to Witch Mountain."

The beloved pop culture icon passed away on July 19, 2016 at the age of 81 from complications of pneumonia following a stroke.

Ritch Brinkley

Ritch Brinkley only appeared on 28 episodes of "Murphy Brown" but stood out as beloved cameraman Carl Wishnitski, who possessed a deep obsession for the show's titular star — so much so that he often crossed the line in terms of just how far he was willing to go to prove his loyalty to Murphy. At one point, in the Season 4 episode, "Birth," he even offers to deliver her son "right here on the floor where we first met" using nothing but a set of tools from his toolbox. The character last appeared on the Season 10 episode "A Butcher, a Faker, a Bummed-Out Promo Maker," during which he helps Murphy's crew covertly bust a butcher for unsanitary work practices.

Brinkley passed away on Nov. 5, 2015 at the age of 71, prompting "Murphy Brown" series creator Diane English to reveal in a tweet, "I wrote the part [of Carl] especially for him after he appeared on another show I produced, 'My Sister Sam,'" which is obviously why the role fit the actor like a glove.

Brinkley has 65 credits to his name, including films such as "Cabin Boy" with Chris Elliott and "Breakdown" with Kurt Russell, and a number of TV shows, including "Beauty and the Beast," where he played William the Cook in 15 episodes, "The Jeff Foxworthy Show," and "Weird Science."

Janet Carroll

Legendary actor Janet Carroll enjoyed a recurring cameo on "Murphy Brown" as Doris Dial, Jim Dial's stoic wife. During this time, she also enjoyed frequent parts on shows such as "Melrose Place," "Married... with Children," "Frank Leaves for the Orient," "Bronx Zoo," "Time of Your Life," and "Still Standing."

Still, Carroll is perhaps known for her breakout role as Tom Cruise's mother in the 1980s classic "Risky Business," a part that led to more lucrative endeavors such as Sidney Lumet's "Family Business," where she starred alongside Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, and Matthew Broderick, and later, the 1999 romantic comedy "Forces of Nature," which placed her opposite Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock.

She also appeared on TV shows such as "Scrubs," "Cagney and Lacey," "Hill Street Blues," "The Golden Girls," "3rd Rock from the Sun," "Beverly Hills, 90210," "Ally McBeal," and "Judging Amy."

Carroll died on May 22, 2012 after a long illness at the age of 71.

Julius Carry

Julius Carry first appeared in the "Murphy Brown" Season 5 episode "Black, White & Brown" as Mitchell Baldwin, the new VP of news who replaces Gene Kinsella and offers some drastic new changes to the network — and whose skin color brings about some "white liberal guilt" among the main cast. The character appeared in four other episodes, last appearing in the Season 8 episode "Old Flames."

The actor was known for his work as the villain Sho'nuff/The Shogun of Harlem in 1985's "The Last Dragon," but also appeared on classic TV shows such as "Newhart," "The Jeffersons," "The A-Team," "Grace Under Fire," "Boy Meets World," and "JAG." He also appeared in films such as "The Man with One Red Shoe," starring Tom Hanks, and the 2002 comedy "The New Guy."

His final credit is the 2006 TV movie comedy "The 12th Man," written by Dan Fogelman and Paul Shirley.

Carry passed away in August of 2008 following complications with pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, a tragedy that shocked many of his fans.

Colleen Dewhurst

In an inspired casting decision, Colleen Dewhurst was brought onto "Murphy Brown" to play Avery Brown, Murphy's equally hard-nosed mother, throughout the first three seasons of the show. The role earned the legendary actor plenty of acclaim and was set to expand into a unique storyline when Dewhurst suddenly died of cancer on August 22, 1991 at age 67.

Dewhurst won two Emmys for her portrayal of Avery, the second of which was awarded posthumously. Show creator Diane English was in the process of creating a new storyline that would have seen Avery remarry her husband Bill Brown (Darren McGavin). Instead, following Dewhurst's death, the series pivoted and featured the "FYI" team dealing with Avery's passing, a moment that was naturally hard on the cast and crew considering their fondness for her. 

Dewhurst won numerous awards throughout her 30-year career, appearing in films such as "The Cowboys" starring John Wayne, "Annie Hall" with Woody Allen, "The Dead Zone" with Christopher Walken, and the made-for-television film "The Glitter Dome." She also won Emmys for "Those She Left Behind" and "Between Two Women" in 1986 and played a recurring role in "Anne of Green Gables" and Disney's "Avonlea."

Darren McGavin

Darren McGavin appeared in a number of Broadway productions and TV shows beginning in the mid-1940s, notably the private eye series "Mike Hammer," before landing the supernatural made-for-TV film "The Night Stalker" in 1972. The success of that film, coupled with its sequel "The Night Strangler," led to the TV series "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" and parts in productions such as the holiday classic "A Christmas Story," the 1984 Robert Redford baseball drama "The Natural," the 1986 Arnold Schwarzenegger action pic "Raw Deal," and the Adam Sandler comedy "Billy Madison."

During this time, McGavin also enjoyed a bit part as Murphy Brown's father, Bill Brown, for which he earned an Emmy nomination. He only appeared in four episodes of the acclaimed show and made his final appearance in the Season 5 Christmas episode, "I'm Dreaming of a Brown Christmas."

McGavin died of natural causes on February 25, 2006 at the age of 83. The actor has some 183 credits to his name, including directorial gigs on the TV series "Riverboat" and the mystery thriller "Happy Mother's Day, Love George," starring Cloris Leachman, Ron Howard, and Bobby Darin, making him one of the more prolific actors of his time.

Walter Cronkite, Larry King

"Murphy Brown" featured quite the list of guest stars. Bette Midler, Julia Roberts, Michael Richards, Paul Reubens, Rosie O'Donnell, Elizabeth Taylor, Don Rickles, Sally Field, and even John F. Kennedy Jr. popped in for a spell, many of them sliding into the always-vacant role of Murphy's secretary.

Even so, some of the most notable appearances came in the form of popular media moguls such as Walter Cronkite and Larry King, who portrayed themselves in a couple of episodes. Cronkite, the legendary news anchor, appeared in three episodes, the first being the Season 2 episode "Roasted," in which he appears in a cold open to recall his vivid memories of FYI anchor Jim Dial, and later in the Season 5 episode "Ship of Phil's" and the Season 9 episode "And that's the Way it Was?"

Notably, "Murphy Brown" was among just a handful of projects Cronkite appeared in, the others being "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," the short "Spaceship Earth," the animated film "We're Back! A Dinosaur Story," the animated TV series "Liberty's Kids: Est. 1776" on which he provided the voice of Benjamin Franklin, and the 2009 film "21 and a Wake-Up," for which he performed the narration. Cronkite died on July 17, 2009 at the age of 92 after a long illness.

Famed host Larry King stopped in for two episodes, the first coming in Season 3's "Rootless People," and the second much later in the Season 9 episode "Phil's Dead – Long Live Phil's" in which he offered his own toast to the popular bar owner. Sadly, King died of sepsis on January 23, 2021 at age 87.

Dena Dietrich

Actor Dena Dietrich made a name for herself by starring in a series of Chiffon margarine commercials in which she portrayed an easily vexed Mother Nature throughout the 1970s. The ads often featured her wandering through nature eating what she thought was natural butter only to be told by a narrator that she was actually eating Chiffon margarine, causing her pleasant demeanor to give way to anger and a series of lightning and thunderclaps. She always ended the ad with the line, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!"

Dietrich also found fame working on TV shows such as "Adam's Rib," "Karen," "The Ghost Busters," "The Practice," "Golden Girls," "Harry and the Hendersons," and "Empty Nest" before guest starring on "Murphy Brown" as Phil's wife Phyllis in three episodes.

While Dietrich's appearance on "Murphy Brown" was noteworthy, she found plenty of acclaim on other shows throughout the '90s, including "NYPD Blue," "Boy Meets World," and "Mad About You." Her final credit is the 2007 action film "Sister's Keeper." She also served as a Screen Actors Guild national board member for nearly a decade.

Dietrich died of natural causes on November 21, 2020 at the age of 91.