Actor Pat Corley, 'Murphy Brown' Bartender, Dies at 76

Actor Pat Corley, who served sage advice along with drinks as Phil the barkeep on "Murphy Brown," has died. He was 76.

Corley, a native of Dallas, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 11 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to his son, actor-comedian Jerry Corley. The elder Corley had undergone surgery for the placement of coronary stents, his son said Thursday.

Pat Corley's five-decade career included roles in the films "Coming Home," "True Confessions" and "Against All Odds."

He appeared on "Murphy Brown," the CBS sitcom starring Candice Bergen as a hard-driving TV newswoman, from 1988-96. Among his other TV roles was a questionable baseball team owner on "The Bay City Blues" and coroner Wally Nydorf on "Hill Street Blues."

The latter role was his favorite by far, his son said.

"It was meaty," Jerry Corley said. "He got to really do work, and on television it's usually just small pieces."

His performance drew praise from one highly valued source.

"Laurence Olivier called him up and said, 'That's the finest television acting I have ever witnessed,'" Jerry Corley recounted. "My dad's not starstruck, but he was, 'Oh, man.'"

Corley got his start in theater. He appeared in summer stock in California, where he met his wife, Iris, also an actress. After moving to New York he acted in on- and off-Broadway plays.

Besides Jerry Corley, his survivors include son Kevin, daughters Troy Corley and Christina Pratt and 12 grandchildren. Iris Corley died a year ago and a daughter, Michelle, died about 10 years ago at age 29, Jerry Corley said.

A memorial service was scheduled for Saturday in Northridge.