Charles Kimbrough, Broadway Star & Jim Dial on ‘Murphy Brown,’ Dies @ 86

Charles Kimbrough, an acclaimed stage actor who gave life to rigid Jim Dial on the long-running TV classic Murphy Brown, died earlier this year at 86.

Kimbrough has said he was at first sad to be seen as stuffy — he later spun it to his advantage. (Image via CBS)

ExtraTV reports Kimbrough died January 11, as confirmed by his son John.

This delay — I always wonder how word does not get out via actor friends — was even more noteworthy when Kimbrough's wife Beth Howland (1941-2015) died at 74 on New Year's Eve 2015. Her death went unreported for a full six months, but that was due to a stipulation she made. I still can't get over that people in Hollywood didn't leak that sad news sooner.

Kimbrough was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on May 23, 1936.

He wed fellow actor Mary Jane Wilson in 1961, traversing the country in shows with her.

Most prominently, Kimbrough was the first Harry in Stephen Sondheim's (1930-2021) musical Company in 1970, which was arguably Sondheim's finest hour. For his work in the show, Kimbrough earned a Tony nomination. After his divorce from Wilson in 1991, he much later wed Company co-star Howland in 2002. They were together until her death, from cancer.

Kimbrough & Howland with Lucille Ball superfan Michael Stern a couple of years before Howland died (Image by Michael Stern)

Kimbrough was in the original Broadway cast of Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George (1984) and in the original off-Broadway cast of A.R. Gurney's (1930-2017) Sylvia (1995) with Sarah Jessica Parker (b. 1965). His last of many Broadway appearances, including a celebrated turn in Candide (1974), was the 2012 revival of Harvey starring Jim Parsons (b. 1973).

Kimbrough's first movie was Martin Ritt's (1914-1990) The Front (1976) and he first appeared on television on Kojak (1975-1976).


RIP Charles Kimbrough aka Jim Dial on MURPHY BROWN. Check out his 1981 TV ads ... with Andrea Martin!

♬ original sound - Matthew Rettenmund/BoyCulture

While he made many other TV appearances — including on commercials — his stately, very proper Jim Dial on Murphy Brown became his signature. He appeared on every episode of the series during its original (1988-1998) run and returned for a three-episode arc on the series' 2018-2019 revival.

For his work on the show, he was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

Other film work: The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979), Starting Over (1979), It's My Turn (1980), the TV movie For Ladies Only (1981), Switching Channels (1988), and The Wedding Planner (2001).

His distinguished voice landed him The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) and its 2002 video sequel — he voiced Victor, a role he repeated for various spin-offs and games.

Kimbrough, who had been retired since the revival of Murphy Brown was canceled, is survived by his son with Wilson; his stepdaughter with Howland; and his sister.

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