Barry Coe, who starred in the 1957 film Peyton Place, was considered as a possible series regular on Bonanza and became familiar to a new generation of TV viewers as the Mr. Goodwrench character in commercials that ran in the 1970s and ’80s, died July 16 in Palm Desert, CA. He was 84.
Coe’s death from the bone marrow disease myelodysplastic syndrome was announced by his family.
A resident of Sun Valley, ID, in later life, Coe began his Hollywood career with small, uncredited roles in such mid-1950s fare as How to Be Very, Very Popular, D-Day The Sixth of June and TV’s Cheyenne, moving on to credited roles in the 1956 Elvis Presley hit Love Me Tender and TV’s The 20th Century-Fox Hour.
His breakthrough came in 1957’s Peyton Place, in the role of Rodney Harrington. Although the character would be played by Ryan O’Neal in the subsequent TV adaptation, Coe was an increasingly popular young actor, co-starring in Raoul Walsh’s 1959 A Private’s Affair with Sal Mineo and Barbara Eden, and with Clark Gable, Carroll Baker and Lee J. Cobb in that year’s But Not for Me.
In 1960, he shared a Golden Globe Award for most promising male newcomer with Troy Donahue, George Hamilton and James Shigeta. He was a series regular on ABC’s short-lived 1961 journalism drama Follow the Sun, and the following year appeared in an episode of Bonanza. According to the website Bonanza: Scenery of the Ponderosa, Coe was being considered as a replacement for series regular Pernell Roberts, but the idea was nixed by series co-star Michael Landon, who, according to the site, “was jealous of Coe and also considered him to be competition.”
Later credits throughout the 1970s included a role on Bracken’s World, and appearances on Mission: Impossible, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Arthur Hailey’s The Moneychangers and, in his final credited appearance, 1978’s Jaws 2.
From the late 1970s to early 1980s he appeared as the Mr. Goodwrench character in TV commercials for General Motors.
Coe is survived by his wife of 60 years, Jorunn Kristiansen Coe; three children and their spouses; and 10 grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation in his name to Habitat for Humanity.