Born in Canada in 1923, actor Conrad Bain is best known for playing Philip Drummond on the popular television series Diff'rent Strokes. After serving in the Canadian army during World War II, Bain studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. He later appeared on the All in the Family spin-off Maude (1972-1978) as Dr. Arthur Harmon, the comically uptight neighbor of title character Maude Findlay (Bea Arthur). Bain's big break came in '78, when he was cast alongside Charlotte Rae (Edna Garrett), Dana Plato (Kimberly Drummond), Todd Bridges (Willis Jackson) and fan-favorite Gary Coleman (Arnold Jackson) on Diff'rent Strokes. The show was an instant hit, airing for eight seasons before it was canceled in 1986. Bain died in California on January 14, 2013, at age 89.
Early Life and Career
Conrad Stafford Bain, best known for his role as Philip Drummond on the hit show Diff'rent Strokes, was born on February 4, 1923, in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. He was raised in Alberta, along with twin brother Bonar, by parents jean Young and Stafford Bain. Bain attended high school in Calgary, and after graduating, enrolled at the Banff School of Fine Arts. Instead of pursuing a college education, however, he enlisted in the Canadian army during World War II.
Discharged from the army, in 1948, Bain decided to pursue his long-held aspirations to become an actor (while he first became interested in the performance arts as a high school student, he didn't seriously consider an acting career until this time). He moved to New York, where he enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Beginning to land small parts on television and on stage while attending the school, Bain made his acting debut in New York in 1956, playing Larry Slade in the play The Iceman Cometh, penned by Eugene O'Neill.
In the early 1970s, Bain landed a part on the All in the Family spin-off Maude. He played Dr. Arthur Harmon, the comically uptight neighbor of title character Maude Findlay (Bea Arthur) on the show, which aired on CBS from 1972 to '78.
Bain's big break came in 1978, when he was cast on a new TV sitcom, Diff'rent Strokes. He played the wealthy, New York City-based benefactor Philip Drummond on the show, starring alongside Todd Bridges and fan-favorite Gary Coleman. The show's storyline centers on the lives of two African-American orphans, Willis (Bridges) and Arnold (Coleman) Jackson, who are taken in by Drummond and his daughter, Kimberly (Dana Plato). Actress Charlotte Rae played (Edna Garrett) on the series, which was an instant hit.
Bain, whose naturally authoritative yet pleasant demeanor resonated with viewers, was a perfect fit for the father-figure role of Drummond. On casting the actor, former NBC executive Fred Silverman explained, "[Bain] was kind of aristocratic and bearing. It was just that the combination of him and Gary Coleman was magic."
Continuing those sentiments, US Weekly senior editor Ian Drew deemed Bain's performance on Diff'rent Strokes a necessary component of its success, despite the widely held view that Coleman carried the show. "Even though Diff'rent Strokes was really based around Gary Coleman, Conrad Bain was an essential element," Drew said. "He really fit the mold. He really seemed like the rich guy. He was a little nerdy and a little unhip, and that's what balanced the show."
Diff'rent Strokes aired on NBC from 1978 to 1985, when it was canceled by the network due to poor ratings. The series then ran on ABC for one season, from '85 to '86, before it was canceled for the second and final time in March 1986.
Personal Life and Death
In 1945, Bain married artist Monica Sloan. The couple had three children together: Jennifer, Mark and Kent.
Conrad Bain died on January 14, 2013, at the age of 89, in Livermore, California.
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