James Noble, Who Played Gov. Gatling on TV's 'Benson,' Dies at 94

James Noble (right) and Robert Guillaume on 'Benson.'

The actor also starred on Broadway in '1776' and potrayed Bo Derek's father in '10.'

James Noble, who played the scatterbrained Gov. Eugene X. Gatling on the long-running ABC sitcom Benson, has died. He was 94.

Family spokesman Douglas Moser told The New York Times that the actor suffered a stroke last week and died Monday at Norwalk (Conn.) Hospital.

Benson, which ran for seven seasons (1979-86), starred Robert Guillaume as the title character, the same role he played on ABC's Soap. (Both comedies were created by Susan Harris.) On the spinoff, Benson started out as Gatling's director of household affairs but eventually became lieutenant governor.

Benson and Gatling then ran against each other for governor, a race that went undecided when the series ended with an unresolved cliffhanger.

Gatling, a widower, was a cousin of the sisters Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) and Mary Campbell (Cathryn Damon) of Soap.

A native of Dallas, Noble attended Southern Methodist University in his hometown, served as an engineering officer in the Navy during World War II and studied under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York.

He worked as an assistant stage manager in the 1949 Broadway production The Big Knife, directed by Strasberg, then acted that year in The Velvet Glove. Starting in 1969, he played John Hancock in the popular musical 1776 before appearing in the 1972 film adaptation.

In 1979, Noble played Bo Derek's father in 10 and Kaufman, an adviser to the president (Jack Warden), in Being There. His film résumé also included Dragonfly (1976), Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) and Chances Are (1989).

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