Conrad Bain 2003 TVLand Awards

Conrad Bain at the 2003 TV Land Awards.

Conrad Stafford Bain (February 24, 1923–January 14, 2013) was a Canadian-American actor, best known for his role on the NBC sitcom Diff'rent Strokes. He played Ralph Norton in C.H.O.M.P.S.


Though he is usually sized up as an erudite gentleman, advice-spouting father or uptight, pompous neighbor, the acting talents of Conrad Bain were best utilized on stage and on TV. Born in Lethbridge, Alberta, on February 4, 1923, Conrad Stafford Bain was a twin son (the other was named Bonar) born to Stafford Harrison Bain, a wholesaler, and Jean Agnes Bain (née Young). Conrad enjoyed Canadian sports growing up (ice hockey, speed skating), but picked up an interest in acting while in high school.

Electing to train at Alberta's Banff School of Fine Arts after graduating, Bain met Monica Marjorie Sloan, an artist, while there. His acting pursuit was interrupted by World War II, when he subsequently joined the Canadian army. Picking up where he left off after his discharge, he studied at New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He also married Ms. Sloan in 1945 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen the following year. The couple went on to have three children: Jennifer, Mark and Kent.

Making his stage debut in a Connecticut production of "Dear Ruth" in 1947, Bain also appeared in "Jack and the Beanstalk" and a tour of "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" before making his off-Broadway debut in a 1956 Circle-in-the-Square revival of Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh," a production that made a star out of Jason Robards. Following an inauspicious Broadway bow in "Sixth Finger in a Five Finger Glove", which closed after only one day, he joined the Stratford (Ontario) Shakespeare Festival for their 1958 season, appearing in "A Winter's Tale", "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Henry IV, Part I".

Bain eventually found an "in" with daytime TV drama, which included a recurring role on Dark Shadows (1966) as an innkeeper, and a part on The Edge of Night (1956) in 1970. He broke completely away, however, from his trademark dramatics when the 49-year-old actor was "discovered" for prime-time TV by Norman Lear and offered a supporting role opposite Bea Arthur and Bill Macy in Norman Lear's landmark, liberally sliced comedy series Maude (1972). Bain was cast as Rue McClanahan's stuffy, conservative doctor/husband, Arthur Harmon, who usually was at political odds with free-wheeling feminist Maude Finlay.

The role moved Bain into the prime-time TV comedy character ranks. After the lengthy run of Maude (1972-78), he was given the green light by Lear to move into his own comedy series with Diff'rent Strokes (1978) as the wealthy father of a girl and adoptive father of two African-American boys. While young Gary Coleman may have stolen the show, the good-humored Bain remained a strong center and voice of reason until the show's demise in 1986. Three was not a charm when Bain went into a third new comedy series, Mr. President (1987), with Bain as a loyal aide-de-camp to "President" George C. Scott. The show, created not by Lear but by Johnny Carson, lasted only 24 episodes.

Other than a stage role in "Ancestral Voices" in 2000, Conrad Bain turned for a time to screen-writing but later comfortably retired to the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Moving to a Livermore, California, retirement home in 2008, wife Monica died a year later. Bain passed away there quietly of natural causes on January 14, 2013, less than a month short of his 90th birthday. His twin brother, Bonar, died in 2005.

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