American Actor Ray Teal is remembered as the reliable Sheriff Roy Coffee from the American western series Bonanza. The television show, which was set in the 1860s in Virginia City, Nev., follows the adventures of the Cartwright family, which often involve the participation or intervention of Sheriff Coffee. Sheriff Coffee was Teal's most memorable gig, and he starred on the show from 1960 until its end in 1972. But Teal's storied acting career began long before he stepped foot onto the Bonanza set.
Ray Elgin Teal was born in Grand Rapids, Mich. in 1902. He began his entertainment career as a saxophone player, becoming the bandleader at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Teal later performed in vaudeville shows as well as on the cabaret circuit. His first successful foray into acting was as a bit-part player-- An actor with five lines or less in a movie, yet someone who plays a part crucial to the story line. Teal enjoyed this line of work because he could make a living without being in the spotlight. Of course, his lack of fame would change later in his career.
"I don't want fame," Teal told the Terre Haute Tribune in July 1950. "That would kill me. Professionally, that is. I'm safe in this business as long as no one recognizes me."
Although he was years away from his stint in Bonanza at this point, Teal was already playing the part a law enforcement officer in many of his roles, including in Ace In The Hole, The Secret of Convict Lake, Flaming Feather and many more, according to IMDB. Teal's first larger film roles came in Western Jamboree and Northwest Passage. He also starred as in Apache Trail, as Little John in The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, as well as in The Best Years of Our Lives, The Desperate Hours, Band of Angels, Rage at Dawn, Along The Great Divide, Ambush at Tomahawk Gap, Gunman's Walk, The Men, Decision at Sundown, Judgment at Nuremberg, One-Eyed Jack, The Wild One, Cattle King and Bullet for a Badman, among others.
His first recurring television role was as a police officer in the NBC sitcom and variety show Where's Raymond?, which was later dubbed The Ray Bolger Show. Throughout the '50s and '60s, Teal appeared in many TV series, including Cheyenne, The Lone Ranger, The Alaskans, Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, Green Acres and The Rifleman. He acted alongside James Garner and Jack Kelly in multiple episodes of Maverick, and he also played Capt. McNelly in Tales of Wells Fargo. He also starred in Broken Arrow, Dennis The Menace and many other shows. His later roles included the 1970 Western film, Chisum.
Teal played countless roles in his over 40-year career, and as seen by his myriad of different roles, he was one of the most versatile actors of his time. After Bonanza ended in 1972, Teal played one more major role as Judge Homer Bayne in the TV movie The Hanged Man. Ray Teal passed away in Santa Monica, Cal. on April 2, 1976 at age 74. His exact cause of death has never been released, but he is said to have died from natural causes. Teal was married to Louise Laraway Teal, who passed away in 1998. The legendary actor is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, Cal.
Enjoy all things country?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.