Dwayne Hickman, the actor and television director who, despite many accomplishments throughout his life, will be remembered by a generation of baby boomers for his role as Dobie Gillis, has passed away. He was 87 years old.
Hickman died of complications from Parkinson’s disease at his Los Angeles home on Sunday, according to a statement from family representative B. Harlan Boll. He was surrounded by family members when he died, he added.
Although Hickman went on to appear in other TV shows and films, as well as successful behind-the-scenes careers as a publicist, talent recruiter for a prominent Howard Hughes-owned casino in Las Vegas and director of television programming for CBS, he could never escape his public relationship with Dobie.
“Oh, my God, it’s Dobie Gillis! I grew up with you! former President Clinton told him when the two met while Clinton was governor of Arkansas.
“Now that’s good,” Hickman, who was also an accomplished painter, told a reporter at an exhibition of his work in St. Louis in 2003. “It’s very nice to see how Dobie works. Gillis was a lot of baby boomers, who are always nice when I meet them.
His autobiography, co-written with Joan Roberts Hickman, his wife, was published in 1995. It was titled “Forever Dobie”.
Hickman had played small roles in films and television shows as a youth, but had given up acting in 1950 to concentrate on his studies at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles. After graduation he entered Loyola University.
“I was in the art program and was heading into architecture when I got a call from my old agent towards the end of my freshman year,” he recalls in an interview in 2003. “He said he had a role for me on ‘The Bob Cummings Show’. “
Hickman went on to play Chuck MacDonald, the teenage nephew who tried to get some of the action from his Uncle Bob while Cummings’ character of Bob Collins worked as a glamorous girl photographer. Hickman, meanwhile, continued his studies in parallel, eventually earning a degree in economics from Loyola.
“The Bob Cummings Show” (later called “Love That Bob”) ran from 1955 to 1959, and towards the end of its run, Hickman performed a pilot for author Max Shulman about a 16-year-old lover. year old named Dobie Gillis who pursued but could never win the hearts of nearly every girl he saw.
“The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” marked by lively humor and a brilliant young cast that also included Bob Denver, Warren Beatty and Tuesday Weld, was an instant hit when it debuted in 1959.
“The main contradiction is that Dobie never gets the girl,” Hickman said. “It’s false aggression; whatever he tries in life turns against him and pushes him to the last place. As a result, Hickman’s Dobie would often spend part of the show standing in front of a copy of Rodin’s “Thinker” statue, philosophizing about his clumsy efforts for life and love.
As “Dobie Gillis” continued through 1963, and the characters in Hickman and Denver grew older (both actors were already in their mid-twenties when the series began), viewers saw them go from high school to college, as well. that at a brief and awkward stint in the American army,
Both in high school and college, veteran actor William Schallert was their regular teacher. Although Steve Franken quickly replaced Beatty as Gillis’ wealthy rival, Sheila James Kuehl (later elected to multiple terms in the California Legislature) remained Dobie’s sole ardent contender. Kuehl’s Zelda Gilroy was also the only girl Dobie had never realized she loved, although by the 1988 televised reunion movie “Bring Me Dobie Gillis Head”, Dobie and Zelda finally got together. married.
After the television show closed in 1963, Hickman continued to appear in films such as “Cat Ballou” starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin and popular images aimed at young people of the 1960s such as “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. “,” Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine “and” Ski Party. “Although his acting career slowed down in the 1970s, he continued to appear on television shows such as” The Mod Squad, “” Love, American Style “and” Clueless “.
When Denver, who went from beatnik Maynard G. Krebs in “Dobie Gillis” to the title role in “Gilligan’s Island,” directed the 2001 biopic “Surviving Gilligan’s Island: The Incredably True Story of the Longest Three Hour Tour in History “, Hickman appeared in flashback scenes as an executive for a television network.
After his acting career slowed down in the 1970s, Hickman became artistic director at the Hughes’ Landmark Hotel and worked for 10 years as a program director at CBS, overseeing shows such as “MASH,” “Dukes of Hazzard “,” Maude “and” Designing Women. “
He began studying painting in the late 1980s “so that I could learn how to do it right,” he said, and eventually saw his works on display in art galleries across the country. . Dwayne Bernard Hickman, brother of veteran actor Darryl Hickman, was born on May 18, 1934 in Los Angeles. He started playing at the age of 6, following his older brother in the business.
He has been married three times: to Carol Christensen, 1963-1972; Joanne Papile, 1977-81; and Joan Roberts, whom he married in 1983 and who survives him. Hickman and his first wife had a son, John, and he and his third wife had a son, Albert.
The late Associated Press editor-in-chief Bob Thomas contributed biographical information for this report.