Television star Dwayne Hickman, known for lead roles in “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” and “The Bob Cummings Show,” died Sunday morning in Los Angeles after a battle with Parkinson’s disease, his family confirmed. He was 87.
The prolific actor played the titular role in “The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis,” a teen sitcom about an ambitious, girl-crazy boy that aired from 1959 to `1963 on CBS. The date of Hickman’s death, Jan. 9, also happens to be the birthday of his longtime friend and “Dobie Gillis” co-star Bob Denver, who died in 2005 at age 70.
Though much of his work was on the small screen, Hickman made his acting debut at age 6 as an extra in John Ford’s Oscar-winning film adaptation of “The Grapes of Wrath.” He went on to appear in a number of movie and TV projects, such as “The Boy With Green Hair” and “The Lone Ranger,” before scoring his breakout role in “The Bob Cummings Show.”
In the network sitcom, which ran from 1955 to 1959, Hickman portrayed Cummings’ on-screen nephew. He polished his comedic skills while sharing a set with the likes of George Burns and other revered comedians. Shortly thereafter, Hickman became the star of his own comedy show, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” and a poster child for the baby boom generation.
After wrapping “Dobie Gillis,” Hickman earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Loyola Marymount University and returned to the big screen, appearing in several teen movies produced and distributed by American International Pictures. Among his most notable film credits are 1965’s “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini” and “Ski Party,” as well as the Oscar-winning western “Cat Ballou,” starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin.
In the 1970s, Hickman served as a CBS network executive during the era of “Maude,” “M*A*S*H” and “Designing Women” before working as a TV director on series such as “Designing Women,” “Head of the Class” and “Sister, Sister.”
In addition to acting and directing, Hickman also flexed his artistic talents as an oil painter. He was known for house scenes and landscapes that have been featured in galleries and collections across the country.
In 1983, he married Joan Roberts, a fellow CBS player who starred in “Designing Women” and “Private Benjamin.” Hickman was previously married to actor Carol Christensen and singer Joanne Papile.
He is survived by Roberts and their son, Albert Hickman, as well as a second son, John Hickman, whom he shared with the late Christensen. In his memory, Hickman’s family is encouraging donations to the Actors Fund and Dream Club United, a humanitarian organization founded by Albert Hickman.