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Bill Bixby Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (92) | Personal Quotes (23)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 22 January 1934San Francisco, California, USA
Date of Death 21 November 1993Century City, California, USA  (prostate cancer)
Birth NameWilfred Bailey Everett Bixby III
Nickname Bix
Height 5' 9" (1.75 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The son of a sales clerk and a department store owner, Bill Bixby was the sixth-generation Californian born as Wilfred Bailey Bixby, on January 22, 1934, in San Francisco, California. An only child growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, he attended schools in the same area, took ballroom dance lessons, before attending Lowell High School, where he excelled in drama. After his graduation from high school, he attended San Francisco City College, where he majored in drama. He transferred to the University of California-Berkeley, where he majored in the pre-law program, but never stopped falling in love with his interest in acting. After almost graduating, he left his native San Francisco, to travel to Los Angeles, where he became a lifeguard and a bellhop.

Two years later, in 1959, two executives noticed him and hired him immediately for commercial work and modeling, in Detroit, Michigan. At the same time, he auditioned for theater roles. He joined the Detroit Civic Theatre Company and made his professional stage debut in the musical, "The Boy Friend". Long after his trip to Michigan, he continued doing commercial work and made numerous guest appearances on popular TV sitcoms.

He made his TV debut in an episode of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959). He also did many other roles, most notably as "Charles Raymond" in The Joey Bishop Show (1961). After many guest and recurring roles, he landed a co-starring role opposite Ray Walston in My Favorite Martian (1963), in which he portrayed a newspaper reporter playing host to a visitor from another planet. After the first season, it became a hit and Bixby became a household name to millions of fans who liked the show. The show was going well until its cancellation in 1966, which left Bixby in the dark, for the time being. However, he finally got the chance to go onto the big screen. The first of the four post-"Martian" 60s movies he played in was the Western, Ride Beyond Vengeance (1966). The following year, he played in Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding! (1967) and, soon after, he was approached by Elvis Presley to appear in both Clambake (1967), and Speedway (1968). Afterwards, he once again returned to series television, this time playing widowed father, "Tom Corbett", on The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969), based on the popular 1963 movie. After its first season, it became a much bigger hit than his first show and Bixby, heretofore one of Hollywood's most confirmed bachelors, changed his views on marriage and family, subsequently taking actress Brenda Benet as his bride and fathering a son. He also tried his hand at directing an episode of the series, called "Gifts Are For Giving", about Norman's highly treasured gift. After completing its second season, Bixby received an Emmy nomination for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, but didn't win. By its third season in 1972, the show had bad scripts and ABC decided to pull the plug.

Once again, Bixby was not long out of work and was offered a chance to star in a lead role as "Anthony Dorian/Anthony Blake", on his first and only NBC dramatic series called, The Magician (1973). The show focused on Anthony performing magic tricks which helped people who were in trouble, and in real-life, Bill became a fine magician, performing to both children and adults. But sadly, the show was canceled after one season due to its expensive costs.

After a seven-year absence from the big screen, he co-starred in another western, opposite Don Knotts and Tim Conway, in The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975). Like most of the theatrical movies he did, it was not a blockbuster at the box office, but was still an average hit. In late 1977, he was offered the role of "Dr. David Bruce Banner", in a two-hour pilot called, The Incredible Hulk: The Incredible Hulk (1977). About a physician/scientist who turned into a green monster whenever he became angry, the idea appealed to CBS, and several months later, they premiered a new science fiction-dramatic series, called, The Incredible Hulk (1978). When it debuted as a mid-season replacement, it became the #1 show in the United States, and in many other countries. His character became famous for ripping up shirts each time he turned into the Hulk, played by bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno. Bixby had wanted to direct some episodes, but the time he had to spend in the make-up chair for the transformation sequences made that problematical, and he managed to helm only one segment, "Bring Me the Head of the Hulk", in the fourth season. The series was canceled in 1981 (although the last few episodes didn't air until 1982).

Bixby, once again, came back to series television, acting in, producing and directing his last sitcom, Goodnight, Beantown (1983), on which he played "Matt Cassidy". Chosen for the role of "Jennifer Barnes", was one of Bixby's old friends, Mariette Hartley, who had won an Emmy for her guest appearance in The Incredible Hulk (1978) as Banner's second wife. The two played co-anchor newscasters of a Boston television station whose sparring on and off the air developed into friendship and respect. Discounting a brief, inconsequential return to the network's schedule in the summer of 1984, the series lasted for less than a year, from April 1983 to January 1984.

Bixby now decided to concentrate on directing and worked on Wizards and Warriors (1983), Goodnight, Beantown (1983) and Sledge Hammer! (1986). He also directed the pilot for a New York spy series, "Rockhopper". He also appeared in front of the camera as the host of the daytime anthology series, True Confessions (1985), which dealt with real-life crises of everyday people. Bixby additionally served as host for two shows targeting younger viewers: "Against the Odds", a series of biographies of prominent people, frequently from history, for the Nickelodeon cable channel; and "Once Upon a Classic", a collection of British TV adaptations of literary classics on PBS.

He came back to reprise his role of "Dr. David Banner" from The Incredible Hulk (1978) by acting in, producing, and directing the three spin-off movies: The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988), The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989) and The Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990). He also directed TV movies such as Baby of the Bride (1991) and Another Pair of Aces: Three of a Kind (1991).

In April 1991, while directing one of his last movies, he became very ill and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He underwent surgery and by December, his cancer seemed to be in remission, so he came back to guest star as "Nick Osborne" in a two-hour TV movie/pilot called Diagnosis Murder (1992). In mid-1992, while his cancer continued to be in remission, Bixby returned to work as a director to direct several episodes of the popular NBC sitcom, Blossom (1990), where he became the main director of the show. At first, he hid his illness from the cast and crew, until one of the producers found out, and then he announced publicly that he wanted to continue working until he could no longer do so. Prior to going public with his cancer, he directed a TV movie starring Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold, The Woman Who Loved Elvis (1993), which was his final directing project.

Unfortunately, the cancer returned by mid-1993 and, on November 21, 1993, six days after directing his last episode on "Blossom" (1991), Bill Bixby died at his home after a two-year battle with cancer at age 59. For over 30 years, he was in great demand and his big roles and directing credits have been a personal testimony to his fans. His life is gone, but his legacy lives on for years to come.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Richard Collins II

Spouse (3)

Judith Kliban (3 October 1993 - 21 November 1993) (his death)
Laura Jane Michael (18 December 1991 - 25 June 1992) (divorced)
Brenda Benet (4 July 1971 - 1979) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (4)

Calm, reasonable voice.
Performed professionally magic tricks.
Every one of his characters had a likable, mild-manner personality.
His glasses.

Trivia (92)

Born at 11:20 p.m. PST.
Cremated and ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii, USA.
After he filed for a divorce from his first wife (Brenda Benet), his 6-year-old son died of a rare infection and, a year later, his ex-wife took her own life.
After graduating from Lowell High School, he attended San Francisco College to pursue a major in acting. He was asked to go to the University of California-Berkeley to major in pre-law, but dropped out.
Classmate of Lee Meriwether
Actor Brandon Cruz's son Lincoln Bixby Cruz was named after him.
When The Incredible Hulk (1978) debuted, he was worried that his son Christopher would be scared to see his father turning into a green creature. Therefore, he wouldn't let the boy watch the show.
Member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
Son of Wilfred Bailey Everett Jr. and Jane Bixby; he was their only child.
Was an accomplished artist.
Was a contestant on The Dating Game (1965) three times, but never won a date.
Was three credits shy of graduating from college at the University of California-Berkeley.
Before he was a successful actor and director, he worked as a lifeguard and a bellhop.
Met his third and final wife, Judith Kliban, in Hawaii, just before his 59th birthday. [1993]
Was a professional magician.
Appeared frequently as a panelist on The Hollywood Squares (1965).
Tom Corbett, Bixby's character on The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969), was ranked #15 in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" [20 June 2004 issue].
Loni Anderson, a close friend of his, wrote a tribute in her book about his final days, prior to working on the set of Blossom (1990). Before he died, she saw him regularly only when he was visiting Nurses (1991).
His grandfather, Wilfred Everett, was a physician and surgeon, and was a University of California-Davis graduate in 1907.
He had 12 hobbies: painting, magic, sailing, hiking, fishing, swimming, farming, jogging, golfing, photography, cooking and carpentry.
Five days after his 18th birthday, he signed up for the Marine Corps Reserve; he was a senior in high school. He was honorably discharged on April 8, 1957.
As a teenager, he was a member of the quartet Uncalled Four.
Appeared with fellow comedian Richard Dawson on several game shows: the pilot of a trashy 1970s game show, Cop Out! (1972), Password All-Stars (1961), and Masquerade Party (1974), which Dawson hosted.
He appeared in three popular television shows that ran for at least three years: My Favorite Martian (1963), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969), and The Incredible Hulk (1978).
Starred in a pilot with Barbara Feldon that has never been aired.
Before he was a successful actor and director, he organized shows at a resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
1972: Won the Parents Without Partners: Exemplary Service Award for his role on The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969).
Met Brenda Benet at a beauty pageant. At the time he was 29 and she was only 18.
At least two actresses name him as their favorite actor: Mariette Hartley and Loni Anderson, both of whom worked with him on The Incredible Hulk (1978).
Graduated from Lowell High School in San Francisco, California, in 1952.
His father, Wilfred Bailey Everett Jr., died on June 4, 1971, just 4 weeks before Bill and Brenda Benet were married.
Remained good friends with Brandon Cruz during and after The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969). The friendship became that much stronger after the death of Bixby's son Christopher in 1981.
Appeared as a character named Banner twice: Harry Banner on That Girl (1966) and Dr. David Bruce Banner on The Incredible Hulk (1978).
Of English descent.
In The Incredible Hulk (2008), Bixby can be seen in an episode of The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969) as Dr. Banner (Edward Norton) flips through television channels. Bixby was also, of course, the original Dr. Banner.
Attended Grace Cathedral in the seventh grade. In one notable incident while singing in the choir, he shot the bishop using the slingshot during one service and was kicked out of the choir.
The entire cast of Blossom (1990) attended his funeral, with the exception of Mayim Bialik, who was on vacation with her family.
Collapsed on the Blossom (1990) set before he died.
Was very disappointed when The Incredible Hulk (1978) was canceled, after the fifth season, because of high rising costs.
Before he graduated, his parents were so concerned about his only hope for his chance at becoming an actor, that they wanted him to become either a lawyer, dentist or even a doctor, because his parents didn't have the appropriate tools to cope with this.
When he was 12, he mother taught him some manners. She talked him into taking ballroom dance lessons. In the middle of the lobby at one of the hotels where he used to dance in San Francisco, he once burst into an imitation of Jerry Lewis.
According to Dick Martin, Bixby hadn't been seeing Martin's proctologist for five years after Martin had been badgering him to visit their doctor. He agreed, but, at the very last minute, Bixby discovered he had a back problem. His prostate cancer had spread around his liver. He successfully underwent surgery twice, before it eventually came back.
Remained friends with Lou Ferrigno during and after The Incredible Hulk (1978).
Was very disappointed when The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969) was canceled at the end of the third season, allegedly because of his feuding with producer James Komack.
Best remembered by the public for his role as Tim O'Hara on My Favorite Martian (1963) and for his starring role as Dr. David Banner on The Incredible Hulk (1978).
Was a spokesperson for the Leukemia Society of America in the late 1970s.
Was raised in the same city as Barbara Eden.
Actors, weather forecasters, and game show announcers Nicolas Cage, Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Carey, Pat Finn, Rich Fields and Randy West, all said Bixby was one of their childhood television heroes.
Was a self-described libertarian.
His The Incredible Hulk (1978) co-star, Lou Ferrigno, stated on his own website that Bixby was one of his acting teachers.
His former co-star on The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969), Brandon Cruz, was reunited with Bixby on an episode of Bixby's The Incredible Hulk (1978). Cruz played a teenage boy who happened to know a lot about planes before Dr. Banner landed the plane.
Was a heavy smoker.
Was a die-hard fan of the music of Elvis Presley, who co-starred in two of his movies, Clambake (1967) and Speedway (1968). Long after Presley's death, he hosted two of the specials in Las Vegas called "Is Elvis Alive?".
15 years after his death, his mother, Jane, died on November 23, 2008. She lived to be 97.
His parents were opposed to his decision to take acting classes at San Francisco City College.
As of 2012, 30 years after the cancellation of The Incredible Hulk (1978), and more than 20 years after The Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990), he is still the only actor to have played Dr. Banner in more than one film. Eric Bana (Hulk (2003)), Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk (2008), and Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers (2012) have each played the role one time each. Even if Ruffalo plays the role a second time, Bixby has several years on the television series, and four television movies to his credit.
Was diagnosed with cancer at the same time as actor Michael Landon. Coincidentally, both Landon and Bixby were at the same hospital [5 April 1991].
Acting mentor and friend of Brandon Cruz and Lou Ferrigno.
Acting mentor was Ray Walston.
Was first choice for the lead role of Dr. David Banner of The Incredible Hulk (1978). At first, he was uneasy about the role, but after reading some comic books, he auditioned and won the role.
With the encouragement of his aunt Helen Schubert, Bixby entered into acting.
Bob Newhart and Mike Connors attended his funeral.
His father, Wilfred Bailey Bixby II, was a store clerk, and his mother, Jane MacFarland Bixby, was the manager of the department store.
Missed only 1 episode of The Incredible Hulk (1978), because Bixby was going through a divorce with Brenda Benet. They used clips to feature his character.
Had worked with ex-classmate Lee Meriwether on an episode of Barnaby Jones (1973).
Had worked with first wife Brenda Benet in episodes of four series: The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969), The Magician (1973), The Love Boat (1977) and The Incredible Hulk (1978).
Had turned down the role of Marlo Thomas's boyfriend in That Girl (1966), though he later guest starred on the show.
When Bixby was age 8, his father was enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and traveled to the South Pacific.
Longtime friend of Danny Thomas.
Bill Bixby passed away on November 21, 1993. Almost 2 years before his death, he made his final guest appearance on the debut pilot episode of Diagnosis Murder (1993) with Dick Van Dyke.
Was James Komack's first choice for the lead role of Tom Corbett in The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969).
Had guest-starred in episodes of both series that hailed his hometown of San Francisco: Ironside (1967) and The Streets of San Francisco (1972).
Began directing at age 36.
Was a private person.
Knew Chuck Norris very well.
Was a respected member of the Hollywood magic community, belonging to The Magic Castle, an exclusive club for magicians. During the show's popular, although short-lived production, Bixby as always, invited a few old friends along to co-star such as Pamela Britton, Kristina Holland and Ralph O'Hara.
An average student at Lowell High School, he primarily excelled in both Speech and Drama, and was a member of the Lowell Forensic Society. He also competed in high school speech tournaments regionally.
When asked if he would want his son, Christopher, to become an actor, that he would support his son in anything he wanted to pursue. Sadly his son, Christopher, died of a rare throat infection in early 1981.
Before he was a successful actor and director, he worked as a model and did commercial work for General Motors and Chrysler, in Detroit, Michigan.
Used to play golf with James Garner.
Attended Mayim Bialik's high school graduation party.
Susan Sullivan was the primary guest star on the very first episode of The Incredible Hulk (1978). Through much of the 1980s, Bill Bixby and Susan Sullivan were considered the king or queen, respectively, of quality television movies, series and mini-series of that period.
Was forced to wear contact lenses for his role on The Incredible Hulk (1978) for the 'White Eyes' sequences. He found them uncomfortable.
While starring in The Incredible Hulk (1978), Bixby was allergic to the makeup used for the scenes in which his character transformed into the Hulk. Location shoots and extensive special effects scenes meant that Bixby spent a lot of time on the set.
Met Laura Jane Michaels while working on The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989), in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, after he took over the directorial duties from Korea.
Was in a relationship with Yvonne Craig.
His ex-The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969) co-star Brandon Cruz said in an interview that he came from a broken home and Bixby took him in.
Frequently had drinks with James Garner.
When The Incredible Hulk (1978) was on the air, Bixby was very careful never to be photographed with his co-star, Lou Ferrigno in his Hulk makeup because he felt for photos to get out of the two of them together would destroy the illusion to children and fans of the show that they were not the same person. The tabloids of that era were always trying to get a picture of David Banner and the Hulk creature together but were unable to do so.
Acting ran in his family.
Served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1952 - 56.

Personal Quotes (23)

Everyone fantasizes. We all want to be something we're not.
I have learned that there is no way to succeed in anything unless you are willing to try--and trying means you run the risk of failure.
[on receiving the script for The Incredible Hulk (1978) pilot] I didn't even like the title. I wanted to make fun of it because of its name. I told my agent, "You've got to be kidding!" when he suggested I might be interested in it. He said, "Read it!" and so I took it home and thanks to his intelligence, I did read it. Right away I knew this could be done in the style of the monster pictures or the creature films of the 1940s. But one advantage we enjoy over the previous monster pictures is that the Hulk is not evil.
I'm a loner as a person, but then I always was, even as a child.
[on the cancellation of The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969)]: I cannot tell you how disappointed I was. I wanted that series to go on to the point when it came to the teenage stage and we could deal with these problems in an honest contemporary way. But our time slot was changed so often we weren't given a fighting chance. You can't expect people to find you at home when you change your address so often.
[on returning to work after the death of his son Christopher]: Work really was a catalyst by which I was able to maintain a sense of balance, and coming back...I don't know that you come back. You go on, you endure.
[When he decided to become an actor]: I have to go off by myself to keep a balance. I can't always be, 'Bill the actor'. I must stop and gain perspective so as not to confuse my role and my person.
[on gaining popularity before sinking]: First you feel defenseless...totally defenseless...To read descriptions by 'parties close to...' -- that wonderful First Amendment right that gives them the privilege to damage everybody's else's life -- and to make any kind of assumptions they choose to make for the sake of selling their papers. One of the reporters I spoke to once, said, 'What else can I do? They pay us so much money.' Well, whatever happened in this country to our own morality? I wonder now. I wonder as I watch the news. It isn't just the tabloids. The tabloids are a great part of it - it's a personal, terrible, hurtful thing to do to anybody. But I worry about the conscience of our own country as I look around and see it, and how life is becoming more and more meaningless.
[About living his own life]: I'm willing to make mistakes and I'm also willing to face them myself. I prefer that than having to answer for someone else. I've made a lot myself, but hopefully I won't repeat them. If you go through life and you haven't made any, it simply means you haven't taken any chances, and your obligation to life is to live it and to go forward because life in a sense is a series of successes and failures.
[In 1969]: Comedy fathers usually turn out to be dummies, while mothers are portrayed as being great...And why are fathers always older men on television? Many of my friends are young fathers with young children. I want to play the contemporary father.
[In 1993]: My prayer was that I would die in my sleep, you're going to have to take my life from me.
[In 1970]: The amazing thing is that when we're working in a scene together there's never a thought of conscious acting. Our natural affection for one another-the reality of it-is what appeals to the audience.
[In 1980]: In show business, you have to realize that everyone, in fact, is a freak-and that's something they don't tell you about when you go to acting school. People treat you differently because you happen to be a 'celebrity.'
I don't understand how people can be so ungracious and so unkind even in the face of death-they don't care. There is no respect for life. And I resent that and I resent the people who do it and make a living off of it and I think they should examine their own character.
[on directing]: It's not in the hands of anyone else. When I'm directing I'm the only one who knows what the end result will be and I enjoy taking responsibility.
[As to how the father should always bond with the son]: One father told me his 8 year old son and he didn't hit it off. Then along came our show. Every Wednesday night they go into the den, lock the door and watch the show together. Afterward they sit and talk about it, communicating like they never did before.
[on playing Tom Corbett]: You know, I've never played myself before, I've always portrayed some part. The thought scared hell out of me at first, but after three weeks of looking at the 'daily rushes' [samples of the day's shooting] I decided I like that man.
[In 1978]: I've stayed in this business because I believe the power of entertainment is in television. And that's why directing will be a big part of my future I fell that TV has been so good to me that I can best pay my dues to society this way.
[About Steambath]: I didn't do 'Steambath' to shape up my image as 'Eddie's Father,' but to remind people I'm an actor. It was a mature work responsibly approached and it attracted your not-so-average man on the street and said, 'Congratulations. I'd like to see more 'Steambaths' on television.' That's more than I'm used to. Usually, it's, 'Hey, you, sign this.'
Looking back. I think I learned more doing the industrial film work than I could have doing bit parts in Hollywood. In addition, while in Detroit, I made my stage debut in a Detroit Civic Theatre production.
[In 1979]: There is such a condescending thing about TV, as if we should get rid of it. The classics exist because of their universality and appeal overtime. Our approach too often implies that if a story is a classic piece of literature, it must be dull and boring. If TV can add showbusiness to the classics, more children will read them. Why shouldn't the 'Leatherstocking Tales' be stories about cowboys and Indians?
[Who talked about the many viewers who watched him on television despite their parents who in turn are still raging that their children are ruined]: We're not really very good in this country about being flexible. What difference does it make how kids are introduced to good stories?
[on comparing himself to Michael Landon's battle against cancer, at the same time] The day I was told I had cancer, Michael was in an office next door. When the big 'C' word hits you, it's very difficult to handle. It's terrible to be told. It was hard enough to hear about myself. But when I heard about Michael, I just sat down and cried.

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