William Bailey Bixby (1934 - 1993) MP

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Nicknames: "Bill"
Birthplace: San Francisco, CA, USA
Death: Died in CA, USA
Occupation: Actor, director
Managed by: David Leeds
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William Bailey Bixby

Bill Bixby (born Wilfred Bailey Bixby) was an American film and television actor, director and frequent game show panelist whose career spanned over three decades. For the course of his long career, he was best known for his portrayal of Tim O'Hara in My Favorite Martian (1963–1966) on CBS, Tom Corbett, in The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969–1972) on ABC; and as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982), with Lou Ferrigno on CBS. He also starred in The Magician (1973) and Goodnight Beantown (1984).

An only child, he was a fourth-generation Californian of English descent. His father, Wilfred Everett Bixby, was a store clerk and his mother, Jane Bixby, was a senior manager at I. Magnin & Company. When Bixby was 8, his father enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and traveled to the South Pacific. He attended Lowell High School where he perfected his oratory and dramatic skills as a member of the Lowell Forensic Society. Though he received average grades, he also competed in high school speech tournaments regionally. After graduation from high school in 1952, against his parents' wishes, he majored in drama at San Francisco City College, where he was a classmate of Lee Meriwether. Later, he attended the University of California, Berkeley, just four credits short of earning a degree, Bixby dropped out of college and was drafted into the United States Marine Corps. He then moved to Hollywood where he had a string of odd jobs that included bellhop and lifeguard. He organized shows at a resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In 1959, he was hired to work as a model and to do commercial work for General Motors and Chrysler.

In 1961, Bixby was in the musical The Boyfriend at the Detroit Civic Theater, returning to Hollywood to make his television debut on an episode of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Bixby became a highly regarded character actor and guest-starred in many 1960s TV series including Ben Casey, The Twilight Zone, The Andy Griffith Show, Dr. Kildare and Hennessey. He also joined the cast of The Joey Bishop Show in 1962. During the 1970s, he made guest-appearances on TV series such as Ironside, Insight, Barbary Coast, The Love Boat, Medical Center, four episodes of Love, American Style, Fantasy Island and two episodes of The Streets of San Francisco. His appearance on The Streets of San Francisco earned him an Emmy Award nomination in 1976 for Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in Drama or Comedy.

Bixby took the role of young reporter Tim O'Hara in the 1963 CBS sitcom, My Favorite Martian. The show was a ratings winner in its first year, earning tenth place among all primetime shows. But by 1966, bad scripts and high production costs forced the series to come to an end after 107 episodes. After the cancellation of Martian, Bixby starred in four box-office movies: Ride Beyond Vengeance (1966), You've Got to Be Kidding (1967), and two of Elvis Presley's movies, Clambake (1967), and Speedway (1968). In 1973, Bixby starred in The Magician but the series only lasted one season. He became a popular game show panelist, appearing mostly on Password and The Hollywood Squares. He was also a panelist on the 1974 revival of Masquerade Party hosted by Richard Dawson. He had also appeared with Dawson on Cop-Out. He co-starred with Tim Conway and Don Knotts in the Disney movie The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975). Unlike the previous movies that Bixby starred in, this one received mediocre reviews.

Returning to television, he worked with Susan Blakely on Rich Man, Poor Man (1976). An accomplished amateur magician himself, he hosted several TV specials in the mid-1970s which featured other amateur magicians. In 1977 Bixby starred in a two-hour pilot movie called The Incredible Hulk, based loosely on the Stan Lee-created Marvel comic of the same name. Its success (coupled with some theatrical releases of the film in Europe) convinced CBS to turn it into a weekly science-fiction series which began airing in early 1978. The series was a hit and was seen in over 70 countries. The show made Bixby into a pop icon of the 1980s. Lou Ferrigno, who was a bodybuilder, played the Hulk. During the show's run, he invited two of his long-time friends, Ray Walston and Brandon Cruz, to guest star with him in different episodes of the series. He also worked on the show with Mariette Hartley, who would later star with Bixby in his final series, Goodnight Beantown, and Loni Anderson would also guest star with Bixby, during the second season, as well. Bixby directed an episode of Hulk in 1981; the series was cancelled soon after. Bixby was disappointed that his character was not cured of his condition in the final episode. Bixby was married three times. His first marriage was to actress and former Miss USA contestant Brenda Benet in 1971. She gave birth to their son Christopher on September 25, 1974. In addition to their earlier appearance together on Courtship, Benet guest-starred with him on The Incredible Hulk in 1980 just before they divorced. On March 1, 1981, Bixby's six-year-old son Christopher died suddenly of a rare throat infection. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific off the island of Maui like his grandfather's. Brenda Benet committed suicide in April 1982.

In 1989 he met Laura Michaels, who had worked on the set of one of his Hulk movies. The couple married a year later in Hawaii. In early 1991, Bixby was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent treatment for the disease. He was divorced in the same year. In late 1992, friends introduced him to the artist Judith Kliban, widow of B. Kliban, a cartoonist who had died of cancer. Bixby married Judith in late 1993. In early 1993, after rumours began circulating about his health, Bixby decided to go public with his illness, discussing his disease and the energy needed to keep him alive. As a result, he made several guest appearances on shows such as Entertainment Tonight, The Today Show, and Good Morning America among many others.

Unfortunately Bixby's cancer recurred and was diagnosed as inoperable. On November 21, 1993, Bill Bixby died of complications from cancer in Century City, California. His wife and another longtime friend of Bixby's, Dick Martin, were by his side. After his death, Bixby's ashes were scattered in the Pacific off the island of Maui just as his father's and son's had been. A week after Bixby's death, Judith and Bill's family were joined by many mourners at a private memorial. Martin, Loni Anderson, Bob Newhart, Mike Connors, Lou Ferrigno, Kenneth Johnson, Paul Williams, Mariette Hartley, Harry Nilsson, Ray Walston, Richard Crenna, Brandon Cruz, and Miyoshi Umeki were present.

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Bill Bixby's Timeline

1934
January 22, 1934
San Francisco, CA, USA
1974
September 25, 1974
Age 40
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1993
November 21, 1993
Age 59
CA, USA
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