‘Dobie Gillis’ Star Dwayne Hickman Dies @ 87

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis star Dwayne Hickman has died at 87, journalist George Pennacchio confirms.

With Bob Denver on Dobie (Image via CBS)

Hickman died of complications of Parkinson's disease.

Born in Los Angeles on May 18, 1934, Hickman's older brother was movie actor Darryl Hickman (b. 1931), who became a noted child actor in films, most famously in 1945's Leave Her to Heaven.

Playing a teen, he was well into his 20s (Image via CBS)

Dwayne worked as an extra in The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Men of Boys Town (1941). He made his first credited film appearance in 1945's Captain Eddie, and also had credited roles in The Return of Rusty (1946), The Secret Heart (1946) and The Boy with Green Hair (1948), starring the recently departed Dean Stockwell (1936-2021).

While Darryl continued as a movie actor, Dwayne shone on TV. He made his debut on the 1954 series Public Defender. After appearing on The Lone Ranger (1951) and The Loretta Young Show (1954), he won what became his breakthrough role, playing Chuck MacDonald on The Bob Cummings Show (1955-1959) for 155 episodes.

Not impressing Annette Funicello (Image via AIP)

Thanks to that head start, Hickman became a TV phenomenon as the titular star of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963). It was only the second show ever to focus primarily on teenagers (the first being Meet Corliss Archer in 1951), and the first one on a major network.

Pilot footage from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis:

Hickman's Dobie was a charming, bottle-blond schemer on a series that addressed teen issues in a way so many other shows did not. In fact, the show's use of Bob Denver (1935-2005) as Dobie's beatnik buddy made it the first show to acknowledge the nascent Beat Generation. Sheila Kuehl (b. 1941) later spoke of how her smart character Zelda, who crushed on Dobie, was a prefeminist icon:

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis lasted just shy of 150 episodes. He was so popular he branched out into singing — albeit briefly.

When his signature series was over, Hickman was pushing 30 and was typecast.

He starred in the film Cat Ballou (1965) and in the AIP movies Ski Party, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini and Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (all 1965).

He was all over TV in the '60s and '70s, including in commercials, reprising his role as Dobie for the TV movies Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis? (1977) and Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis (1988), last playing the part on an episode of Hi Honey, I'm Home (1992).

Hickman also appeared on the series Love, American Style (1969, 1972 & 1973), Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1975), and Murder, She Wrote (1990), and made cameos in the TV movie High School U.S.A. (1983) and the feature A Night at the Roxbury (1998).

Hickman's last recurring role was on the series Clueless (1996-1999), and his final performance was in the 2005 movie Angels with Angles.

Fed up with the roles he was being offered, Hickman had taken to working behind the scenes as a director and producer in television. From 1977-1988, he was a programming exec at CBS. In his later years, he reportedly became a painter.

Hickman was married three times. He was wed to actress Carol Christensen (1937-2005) from 1963-1972, Joanne Papile from 1977-1981, and is survived by his wife, actress and voice-over artist Joan Roberts (b. 1952), to whom he had been married since 1983.

He is also survived by his brother, Darryl, who turned 90 last year, and by his two children.

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