Bill Bixby was an American actor, director, producer and entertainer whose career spanned more than three decades, including appearances on stage, films and television. series. He is possibly best known for his roles in the series "My Favorite Martian," "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" and "The Incredible Hulk."
Born Wilfred Bailey Everett Bixby III on January 22, 1934, in San Francisco, California, he was the son of Wilfred Everett Bixby II, a store clerk, and Jane McFarland-Bixby, a senior manager at I. Magnin & Co. In 1942. An only child, Bixby was eight years old when he attended Grace Cathedral and sang in the church's choir, later getting kicked out for accidentally shooting the bishop with a slingshot. In 1946, he was encouraged to take ballroom dance. He also attended during a service and was kicked out of the choir. In 1946, his mother encouraged him to take ballroom dance lessons. He also attended Lowell High School, where he perfected his oratory and dramatic skills as a member of the Lowell Forensic Society. After high school, he majored in drama at City College of San Francisco.
During the Korean War, Bixby was drafted into the Korean War and served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, primarily in the personnel management field with Marine Attack Squadron 141 at Naval Air Station Oakland, attaining the rank of private first class before his 1956 discharge. He later attended the University of California, Berkeley, departing just a few credits short of earning a degree and moving to Hollywood, California, where he had a string of odd jobs that included bellhop and lifeguard. He also organized shows at a resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and in 1959 was hired to work as a model in commercial work for General Motors and Chrysler.
One of his first starring roles in the musical "The Boy Friend" at the Detroit Civic Theater in 1961, later returning to Hollywood to make his television debut on an episode of "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." The role was followed by TV appearances in "Ben Casey," "The Twilight Zone," "The Andy Griffith Show," "Dr. Kildare," and "Hennesey." He also joined the cast of "The Joey Bishop Show" in 1962 and appeared in the movie "Irma La Douce," with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, directed by Billy Wilder. In 1963, he gained notoriety for doing comedy in the 1963 comedy "My Favorite Martian," with famed character Ray Walston with whom he became friends. After the series ended, he starred in the movies "Ride Beyond Vengeance," "Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding!" and two Elvis Presley Films, "Clambake" and "Speedway," becoming friends with Elvis as a result. By 1969, he was starring in another top-rated series, "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," as a widowed father to child actor Brandon Cruz, the two of them forming a bond that lasted several years. He also made his directorial debut on the series in several episodes.
During the 1970s, he made regular appearances on TV in "Ironside," "Barbary Coast," "The Love Boat," "Medical Center," "Love, American Style," "Fantasy Island," "The Streets of San Francisco" and "Rod Serling's Night Gallery." He also turned down the role as Marlo Thomas's boyfriend "That Girl," a role that went to Ted Bessell. though he later guest-starred on the show, and starred in two failed pilots. He married actress Brenda Benet, who had appeared on "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," in 1971. They had a son, Christopher, who died while going into cardiac arrest in 1981. Benet later took her life after their divorce.
Nominated for the Emmy Award for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 1971, Bixby won the Parents Without Partners Exemplary Service Award for 1972. He made two failed pilots afterward before succeeding with "The Magician" in 1973, but the show only lasted one season. His role on the show made him a respected member of the Hollywood magic community through The Magic Castle, an exclusive club for magicians.
In 1973, Bixby starred in the PBS play "Steambath" by author Bruce Jay Friedman with Valerie Perrine and Jose Perez. He also made recurring appearances on game shows, such as "Password" and "The Hollywood Squares." He directed four episodes "Mannix," once appearing on the series as a villain. In 1975, he made his only movie for Walt Disney Studios, "The Apple Dumpling Gang," with Don Knotts and Tim Conway, which was well received by the public. He followed up with "The Great Houdinis," with Paul Michael Glaser and Sally Struthers. Mostly known for TV, he appeared in the mini-series "Rich Man, Poor Man" and the pilot for the TV series "Fantasy Island." In 1976, he was honored with two Emmy Award nominations, one for Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in Drama or Comedy for The Streets of San Francisco and the other for Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in Comedy or Drama Series for "Rich Man, Poor Man."
In 1978, Bixby starred in the most famous role of his career as Dr. David Banner in the TV-movie, "The Incredible Hulk," launching an iconic TV series based on the Marvel Comics character. With his directorial influence on the show, he brought on cast members from his earlier series, such as Walston, Cruz and his wife Brenda Benet while forming a friendship with cast member Lou Ferrigno. After the series, he starred with co-star Marriette Hartley in the short-lived series "Goodnight Beantown," which he also directed.
After "Hulk" and "Beantown," Bixby worked almost entirely as a director for the short-lived television series, "Wizards and Warriors" and "Sledge Hammer" with David Rasche as well as a host for the 1984 Nickelodeon documentary "Against the Odds." From 1986 to 1987, he hosted the syndicated weekday anthology series "True Confessions," as well as two conspiratory specials,"The Elvis Files" and "The Elvis Conspiracy," regarding theories about the death of Elvis Presley beng hoaxed.
Due to continued popularity of "The Incredible Hulk," Bixby returned to play Dr. David Banner in three television movies, "The Incredible Hulk Returns," "The Trial of the Incredible Hulk" and "The Death of the Incredible Hulk," the last two of which he also directed. The first two were supposed to spin-off two more Marvel Comics characters, namely Thor and Daredevil, but the episodes didn't catch the success of the Hulk. He met and married Laura Michaels during one of the Hulk movies, but they divorced less than a year afterward. His last acting appearance was in an episode of "Diagnosis: Murder" in 1992 while directing episodes of "Blossom" with Mayim Bialik.
In Late 1992, hixby met and married artist Judith Kliban, widow of cartoonist B. Kliban. Since 1991, he had been diagnosed with prostrate cancer, talking about his treatment on such shows as "Entertainment Tonight," "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America," among others, but in 1993, he passed away in Century City, California with lingering complication from the cancer. He was fifty-nine years old.