Dwayne Hickman of ‘The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis’ Has Passed Away At Age 87


One of the more popular television sitcoms between 1959 and 1963 was The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and a lot of that had to do with its leading man, Dwayne Hickman, who played the title character. Sadly, the actor has passed away at age 87 from complications of Parkinson’s Disease.

Hickman, who was born May 18, 1934 in Los Angeles, California, graduated from Cathedral High School in 1952, fully intending on becoming a Passionist priest. But he abruptly changed directions and attended Loyola Marymount University instead to pursue acting. He made his debut in The Grapes of Wrath (1939) as an extra. Small roles followed in Captain Eddie (1945), The Hoodlum Saint (1946) and Faithful in My Fashion (1946). A variety of other films would follow, as well as some TV guest appearances.

RALLY ‘ROUND THE FLAG, BOYS!, Dwayne Hickman, 1958. TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.

His first big role was as Chuck MacDonald on the sitcom The Bob Cummings Show, which ran from 1955 to 1959 and also introduced to a wide audience actor Don Adams, who would go on to play bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart in Get Smart!.


‘The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis’

THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS, (aka DOBIE GILLIS), Bob Denver, Dwayne Hickman, Sheila James Kuehl, ‘The Chicken from Outer Space,’ (Season 1, Episode 23, aired Mar 8, 1960), 1959-63. photo: TV Guide/courtesy Everett Collection

The thing that really launched him was The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which had the distinction of being the first American sitcom that starred teenage characters rather than their being in supporting roles. The concept of the show is fairly straight-forward: the title character is all about achieving popularity, money and catching the attention of beautiful girls and, naturally, his failure to do so. Bob Denver (best known as the Skipper’s little buddy on Gilligan’s Island) played best friend Maynard G. Krebs, a bongo-playing jazz fan who also happened to be television’s first beatnik character. A total of 144 episodes were produced over its four year run.

THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS, front row from left: Frank Faylen, Florida Friebus, Bob Denver; 2nd row from left: Dwayne Hickman, Ron Ely, Herbert Anderson; standing behind: Warrene Ott, Myrna Craig, Tuesday Weld, Frances McHale, TBD; back row: Bunny Henning, Marlene Willis, Judi Sherven, 1959-63. photo: TV Guide/courtesy Everett Collection

In 1961, Hickman gave an interesting interview to The Courier-Journal in which he admitted, “I’ve never liked acting, do not consider myself a good actor. I’ve just played myself, somewhat exaggerated, it’s true, but still myself. I’ve never even had the challenge to try to be a good actor. I may go back to college, I don’t know. But two years from this date, I shall quit acting once and for all, with a million dollars.”

CAT BALLOU, from left: Dwayne Hickman, Tom Nardini, Micheal Callan, Jane Fonda, John Marley, Lee Marvin, 1965

We’re not sure about the million dollars, but Dobie Gillis did end two years later, and Hickman pretty much found himself typecast. He made movies like Cat Ballou (1965), starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin; and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) with Annette Funicello.

After some guest starring appearances, he was featured in the 1977 revival pilot Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis?, but when that failed to go to series, he began working behind the scenes, first as a CBS executive and later on directing episodic television. There was one more Dobie revival in the form of the TV movie Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis (1988), and, recognizing his inability to escape the role, Hickman also wrote his autobiography, which was appropriately titled Forever Dobie.

BRING ME THE HEAD OF DOBIE GILLIS, Steve Franken, Dwayne Hickman, Sheila James, Bob Denver, 1988

“It’s Americana,” he explained in 1988 of the character and show’s appeal. “It’s simple values. There’s a little edge to the writing, but it’s not sophisticated. I think it appeals to people because it’s simple and honest and stresses old-fashioned virtues. He was an average teenager, now he’s an average man trying to make a go of it.”

Hickman was married three times, remaining with third wife Joan Roberts until his death. He had two sons from his first and third marriages.

Ed Gross

I've been an entertainment journalist for ... well, a long time. Served on the editorial staff of magazines like Starlog, Life Story, Cinescape, Movie Magic and Geek. Most recently I spent a number of years as Film/TV Editor at and I've authored a number of oral history books on subjects like Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, James Bond and Star Wars. All told, that's a lot of words — and I hope to add a lot more to them at Do You Remember.

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