Monday, May 20, 2024

Dwayne Hickman, Wry Star of Early 60s Hit TV Show “Many Love of Dobie Gillis.” Dies at 87


Dwayne Hickman has died at age 87 from Parkinson’s Disease. I know if you’re under a certain age you’re saying, Who?

But Dwayne was the Richie Cunningham of his day. He was the teen and young 20s star of “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” the hit TV series of the early 1960s. As he was a proto-Richie, Bob Denver– later to become Gilligan of “Gilligan’s Island” — was the show’s Fonzie, Maynard G. Krebs. The show was created by and written by Max Shulman, the humorist who wrote the short stories on which the series was based.

The series launched the careers as well of Warren Beatty and Tuesday Weld.

When “Dobie Gillis” ended Hickmman starred in some beach blanket movies like How to Stuff a Wild Bikini with Annette Funicello, and Ski Party¬†with Frankie Avalon.He also starred in the Academy Award-winning comedy western classic Cat Ballou with Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin. Along with guest appearances on episodic television, Hickman toured in national companies of hit plays.

But there’s a twist. In the 70s, armed with a B.A., Hickman became an executive at CBS, and oversaw a host of new hit shows including Maude, M*A*S*H and Designing Women.

It was Dobie, though, for whom he will always be remembered. First of all, Dobie’s icon was Rodin’s sculpture, The Thinker, whom he stood before when he broke the “fourth wall” during each episode. Dobie narrated the action for the audience without the device of a documentary crew following him, a la The Office. He had a breezy, snarky delivery that was also endearing, much like the much older George Burns, in his matter of fact notice taking of the characters who surrounded him. Shulman was a genius, and Hickman was able to convey his unusual rhythms. For 1960, “Dobie Gillis” was ahead of its time.

So raise a glass to Dobie, Maynard G. Krebs, Max Shulman and an era when being smart was very cool.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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