……………..…Bill Bixby: From Actor to Director

In assuming the role of Tim O’Hara, Bill Bixby created a character who, along with possessing a bright sense of humor, had a knack for being the quintessential friend. Playing newspaper reporter Tim O’Hara with a mixture of brashness and sensitivity, Bill Bixby brought an energetic chemistry to the part and invested the character with charm and likability.

 

 

Bill Bixby’s TV acting career began in 1961 with an appearance on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Other television roles followed in The Danny Thomas Show, Ben Casey, Bachelor Father, Checkmate, Alcoa Playhouse, The Andy Griffith Show, Twilight Zone, and The Lieutenant.

  on Dobie Gillis….. The Andy Griffith Show . ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Twilight Zone

 

His first semi-regular TV role was as PR agent Charles Raymond on the first season of The Joey Bishop Show. Then in the fall of 1962 he was cast as reporter Tim O’Hara in My Favorite Martian, the role bringing him popular recognition from TV audiences. While working on the series, he would observe behind the scenes production techniques in the editing room, to learn about the craft of directing.

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THEATRE:

Bill Bixby performed in the Los Angeles company of The Fantasticks and in Under The Yum-Yum Tree (1962), later reprising his role (Dave Manning) in that show in an Off-Broadway production in May 1964. He appeared on Broadway in 1967 in the comedy The Paisley Convertible and also starred on stage in The Owl & the Pussycat (1966) in Los Angeles. Bill Bixby would continue appearing in regional Ohio and Chicago theatres in productions of There’s a Girl in My Soup, The Paisley Convertible, Come Blow Your Horn, Send Me No Flowers and Sunday in New York.

 Under the Yum Yum Tree (NYC 1964) ….…..The Paisley Convertible (NYC 1967)

 The Owl & the Pussycat (L.A. 1966) … ( photo: B.Gillohm)

 

 

FILM:

..in Lonely are the Brave ….. Bill Bixby began his film career with bit parts in Lonely are the Brave, Under the Yum Yum Tree and Irma La Douce. In 1965 Bill Bixby had a supporting role as a mean-spirited 1860s business man in the western Ride Beyond Vengeance. A few years later, Bill appeared with Elvis Presley in two movies, Clambake (1967) and Speedway (1968). 

 in "Clambake"…....in "Speedway"

….Starring in the popular 1975 Disney comedy western The Apple Dumpling Gang, Bill Bixby played a gambler who reluctantly finds himself caring for three frontier kids.

 

TELEVISION:

But television proved to be the medium of choice for Bill Bixby. Continuing to guest star in dramatic roles as well as comedy, Bill Bixby appeared on many TV series of the 60s including That Girl, Combat! Ironside, Love American Style, Insight, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and It Takes a Thief.

 on Combat Love, American Style.. Insight

 

In 1969 Bill Bixby took on a starring role in the popular TV series The Courtship of Eddie’s Father which ran for 3 years. Not wanting to further the stereotype of TV fathers being either bumblers or ‘all-knowing’, Bill Bixby interpreted the role of Tom Corbett with a keen sensitivity and honesty that served to reflect a more realistic on-screen father-son relationship with young co-star Brandon Cruz. The role earned him an Emmy Nomination for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Bill Bixby began his directing career on "Courtship" helming several episodes of the series.

…..… with Brandon Cruz … 

 

Concurrent with "Courtship", he appeared in several TV movies, Congratulations It’s a Boy! (1971), The Couple Takes a Wife (1972) and Shirts/Skins (1973).

  from "Congratulations, It’s a Boy" in "Shirts/Skins 

 

Also at this time, Bill Bixby appeared in two productions of the Hollywood Television Theatre for PBS, the first play being, Big Fish, Little Fish (1972) and then the controversial adult comedy Steambath (1973).

…as Tandy in PBS "Steambath"

 

In 1973 Bill Bixby starred in the dramatic series The Magician playing Anthony Blake, a professional illusionist who took time from his performing career to help characters in jeopardy. Skilled in the art of magic, Bill Bixby performed all the magic illusions on the series without benefit of camera tricks. During the run of The Magician, Bill Bixby hosted and performed in the Magic Man special in 1973. He also hosted another 90 minute late-night special, It’s Magic! in 1975, for ABC-TV.

…………

 

In 1974-75 Bill Bixby was a regular panelist on the celebrity game show revival of Masquerade Party. During the 70s Bill made appearances on variety shows including the special, Married is Better, The Family and Other Living Things, The John Byner Comedy Hour and also on a PBS special about learning disabilities called The Puzzle Children.

 

….in Night Gallery (..Druid episode)…Bill Bixby continued guest starring in popular 70s series such as Mannix, Barnaby Jones, Medical Center, Tales of the Unexpected and two episodes of Night Gallery. In 1976 he played the role of aspiring playwright Willie Abbott in the acclaimed TV mini-series, Rich Man, Poor Man, for which he earned an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Single Appearance in Comedy or Drama.

  as Willie Abbott in Rich Man, Poor Man….

 

That same year he also was nominated for an Emmy as Best Lead Actor in a Single Appearance in a Comedy or Drama for his guest appearance the "Police Buff" episode of The Streets of San Francisco. Bill Bixby also starred in the 1977 western TV Movie, Invasion of Johnson County and had a role of a minister in the TV movie The Great Houdini

 in "Streets of San Francisco".… ……………………………………………………………..…Invasion of Johnson County………in The Great Houdini

 

Bill Bixby had featured roles in The Love Boat and Fantasy Island (the pilot).

…in "The Love Boat"(1977)……in "Fantasy Island" (1977)

 

The following year Bill Bixby received a Director’s Guild of America nomination as best Director of a Drama Series for episode 3 of Rich Man Poor Man: Book II. He directed other TV series of the 70s including Room 222, Love American Style, Charlie’s Angels, Mannix, Barbary Coast and the TV movie Three on a Date.

 

In 1977 Bill Bixby was approached to do a TV movie based on the comic book characters in The Incredible Hulk. He agreed to take on the role of Dr. Banner, (a research scientist who received an overdose of radiation which causes him to metamorphasize into a hulking green-skinned creature when angered) only because the TV movie sought to explore the characters on an adult level. The film proved popular and another TV movie was produced which led to The Incredible Hulk TV series. Playing Dr. David Banner as a sensitive but lonely fugitive seeking a cure for his disorder as he traveled the country, proved highly successful and Bill Bixby achieved critical praises for his dramatic work on the series.

…..….…..…..

 

 

..in Murder is Easy ….Following the "Hulk" series, Bill Bixby appeared in the 1981 Agatha Christie TV movie Murder is Easy. In 1983 Bill Bixby starred his fifth TV series, which he co-produced, called Goodnight, Beantown, playing newscaster Matt Cassidy who finds himself teamed with a new co-anchor portrayed by Mariette Hartley. Despite good reviews for its bright dialogue, the series only ran for 18 episodes.

(with Mariette Hartley)

 

 

…Bill directed and did a cameo as a prison inmate on a "Sledge Hammer"

In addition to directing episodes of "Beantown", Bill Bixby continued directing television series during the 1980s and 1990s, such as Mr. Merlin, Wizards and Warriors, and Sledge Hammer (where he met Ray Walston on the set, as Ray was doing a role in a different episode of Sledge). Bill later directed the TV movies, Baby of the Bride, Another Pair of Aces and The Woman Who Loved Elvis.

..directing Beantown……… directing TV series Dreams

 

He continued to guest star in TV movies such as International Airport and Sin of Innocence.

 as an air traffic controller in International Airport .. in Sin of Innocence

 

Branching out into hosting programs such as PBS children’s anthology series Once Upon a Classic, Nickelodeon’s 1982 series Against the Odds, a 4 part series The Book of Lists (1982) and the daytime series True Confessions (1986), Bill Bixby continued hosting specials, including The World of Hanna Barbera, (1979), Exploring Psychic Powers (1989) and An American Story (1991) He also served as a facilitator in live investigative specials, The Elvis Files (1991 & 92) and The Marilyn Files (1992).

 …….….……………… …

"..Hanna-Barbera" …………….…hosting "True Confessions" ……"Exploring Psychic Powers"

  

In 1988 Bill Bixby reprised his role as Dr. David Banner in a series of TV Movies which he co-produced that continued the story of the scientist seeking to cure his transformation into the hulking creature (The Return of the Incredible Hulk). Bill Bixby directed the second and third installments: The Trial of the Incredible Hulk and The Death of the Incredible Hulk.

 in Return of Hulk  in Trial of Hulk directing the 3rd Hulk movie 

 

 

…Bill Bixby continued to appear in occasional guest starring roles in TV series such as Diagnosis Murder while continuing to work regularly as a director, most notably as the primary director for two years on the TV series Blossom.

 directing "Blossom"

 

A familiar screen presence to decades of television viewers, Bill Bixby’s series roles conveyed characters with warmth and integrity. His thirty year career in television holds a number of classic roles for audiences to enjoy.

 

 

Bill Bixby’s screen credits can be found on the

Internet Movie Database 

Additional career information:

Interviews with Bill Bixby

 

 

The Paley Center for Media in New York City has the following programs featuring

Mr. Bixby’s work:

 

Against the Odds 

Alcoa Playhouse

The Courtship of Eddie’s Father

The Family and Other Living Things (in Archive Collection)

The Incredible Hulk

Laugh-In

Magic Man (in Archive Collection)

Married is Better (in Archive Collection)

Mitzi and a Hundred Guys

Murder Is Easy

My Favorite Martian (in Archive Collection)

Rich Man, Poor Man

Steambath

Television Annual 1978-79

The Twilight Zone

 And

An Interview on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

Text © 2001-2011 JH Harison

jhharison@gmail.com

 
Photo credits :TOP:(B/W) Telepictures; Paisley Convertible (L) Theatre World 66-67,Owl & Pussycat B. Gillohm, Shirts/Skins © MGM Combat, Streets of San Francisco, Fantasy Island; ABC-TV ; Blossom © TOUCHSTONE Pictures

This website is non-profit for fan and educational purposes only. No infringement of rights is meant or implied. All copyrighted quotes and photographs are held by their respective publications and companies. Original screen capture images and text found on this site may not be reproduced without prior consent of JH Harison.

 

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