RIP Dwayne Hickman (1934-2022)

Hickman was a TV star and a successful film actor as well. Preteens and teens of the 1950s and 1960s likely were very familiar with Hickman’s work on both the big and little screen. He was a shining representation of youth culture, and he will always be fondly remembered as Dobie Gillis and Chuck MacDonald to those who watched black-and-white television or enjoy classic TV reruns today.

With brother Darryl Hickman

Hickman got his start in show business as a child actor similar to his prolific older brother, Darryl Hickman. The younger Hickman had credited roles in Captain Eddie (1945), The Return of Rusty (1946), The Secret Heart (1946), and The Boy with Green Hair (1948), but he had more uncredited roles in his childhood days. He can be spotted in Heaven Only Knows (1947), The Sun Comes Up (1949), Mighty Joe Young (1949), and The Happy Years (1950) among other films. He didn’t have the early career of Darryl, but Dwayne made up for that as he started to move more to TV.

With Ann B. Davis, Robert Cummings, and Rosemary DeCamp of The Bob Cummings Show (1955-1959)

Hickman’s early TV roles included episodes of The Loretta Young Show, The Lone Ranger, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, but it would be his role as Robert Cummings’ nephew Chuck on The Bob Cummings Show (1955-1959) that would make him a TV name. The TV sitcom was a hit in the days of early television and Hickman became a sort of heartthrob to younger female viewers. Hickman also referred to co-star Cummings as his acting mentor.

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963)

Around the time of The Bob Cummings Show, Hickman also got movie roles in Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys! (1958) as the movie’s beta couple with Tuesday Weld and doing voice work in the Mr. Magoo feature 1001 Arabian Nights (1959). Hickman then got his own starring role on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963) playing the show’s title character. Similar to his role on The Bob Cummings Show, Dobie Gillis was also girl crazy. Hickman’s Dobie Gillis also notably served as the inspiration for Scooby Doo‘s Fred Jones (and the other series’ characters inspired the rest of the human cast in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon).

With Yvonne Craig, Frankie Avalon, and Deborah Walley in Ski Party (1965)

After Dobie Gillis, Hickman focused more on movies, most notably as one of the outlaws in Cat Ballou (1965). Hickman also might serve the film’s funniest line when he is disguised as a religious leader, but the title character (and the audience) doesn’t know he’s a phony until he slurs “I’m drunk as a skunk” after Cat Ballou introduces herself. While Cat Ballou (1965) is a beloved classic and western spoof, a majority of Hickman’s film roles were in AIP teen fare including the Beach movie How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965). If you are long-time reader of this blog and remember my series “Riffraff,” you’ll recall we make fun of these movies a la Mystery Science Theater 3000. They are not objectively good movies, but there is a saving grace in a majority of the ones starring Hickman: Dwayne Hickman and Frankie Avalon as a screen team are likable. The two play off each other in Ski Party (1965) and Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) among others and their on-screen chemistry makes the formulaic and silliness of the movies more bearable.

With his paintings

After his brief movie career, Hickman went back to focus on guest-starring on TV. He acted in episodes of Wagon Train, Combat!, Ironside, The Flying Nun, Mod Squad, Love, American Style, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Ellery Queen, and Murder, She Wrote. Hickman also appeared in a few more movies, plus Dobie Gillis TV movies. Hickman also directed some TV, including episodes of Designing Women and Sister, Sister. Hickman had success outside of show business, however as he was also a successful artist whose work has had gallery showings. His paintings remain in galleries as well as collections.

Hickman has been married three times including his first marriage to early 1960s actress Carol Christensen and his last marriage to voice-over actress Joan Roberts. His marriage to Christensen was from 1963 – 1972 ending in divorce and his marriage to Roberts began in 1983 and continued until Hickman’s death on January 9th, 2022. Over Hickman’s three marriages, he has had two children. Hickman died from complications from Parkinson’s disease at the age of 87. While Hickman is gone, his work will remain on TV reruns for years to come.

~Virginia

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