Robert Culp, who starred with Bill Cosby in one of the breakthrough series of TV history, has died.
Here's the barebones Reuters' obit. After the clip, AP's full piece, by Bob Thomas...
But first: Cos's statement:
"The first born in every family is always dreaming of the older
brother or sister he or she doesn’t have, to protect, to be the
buffer, provide the wisdom, shoulder the blows and make things
right,” he said. “Bob was the answer to my dreams.
“No matter how many mistakes I made on ’I Spy,’ he was always
there to teach and protect me."
American TV actor Robert Culp, best known as a secret agent in the 1960s hit "I Spy",
died on Wednesday after a fall at his home, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Culp, 79, died at a local hospital where he had been rushed after hitting his head while
taking a walk outside his home, the paper reported, citing a Los Angeles police
Here he is talking about the legendary association...
And the creation of "I Spy"...
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Robert Culp, the actor who teamed with Bill
Cosby in the racially groundbreaking TV series “I Spy” and was
Bob in the critically acclaimed sex comedy “Bob & Carol & Ted &
Alice,” died Wednesday after collapsing outside his Hollywood
home, his agent said. Culp was 79.
His manager, Hillard Elkins, said the actor was on a walk when
he fell. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead just before
noon. The actor’s son was told he died of a heart attack, Elkins
said, though police were unsure if the fall was medically related.
Los Angeles police Lt. Robert Binder said no foul play was
suspected. Binder said a jogger found Culp, who apparently fell and
struck his head.
Culp had been working on writing screenplays, Elkins said.
“I Spy,” which aired from 1965 to 1968, was a television
milestone in more ways than one. Its combination of humor and
adventure broke new ground, and it was the first integrated
television show to feature a black actor in a starring role.
Culp played Kelly Robinson, a spy whose cover was that of an ace
tennis player. (In real life, Culp actually was a top-notch tennis
player who showed his skills in numerous celebrity tournaments.).
Cosby was fellow spy Alexander Scott, whose cover was that of
Culp’s trainer. The pair traveled the world in the service of the
The series greatly advanced the careers of both actors.
Cosby, who had achieved fame as a standup comedian, proved he
could act. Culp, who had played mostly heavies in movies and TV,
went on to become a film star.
He followed “I Spy” with his most prestigious film role, in
“Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.” The work of first-time director Paul
Mazursky, who also co-wrote the screenplay, it lampooned the
lifestyles of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Bob and Carol
(Culp and Natalie Wood) were the innocent ones who were introduced
to wife-swapping by their best friends, Ted and Alice (Elliott
Gould and Dyan Cannon).
Culp also had starring roles in such films as “The Castaway
Cowboy,” “Golden Girl,” “Turk 182!” and “Big Bad Mama II.”
His teaming with Cosby, however, was likely his best remembered
Cosby won Emmys for actor in a leading role all three years that
“I Spy” aired, and Culp, who was nominated for the same award
each year, said he was never jealous.
“I was the proudest man around,” he said in a 1977 interview.
Both he and Cosby were involved in civil rights causes, and when
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 the pair traveled
to Memphis, Tenn., to join the striking garbage workers King had
Culp and Cosby also costarred in the 1972 movie “Hickey and
Boggs,” which Culp also directed. This time they were hard-luck
private detectives who encountered multiple deaths. Audiences who
had enjoyed the lightheartedness of “I Spy” were disappointed,
and the movie flopped at the box office.
After years of talking up the idea, they finally re-teamed in
1994 for a two-hour CBS movie, “I Spy Returns.”
In his first movie role Culp played one of John Kennedy’s crew
in “PT 109.”
His first starring TV series, “Trackdown” (1957-1959) was a
Western based partly on files of the Texas Rangers. In the 1980s,
he starred as an FBI agent in the fantasy “The Greatest American
He remained active in movies and TV. Among his notable later
performances was as a U.S. president in 1993’s “The Pelican
Brief.” More recently, he also had a recurring role in the sitcom
Chicken,” “Chicago Hope” and an episode of “Cosby.”
Robert Martin Culp, born in 1930 in Oakland, led a peripatetic
existence as a college student, attending College of the Pacific in
Stockton, Calif., Washington University in St. Louis and San
Francisco State College before landing at the University of
Washington’s drama school.
Then at age 21, a semester removed from his degree, he moved to
New York, where he began landing roles in off-Broadway plays. One
of them was in “He Who Gets Slapped.”
“I saw it in college in Seattle, and I said, ‘My God, that’s my
part, that’s my part,”’ he once told an interviewer. After he won
the role in a Greenwich Village production “the floodgates
opened,” he said.
Good reviews and an Obie award led to offers from Hollywood.
Culp was married five times, to Nancy Ashe, Elayne Wilner,
France Nuyen, Sheila Sullivan and Candace Faulkner. He had four
children with Ashe and one with Faulkner.
— Associated Press writers John Antczak and Robert Jablon
contributed to this report.