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Bill Bixby’s Biographer Remembers the Actor: ‘His Story Was One of Determination, Tragedy and Sadness’

When it comes to the late Bill Bixby, there remains a tremendous amount of fascination — this despite the fact that he passed away from pancreatic cancer some 25 years ago. Yet the star of such Classic TV shows as My Favorite Martian (currently airing on Cozi TV),The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, The Magician and The Incredible Hulk continues to touch the hearts of those who grew up with him or discovered him in later years, embracing the “everyman” quality of acting that gave each of his performances such credibility. That final point has undoubtedly played a large part in journalist David Grove deciding to tell the actor’s life story for the first time.

Bill Bixby: Credible is the tentative title of the tome that David expects to be published next year. For it, he has interviewed a few hundred people who, we’re told, illuminate Bill in a way that he never has been before, providing an insightful look at the many joyous highs and tragic lows he experienced in his lifetime.

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Bill was born January 22, 1934. He served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve during the Korean War and made his acting debut in 1961 in the Detroit Civic Center’s production of The Boy Friendquickly making the transition to television as a guest performer. In 1963 he was cast as Tim O’Hara in the sitcom My Favorite Martian and he was off to the races, acting in TV shows, TV movies, a few feature films and gradually making the transition to episodic television directing.

His personal life was far more difficult than his professional one. A well known “swinging bachelor” in the 1960s, he married actress Brenda Benet in 1971, the two of them becoming the parents of Christopher three years later. The marriage ended in divorce in 1980 and, in the following year, Christopher, who was then just 6 years old, died while on a skiing vacation at Mammoth Lakes with his mother, suffering a heart attack after doctors inserted a breathing tube when he suffered acute epiglottitis.

In 1982, Brenda committed suicide. Fast-forward eight years to 1990 and Bill had fallen in love with and married Laura Michaels, though they were divorced in 1991 following Bill’s diagnosis of, and treatment for, prostate cancer. The following year he was introduced to artist Judith Kliban, who he married in late 1993 — only six weeks before he collapsed on the set of an episode of Blossom he was directing. On November 21, 1993, he died as a result of complications from prostate cancer at the age of 59.

Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

All of which is a pretty cut-and-dry look at the life of a human being, but there’s obviously so much more that went on “between the lines,” which is where David Grove comes in with Bill Bixby: Credible.

To discover the many sides of Bill Bixby, please scroll down. 

Be sure to check out and subscribe to our Classic TV & Film Podcast for interviews with your favorite stars! 

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