Let’s face it, the late Bill Daily — who passed away on September 4, 2018 at the age of 91 — was never a star. Which is not really as rude a statement as it sounds, because Bill had the much tougher job of being the so-called “second banana” or supporting player who would enter a scene accompanied by an extra jolt of laughter. Never was that more true than when he played NASA’s Major Roger Healey on the ’60s classic I Dream of Jeannie or airline pilot Howard Borden in the ’70s hit The Bob Newhart Show.
He was born William Edward Daily Jr. on August 30, 1927 in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and had his entertainment start in stand-up comedy, eventually finding himself on stage in some of the country’s bigger comedy clubs. In 1964 he made an appearance on the sitcom Bewitched, which caught the attention of writer/producer Sidney Sheldon, who, thinking he was funny, cast him as a supporting character in the pilot episode of his new show, I Dream of Jeannie.
“He had me read for Jeannie, but I couldn’t read,” Bill, who suffered from dyslexia, revealed in excerpts from an extensive career-spanning interview he gave to the Television Foundation Academy, “but thank God I had a chance to memorize it. So I went in and was, like, ‘Man in Uniform in the Back,’ and all these other guys were in front of me. But when Jeannie went to series, Sidney changed the whole thing around and made Roger a second banana. Not long ago I got to spend an evening at Sidney Sheldon’s house and I asked him, ‘Why me? Why change the whole thing around?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, I just saw something there.'”
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