Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Robert Culp: R.I. P.

Robert Culp, the star of I Spy, died today. He was 79.

I Spy aired from 1965 to 1968 and 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 (Bill Cosby) 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 U.S. government.

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.

I always liked Culp, in lots of roles including Bob & Carol &Ted &Alice. It was sad to hear that he died, and possibly of an accident. No foul play suspected, but he collapsed outside his Hollywood home and hit his head. He may have had a heart attack, but the head injury may have been the main factor. 

Read the NYT Obit HERE.
Read the LA Times Obit HERE.

Read Duane Swierczynski's post on Secret Dead Blog from March 18 about Hickey. Boggs. On The Big Screen.

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