'I Spy,' 'Greatest American Hero' star Robert Culp dies
79-year-old 'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' star was also a writer and director
Follow HitFix: Follow @hitfix
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 U.S. government.
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 role.
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 been organizing.
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 Hero."
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 "Everybody Loves Raymond" and appeared in such shows as "Robot 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.
Copyright (2010) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
Looking for something to watch?
Let Streaming Genie help you.
Let Streaming Genie help you.