Brian Keith, a big, rough-looking movie and TV actor who was best known for his role in the classic 1960s sitcom “Family Affair,” shot and killed himself on Tuesday after a string of health and personal problems. He was 75.
On Tuesday, a sheriff’s office spokesman said that Keith’s family found him dead with a gunshot wound at his Malibu home. His death is being treated as a suicide.
The actor had reportedly been sick for a while with lung cancer and emphysema. Also, his daughter Daisy killed herself six weeks ago, and the actor is said to have lost a lot of money earlier in the year.
Keith was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, on November 14, 1921. After serving in the Marines during World War II, he went into theatre and radio.
He made his first movie, “Arrowhead,” in 1953. The 1961 Disney hit “The Parent Trap,” in which he played the father of twins, was a big break for him (both portrayed by Hayley Mills).
Keith was in more than 80 movies. He worked with a long list of great directors, such as John Huston, Norman Jewison, Sam Fuller, John Milius, Sam Peckinpah, Henry Hathaway, Sydney Pollack, and Peter Bogdanovich, and starred opposite Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, and Kim Novak.
“The Russians Are Coming!” was one of Keith’s movies. The Russians Are Coming!” (1966), “Nevada Smith” (1966), and “Reflections in a Golden Eye,” which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando (1967).
Keith’s career took off when he was cast as Manhattan bachelor and father Bill Davis in the CBS show “Family Affair” from 1966 to 1971. Before that, he had been in a lot of Disney movies and westerns. It was in the top five on Nielsen’s list for three straight years, from 1967 to 1970.
Keith’s character on the show was a longtime playboy who had to take care of his brother’s three kids after he died. Keith didn’t seem to care about how popular the show was. At one point, he called it “a tugboat with dollar signs on it.”
Keith also starred in the ABC drama “Hardcastle & McCormick” from 1983 to 1986 as a grumpy judge. He also had short-lived roles in “The Brian Keith Show” from 1972 to 1974, “The Westerner” from 1960, and “The Pursuit of Happiness” (1987-88).
Keith stayed busy in the 1990s by doing voiceover work for commercials. He just finished a supporting role as President William McKinley in the TNT miniseries “Rough Riders,” which is set to air in July.
Milius directed Keith in both “Rough Riders” and “The Wind and the Lion” in 1977. In “The Wind and the Lion,” Keith played Teddy Roosevelt, another U.S. President. Milius said he could tell that the actor’s health was getting worse while they were filming.
Milius said Tuesday, “I knew he wouldn’t be around for long.” “Brian was moving very slowly. But, even though his pain was clear, he was still great in the movie. He would tell stories to everyone on the set, which made everyone laugh.
“Brian Keith was one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with. Everything he did was to the letter. Never made a mistake. You could use every idea he gave you.”
Keith’s wife, the actress Victoria Young, will carry on after him. Plans for the funeral were not known right away.
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