Robert Culp (1930-2010)

Actor Robert Culp, who starred alongside Bill Crosby I Spy from 1965-1968, passed away today at the age of 79. His television career began, according to the Internet Movie Database, in 1953 with an episode of You Are There, and continued with appearances on anthologies like The United States Steel Hour, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Kraft Television Theatre. Culp then starred as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman in Trackdown on CBS from 1957 to 1959. Between that series and I Spy, Culp made guest appearances on a variety of programs, including The Americans, Bonanza, The Outer Limits and Shirley Temple’s Storybook. I Spy, which premiered on NBC in September of 1965, netted Culp three consecutive Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (and one for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama) but he was beaten each year by his costar. I Spy was the first television drama in which an African American had a lead role. Culp and Cosby would reprise their roles in 1994 for I Spy Returns.

In 1969, he played Bob in Paul Mazursky’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Culp returned to series television in 1981 as Bill Maxwell on The Greatest American Hero, which would run until February 1983. From 1996 to 2004 he had a recurring role on Everybody Loves Raymond. His last credited television role was a 2007 episode of Robot Chicken, in which he returned to the role of Bill Maxwell (his voice, at least). In addition to acting, Culp dabbled in scriptiwriting, penning seven episodes of I Spy and two episodes of The Greatest American Hero (which he also directed), among others.

A 2007 interview conducted with the Archive of American Television can be viewed at YouTube:

Obituraries can be found at CNN.com, BBC News and The Los Angeles Times.


6 Comments

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    Culp was a “renaissance man” in television: actor, writer, and director. He had a sense of humor, and he could be tough to deal with at times. “I SPY”, though, is his legacy, and that SHOULD have wider exposure- I don’t see why it isn’t seen more often…

  • Cee Jay says:

    I am only becoming familiar with I SPY thanks to RTV, and because of that I get to watch one of America’s great character actors…RIP MR. CULP

  • ejp says:

    That “You Are There” appearance, which marked his TV debut was released on DVD in the twelve episode set by Woodhaven Entertainmen (“Death Of Socrates”)

  • Steve says:

    Not to be forgotten is his good work in Columbo, too. He was 0 for 3, but he almost got away with it every time.

  • OM says:

    …I find it rather ironic that all the online obits hyped Culp for his role in I Spy as being his biggest role, when polls taken over the past few years showed that his portrayal of Bill Maxwell on The Greatest American Hero was the role more people remembered him for. Although being old enough to have watched both shows during first-run, I *never* watched I Spy, but I never missed GAH.

  • RGJ says:

    It was his most recent role, after all. That could play a big part in any polls.

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