Related topics

Actor Brian Keith dies in apparent suicide

June 25, 1997 GMT

MALIBU, Calif. (AP) _ Brian Keith, the burly actor best known as Uncle Bill on the TV sitcom ``Family Affair,″ did not want to wait in a hospital for cancer to take his life.

Instead, Keith, 75, went home and killed himself.

``He was a crusty old character, but a lot of fun,″ said Paul Doherty, an agent for Keith. ``A wonderful guy, wonderful talent.″

Family members found Keith at his Malibu home Tuesday with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, sheriff’s deputies said.

In addition to his health problems, he apparently was distraught over the suicide 10 weeks ago of his 27-year-old daughter, Daisy L. Sampson. She died at a hospital April 17, the day after she shot herself in the head at the apartment she shared with her husband, the coroner’s office said today. She didn’t leave a suicide note.

Newspaper reports said Keith had lung cancer and emphysema.

``Knowing Brian, who has been so independent all his life and always wanted to do things the way he wanted to do ... that could’ve meant beating the grim reaper before the reaper got him,″ said Kathy Garver, who played Cissy on ``Family Affair.″

He left the hospital ``because he didn’t want to die there,″ she said.

On ``Family Affair,″ which ran on CBS from 1966 to 1971, Keith played Bill Davis, a bachelor raising his orphaned nieces and nephew _ Buffy, Cissy and Jody _ with the help of a proper English butler, Mr. French.

Johnnie Whitaker, who played Jody, said he spoke to Keith by telephone about five days ago.

``He was not feeling good because he had been going through the chemotherapy for his cancer, and he’d been having other problems,″ Whitaker said.

Anissa Jones, who played Buffy, died of a drug overdose in 1976.

Keith, born in Bayonne, N.J., to parents who were also actors, appeared in a variety of roles on both television and the movies from the 1950s through the ’80s.

``I never made a career move in my life,″ Keith said in a 1991 interview. ``I just took what came along. I never looked for stepping stones to becoming a star. ... I never gave a hoot.″

His father, Robert, occasionally appeared in silent films, and young Brian began his show business career with an appearance at age 3 in the 1924 film ``Pied Piper of Malone.″ He made his adult film debut in 1953 in the Western ``Arrowhead″ with Charlton Heston.


Greater fame came on television with starring roles as Matt Anders in the 1955-56 drama ``Crusader″ and as Dave Blassingame in ``The Westerner″ in 1960.

However, he also appeared in movies throughout the 1950s and ’60s, including such light comedies as Disney’s ``The Parent Trap″ in 1961 and ``With Six You Get Eggroll″ with Doris Day in 1968. Other film roles included ``The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!″ in 1966, and ``The McKenzie Break″ in 1970.

Through the ’70s, he starred in the TV comedy ``The Brian Keith Show,″ the short-lived detective drama ``Archer″ and ``Centennial.″ And in 1983-86, he played crusty, retired Judge Milton G. Hardcastle in the ABC crime drama ``Hardcastle & McCormick.″

Keith is survived by his wife, actress Victoria Young.