‘Family Affair’: What Did Bill Davis Actor Brian Keith Do After the Show?

by Joe Rutland

Actor Brian Keith made a name for himself in the world of classic TV by starring in the 1960s CBS sitcom Family Affair. Keith would play Bill Davis, or better known as “Uncle Bill,” to Cissy, Buffy, and Jody. Kathy Garver, Anissa Jones, and Johnny Whitaker starred as Keith’s younger cast members. Once the show ended, though, actors had to go on to other projects. Keith did just that…so, what did he do?

For a period of time, back in 1972, he was the star of The Brian Keith Show on NBC. Keith starred opposite Shelley Fabares and even Nancy Kulp, who was done with her role on The Beverly Hillbillies by this time. The sitcom was created by Garry Marshall of Happy Days and The Odd Couple fame.

‘Family Affair’ Star Brian Keith Had His Own Sitcom on NBC

In looking at an IMDb summary of this series, it reads like there were two different plots in a way. Season 1 sees Keith’s Dr. Sean Jamison and Dr. Anne Jamison, played by Fabares, run a free clinic in Oahu, Hawaii. Season 2 finds Dr. Austin Chaffee, played by Roger Bowen, sharing space with Sean Jamison. He’s no fan of Sean’s easy-going attitude and manner. Mrs. Gruber, played by Kulp, is a rich widow who owns this specific clinic.

Keith would play President Roosevelt in a 1975 movie titled The Wind and the Lion which starred Sean Connery. Yet TV would call on him again as he played Judge Hardcastle in the 1980s ABC show headlining Hardcastle & McCormick, according to Do You Remember. As much as we’d like to say the Brian Keith story ends on a positive note, it doesn’t. Keith was dealing with health issues ranging from emphysema to lung cancer. Reportedly, the actor also was suffering from depression as well as financial problems. Keith died in 1997 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Sadly, this would happen two months after his daughter Daisy also committed suicide. Brian Keith’s final credit would be posthumously in the 1999 film Follow Your Heart.

What about work before Family Affair, which also starred Sebastian Cabot as Mr. French, for Keith? He was the son of actor Robert Keith, who was a costar in the 1955 film version of Guys and Dolls along with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. In 1956, Brian Keith found his way into a costarring role opposite Anne Bancroft in Nightfall. But some old-school movie fans might just remember him from his role in the 1961 Disney film The Parent Trap opposite Hayley Mills. Keith was nominated for an Emmy Award three times for Family Affair. Keith also was in a 1967 film starring Brando and Liz Taylor titled Reflections in a Golden Eye.