‘Family Affair’ Star Brian Keith Was So Broken by Daughter’s Death He Couldn’t Live without Her

Hollywood icon Brian Keith entertained the world for over 35 years before dying of suicide following a series of tragic events unfolding in his life.

Born in Bayonne, New Jersey, as Robert Brian Keith Jr. on November 14, 1921, Brian Keith became a star. He was the son of character actor Robert Keith, and he made his debut in movies at the young age of three in 1924’s “Pied Piper Malone.”

However, his adult career in films and television shows actually began in 1953, and he continued to act until the early 1990s. One of his most famous roles came in 1966, in the show “Family Affair.”

Brian Keith as Jake Iverson on “With Six You Get Eggroll,” a theatrical movie released on August 7, 1968 | Photo: Getty Images

Aside from his TV career, he also acted in radio programs and on stage and served in the Marines for a brief period during the Second World War. There, he was a machine gunner. 

He returned to the Broadway stage after the war before eventually branching out into the world of TV and film. Although it took a while for him to reach stardom, he ultimately became one of the most well-known actors in the industry. 

Brian Keith in “Dino” in 1957 | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Although Keith was a successful actor, he once revealed that he never made a career move in his life. In a 1991 interview, he shared that he would just take what came along. 

Unlike others who wanted to become the top actors and actresses in Hollywood, Keith never looked for stepping stones to becoming a star. “I never gave a hoot,” he said. 

Sebastian Cabot, Nancy Walker, and Brian Keith in a 1970 promotional photograph for “Family Affair” | Source: WIkimedia Commons

Keith was married three times in his life, first tying the knot with Frances Helm. He then married Judy Landon, with whom he shared five children. His last marriage was to Victoria Young until his death, with whom he shared two kids.

Before Keith’s death, two of his kids, son Michael and daughter Daisy, died. Michael died when he was a child, while Daisy died after taking her own life when she was only 27 years old. 

Brian Keith in “The Crusader” in 1955 | Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the year 1997, Keith was diagnosed with lung cancer and emphysema. He had quit his smoking habit ten years earlier, but the damage was done in the end.

After the diagnosis came excruciating chemotherapy sessions, which troubled Keith both emotionally as well as physically. In April that same year, Keith also had to live with the pain of his daughter’s suicide. His daughter, Daisy, killed herself in her Hollywood Hills home.

Brian Keith in the trailer of “5 Against the House” in 1955 | Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

The death of his daughter turned out to be too overwhelming for Keith. Only two months after Daisy’s suicide, on June 24, Keith took his own life at his Malibu home. He was 75 years of age at the time.

It was reported that the late actor shot himself to end his suffering caused by failing health, increasing financial issues, and the grief of losing his daughter. In the end, his last works were seen on “Spider-Man: The Animated Series” and “Follow Your Heart.”

Brian Keith’s Grave Marker. | Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

After Keith’s death, Johnny Whitaker, who played Jody on “Family Affairs,” said he spoke to the actor just a couple of days before his death. He shared that Keith was not feeling good due to chemotherapy, on top of other problems. 

On the show, Keith played Bill Davis, a bachelor who was raising his orphaned nieces and nephew, Buffy, Cissy, and Jody, with the help of an English butler named Mr. French. They ended up forming life-long friendships that lasted until Keith’s death. 

Kathy Garver and Johnny Whitaker at the 5th Annual TV Land Awards held at Barker Hangar on April 14, 2007 | Photo: Getty Images

After his death, his colleagues made sure to pay tribute to the great man that he was. According to Kathy Garver, who played Cissy on “Family Affair,” Keith left the hospital because he did not want to die there. She added:

“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.”

Ultimately, Garver remembers Keith as a wonderful man. She recalled how talented and giving he was and how loving he was to those around him, especially children. 

Kathy Garver arrives at the 7th Annual TV Land Awards held at Gibson Amphitheatre on April 19, 2009 | Photo: Getty Images.

Unfortunately, the untimely death of celebrities due to suicide is not that uncommon. However, awareness of the importance of prioritizing mental health has also been highlighted more recently in Hollywood, given the pressure that fame could bring. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. 

Leave a Comment