Robert Culp, 79, dies after fall

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - American TV actor Robert Culp, best known for playing a secret agent alongside Bill Cosby in the 1960s cloak-and-dagger hit “I Spy,” died on Wednesday after a fall near his home. He was 79.

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Culp, who also starred alongside Natalie Wood, Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon in the 1969 film “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” was pronounced dead at a Los Angeles hospital where he was rushed after falling during a morning walk, a police spokeswoman said.

“It appears that the individual (Culp) had fallen down and struck his head. It’s still a preliminary investigation and we’re still waiting on the official cause of death,” she said, adding there was no indication of foul play.

Culp, who was born in Oakland, California, and attended university in Washington state and California, earned his first major television role in the late 1950s Western “Trackdown,” playing a Texas Ranger.

But his most famous TV role was that of Kelly Robinson, a secret agent with a double life traveling the world as a top-seeded professional tennis player in “I Spy.”

Culp also wrote scripts for seven episodes of the show, which ran from 1965 to 1968 and featured Cosby as his partner, Alexander Scott.

It was the first U.S. prime-time network drama to feature a black actor in a starring role and both men were nominated for Emmy Awards in all three of the program’s seasons -- with Cosby beating out Culp each time.

Culp was also nominated for a Golden Globe for “I Spy,” which was filmed on location in such cities as Hong Kong, Acapulco and Tokyo.

Following the series, Culp took perhaps his most-remembered film role as Wood’s husband in the provocative “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” which looked at the topic of free love and mate- swapping. It was nominated for four Academy Awards.

In the 1980s, he returned to a starring role in prime-time U.S. television as an FBI agent on “The Greatest American Hero,” and reunited briefly with Cosby on an episode of “The Cosby Show.”

Later in life, Culp became active in local civic causes, joining in a lawsuit to stop construction of an elephant exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo and accusing officials there of mistreating animals.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Peter Cooney