Obituary: Dick Sargent

Richard Cox (Dick Sargent), actor: born Carmel, California 19 April 1930; died Los Angeles 8 July 1994.

AS THE CONSUMMATE American corporate man driven by the work ethic and put out to find on honeymoon that his charming wife is a witch, Dick Sargent was an actor who had the unenviable tasks of taking over the role of the beleaguered husband in Bewitched, the popular Sixties comedy series that is still repeated around the world. But the programme continued to attract massive audiences for the remaining three years of its hugely successful run.

Sargent was born Richard Cox, into a show-business family. He was the son of the actress Ruth McNaughton, who appeared in films such as Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Hearts and Triumphs, and Col Elmer Cox, business manager of stars such as Douglas Fairbanks. While studying at Stanford University, Cox junior acted with the Standard Players Theatre and, on graduation, landed a bit-part in the film Prisoner of War (1954) - a Korean prison-camp drama starring Ronald Reagan - and changed his professional name to Sargent, although he continued to be credited as Richard for many years.

Struggling to make ends meet between acting jobs, he dug ditches, worked as a salesman in a department store, went into the import-export business in the Mexican city of San Miguel Allende and began collecting Mexican art.

He then returned to Hollywood and eventually found work in television programmes such as Medic, Playhouse 90, Gunsmoke, Ripcord, West Point and Corde 3. His first significant film role was as Jo Jo Wilson in Bernardine (1957), alongside the heart-throb singing star Pat Boone. Sargent's portrayal of Sanford Wilson, who chasesbut is beaten to a much-sought telephone operator, won him a Laurel Award from US film distributors. More films followed, including Mardi Gras (1958, also with Pat Boone), Operation Petticoat (1959), That Touch of Mink (1962), For Love or Money (1963) and The Ghost and Mr Chicken (1966).

Then, after television appearances in series such as One Happy Family (1961) and Broadside (1964 to 1965) came Sargent's role as Darrin Stevens in Bewitched, which had begun in 1964 with Dick York in the role of a Madison Avenue advertising executive who tries to keep his wife Samantha the witch in domestic chains, with little resistance except from a dragon of a mother-in-law.

York left in 1969, suffering from serious back injury, and Sargent stepped in. By then the comedy was being screened twice daily in the US, with a combined audience of 55 million, and it continued to keep a 35-per-cent share of the entire television audience there for the last three years of its run. Such was its success that it had already inspired other series, such as I Dream of Jeannie, and it has constantly been repeated all over the world ever since the last episode in 1972, although a spin-off, Tabitha (1977), based on the exploits of the couple's daughter, was less successful.

After finishing his run in Bewitched, Sargent appeared on television in Rich Man, Poor Man, Fantasy Island, the pilot of Family Ties, Columbo (playing himself) and Down to Earth, a series that saw him starring with an angel as his maid. His films included Hardcore (1979) and Teen Witch (1989).

Sargent, who revealed on the United States' National Coming Out Day in 1991 that he was homosexual, was a tireless worker for charities such as the Special Olympics, World Hunger, Aids Project Los Angeles and the American Foundation for Aids Research.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk