While his younger brother Dwayne found fame on television, Darryl Hickman first displayed his credentials on the big screen in classic fare like "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940), "The Human Comedy" (1943), and "Leave Her to Heaven" (1945). Hickman was seen steadily on motion picture screens throughout the 1940s and '50s and his work was consistently competent, but he did not become a major star in that medium. However, unlike many performers, Hickman proved remarkably resilient, earning additional credits on radio and television, while also furthering his education and serving in the military. When his TV series "The Americans" (NBC, 1961) failed to find an audience, Hickman turned to stage work and appeared for over a year on Broadway in the smash hit "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying" (1961-65). Additionally, he revealed his proficiency as a mover and shaker behind the scenes via a successful term as a CBS programming executive. A stint as an acting instructor in the 1970s proved inspirational for Hickman and he found yet another outlet for his talents, establishing himself as one of the most enduring and respected professionals in that field. Ultimately, his brother became more of a household name and nostalgia favorite, but the multi-talented Darryl Hickman eclipsed him by way of his incredible ambition which helped him become one of the entertainment industry's true renaissance men.
Darryl Gerard Hickman was born in Hollywood on July 28, 1931. Although he would not be remembered as a child star, Hickman was on movie screens before he had even reached the double digits, including an uncredited appearance in the period adventure "If I Were King" (1938) and a small, but important turn in the Bing Crosby vehicle "The Star Maker" (1939). Impressed by Hickman's song and dance skills, Crosby had his talent agent brother represent the boy, who went on to win a notable part in John Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940) as a member of the beleaguered Joad Family. Hickman supplemented his skills as one of the Meglin Kiddies, a respected training ground for young entertainers that counted such luminaries as Judy Garland amongst its alumni. Put under a seven-year contract by MGM, Hickman's early credits for that studio and others included "Men of Boys Town" (1941), "Keeper of the Flame" (1942), "The Human Comedy" (1943), the classic Gene Tierney drama "Leave Her to Heaven" (1945), and "Captain Eddie" (1945), which also featured his younger brother.
As he matured, Hickman alternated between supporting assignments in major studio items like "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" (1946) and more prominent parts in smaller pictures, like the early juvenile delinquent drama "The Devil on Wheels" (1947) from poverty row studio PRC. In addition to all of his regular film work, the young actor could also be heard on several radio series, including a recurring role on the long-running program "Meet Corliss Archer" (CBS/NBC/ABC, 1943-1956). In the early 1950s, Hickman became unsure of what he wanted to do with his life and left show business to become a monk. He eventually came to the conclusion that performing was where his heart was and returned to the profession with a vengeance. His most prominent features that decade were William Wellman's plane crash thriller "Island in the Sky" (1953) and Vincente Minnelli's "Tea and Sympathy" (1956), but Hickman also simultaneously made guest appearances on television, attended classes at Loyola University (where he graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in English) and served a two-year stint in the armed services. At the close of the decade, he appeared in William Castle's amusing cult horror thriller "The Tingler" (1959) and married his co-star, Pamela Lincoln, a few months after the film's release.
"The Tingler" turned out to be Hickman's last motion picture for a number of years, but he kept busy on the small screen, guest starring on a number of programs, including his sibling's hit series "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" (CBS, 1959-1963), and penned teleplays for several programs. Hickman was granted a program of his own, the war drama "The Americans" (NBC, 1961), but it proved to be short-lived. Interested in further expanding his scope with live theatre, he demonstrated his talents on Broadway as J. Pierrepoint Finch in the musical comedy blockbuster "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying" (1961-65), replacing original star Robert Morse during the play's lengthy run.
At the dawn of the 1970s, Hickman was a member of the Actor's Studio in New York, where he directed plays, and provided instruction in musical theater at the Herbert Berghof Studio. Feeling that he was ready to impart some of the knowledge he had gained over several decades, Hickman left the Studio and began to stage his own independent instructional workshops. He also spent much of that era as the director of daytime drama for CBS, an occupation Dwayne also later took up. After an absence on movie screens of more than a decade, Hickman played a small role in Sidney Lumet's acclaimed broadcast news satire "Network" (1976) and produced a pair of programs for Norman Lear's company.
Expanding on his initial offerings, he also established himself as a respected acting teacher. In contrast to the principles of Method Acting, Hickman utilized the beliefs of Constantin Stanislavsky, which emphasized the spiritual and intuitive side of performing, and worked in that capacity for the next three decades, while taking occasional parts in films like "Looker" (1981) and "Sharky's Machine" (1981). His marriage to Lincoln ended in the early 1980s and the couple suffered the loss of their son, Justin, who committed suicide in 1985. Voicework for animated productions made up the balk of Hickman's latter day schedule, including everything from the racing series "Pole Position" (CBS, 1984-86) and various updated versions of "Scooby Doo" to a series of Bible stories. In 2007, he published The Unconscious Actor: Out of Control, In Full Command, in which Hickman discussed his career and the craft of acting, emphasizing such components as spontaneity and living in the moment as essential to success in the field. In yet another creative path, he also wrote the book and lyrics for a proposed musical about the life of famous New York City restaurateurs Vincent & Eugenia Sardi.
By John Charles