Bill Daily, the actor who found breakout success as Major Healey on the hit 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, has died at 91

By Dave Quinn
September 08, 2018 10:31 AM
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Bill Daily, the comic actor who found breakout success as Major Healey on the hit 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie and also had notable roles on The Bob Newhart Show and Alf, has reportedly died. He was 91.

Daily’s son, J. Patrick Daily, confirmed the news to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, saying that his father died of natural causes on Sept. 4 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “He loved every sunset, he loved every meal,” J. Patrick told Variety of his father. “He just decided to be happy about everything.”

I Dream of Jeannie title star Barbara Eden remembered Daily on Twitter. Major Healey was a supporting character on all five seasons of the show, as the goofy best friend to NASA astronaut Anthony Nelson (the late Larry Hagman).

“Our favorite zany astronaut, Bill Daily has passed,” Eden, 87, tweeted, captioning a photo of them. “Billy was wonderful to work with. He was a funny, sweet man that kept us all on our toes. I’m so thankful to have known and worked with that rascal. Until we meet again Billy, xo.”

Bill Daily on I Dream of Jeannie
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After Jeannie, Daily would spend all six seasons (and 140 episodes) on The Bob Newhart Show, playing Newhart’s dotty neighbor, airline pilot Howard Borden.

“Bill Daily & I go back to Chicago in the 50s,” Newhart, 89, wrote on Twitter. “He and I were both trying to get into standup.”

“Later, he joined The Bob Newhart Show. He was our bullpen guy — you could always go to him,” Newhart remembered of their time on the show, which wrapped in 1978. “He was one of the most positive people I’ve ever known. I will miss him dearly.”

Bill Daily and Bob Newhart on The Bob Newhart Show
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Born Aug. 30, 1927 in Des Moines, Iowa, Daily’s first credited television role was 1964’s Bewitched.

He would also have credited roles on Mary Tyler Moore; CHiPs; The Love Boat; My Mother the Car; Getting Together; Love, American Style; Aloha Paradise; Starting from Scratch; Caroline in the City; and two of Newhart’s other shows, Newhart and Bob.

From 1987 to 1989, he recurred as psychiatrist Dr. Larry Dykstra on ALF.

Daily would also have his own short-lived sitcom called Small & Frye. The 1983 series lasted for three months.

Bill Daily
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As himself, Daily would become a staple on game shows like Match Game and Hollywood Squares over the years. He also hosted several magic specials.

The star is survived by son J. Patrick, who works as a key grip for motion pictures.