Brian Keith shot to popularity in the 1960s when he played America’s beloved “Uncle Bill” in the sitcom Family Affair. In a career that spanned seven decades, he starred in more than 60 movies and was a part of many television shows. Keith was even bestowed with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
With significant roles in movies like the original version of The Parents Trap, Nevada Smith, The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and of course, the TV series Family Affair, he had a good body of work to validate his talents as an actor.
According to Closer Weekly, pop culture historian Geoffrey Mark said, “My opinion is that Brian did not advocate for the quality of work that he should have. He took what came along with a paycheck attached to it, as opposed to, ‘I’m not going to work for a year or two until I find just the right script.’” Despite doing such notable work, “I don’t think he was as married to his stardom as some other actors of his generation were,” says Geoffrey.
Geoffrey described Brian as a “grounded human being who was good looking enough and talented enough to make a living in show business, but his heart was more about his family, his kids, the people he loved and the things he got to do with them because of the money he was making.”
While it may seem like he had a troubled personal life, with three broken marriages, some may say that Brian Keith was more dedicated to his family and children than most other actors of his generation.
This is probably the reason why he was so shattered when he lost his daughter, Daisy. Daisy was his daughter with his second wife, Victoria Young. She was an actress as well, and starred in the TV series Heartland. But in 1997, Daisy killed herself. On her memorial website, her mother wrote that Daisy had her father’s “magnetism” and “the smile of her Daddy”.
The heartbroken mother also mentioned that not a day went by when Daisy wasn’t remembered by herself and her son, Bobby. Victoria further wrote that though she was “half crazy” over the loss, she still “can feel her energy radiating…smiles and kisses” from the old pictures of her daughter.
When the news of his beloved daughter’s suicide reached him, Brian himself was battling cancer. Earlier in 1997, he had been diagnosed with emphysema and lung cancer. The chemotherapy had been taking a severe toll on him, both physically and emotionally. The news of Daisy’s suicide while he was already in a fragile state seemed to have broken his heart and spirit to live beyond repair.
A month after her death, Keith was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at his Malibu mansion on June 24, 1997. He was 75 years old, according to Amomama. It seemed like his will to live was gone with his daughter. A handwritten note was found after his death that read, “The end is here. I’m finished. The pain is too much. Now it’s time for me to join our little Daisy. She needs me. She didn’t want to be without me here, so she’ll have me again over there. Don’t be sad. This had to come soon.”
However, before he took this tragic decision, Brian spoke to two people. He called his Family Affair co-stars Kathy Garber and John Whitaker, and had told them what he was about to do. Geoffrey said that he “called them to say goodbye and let them know what he was about to do. He didn’t want them to read it in the paper or hear about it on television and get scarred by it that way.”
According to Geoffrey, Keith “was somebody who felt that his time on the planet was over; that he could not deal with the physical pain of the cancer or the emotional pain of his daughter’s suicide.” The historian added, “This was not a mad man having a bad moment. This was not a man who was mentally ill.”
But despite all the pain, the historian feels that he was thinking about the rest of family until the last moment. He was worried about how his loved ones would take the shock of his death. Geoffrey said, “The man is dying and he’s just lost his daughter 10 weeks earlier, ” he said and continued, “But he loves Kathy and John enough to be concerned with how they might react and was a good enough friend to say, ‘Look, this is about to happen. I want to protect you. I want to love you. I want you to know why and that I’m okay with this.’ That’s an extraordinary person who does that.”