Bernie Hamilton, an actor best known for playing the no-nonsense police captain on the popular 1970s TV series “Starsky and Hutch,” has died. He was 80.
Hamilton, the brother of jazz drummer Chico Hamilton, died of cardiac arrest Tuesday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said his son, Raoul.
Beginning with a role as a baseball player in the 1950 movie “The Jackie Robinson Story,” Hamilton appeared in more than two dozen films, including “The Young One,” “The Devil at 4 O’Clock,” “Synanon,” “The Swimmer,” “Walk the Walk,” “The Organization” and “Scream Blacula Scream.”
In 1964, he gained notice playing opposite Barbara Barrie in the low-budget movie “One Potato, Two Potato,” an interracial love story about a white divorcee who loses legal custody of her young daughter after marrying a black co-worker at a factory.
Hamilton also had guest spots on numerous television series before becoming a regular on “Starsky and Hutch,” the 1975-79 ABC police drama starring Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul as hip plainclothes cops who tooled around in a white-striped tomato-red Ford Gran Torino.
The series, on which Hamilton played the brusque, by-the-book Capt. Harold Dobey, gave him wide recognition “still to this day,” his son said.
“At the hospital last night, one of the doctors came by and said, ‘Wow, I remember him from ‘Starsky and Hutch,’ ” Raoul Hamilton said Wednesday.
Fred Williamson, the action star of two movies that Hamilton appeared in during the ‘70s -- the crime dramas “Hammer” and “Bucktown” -- has called Hamilton “an extraordinary actor.”
“He’s a very versatile actor and never really got the recognition he deserved for his work,” Williamson, who played Capt. Dobey in the 2004 movie version of “Starsky and Hutch,” told the Oakland Tribune at the time.
Raoul Hamilton said his father’s “authoritative” police captain performance hit close to home.
“It was an extension of who he was as a real person,” he said. “He was a self-made man. He comes from a family of five brothers and one sister from the east side of Los Angeles; they came from humble beginnings.”
Born in Los Angeles on June 12, 1928, Hamilton ran away from home as a teenager and wound up staying in someone’s garage and attending Oakland Technical High School, where he played football and got involved in acting.
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, while continuing to act, Hamilton operated the Citadel d’Haiti, a nightclub-art gallery on Sunset Boulevard.
He phased out of acting after “Starsky and Hutch” and spent the next 20 years in the music business producing R&B and gospel records.
Hamilton also sang, and one of the albums he produced was called “Capt. Dobey Sings the Blues.”
His record label was called Chocolate Snowman. And in the early ‘80s, his son said, he created a children’s doll called the Chocolate Snowman that was manufactured in South Korea and sold at Toys “R” Us.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his daughter, Candy Hazarika Hamilton; his brothers Chico and Don; and two grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 8 at Inglewood Cemetery Mortuary, 3801 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood.