Robert Conrad, the veteran actor best known for his role as Secret Service agent James T. West on the '60s TV series The Wild Wild West, has passed away at the age of 84. "He lived a wonderfully long life and while the family is saddened by his passing, he will live forever in their hearts," family spokesman Jeff Ballard told People, confirming the actor's passing. The exact cause of his death remains unclear at this time.
Born in Chicago in 1935, Robert Conrad studied theater arts as a young man in college before pursuing an acting career full time. Because of his physical resemblance to James Dean, Conrad was hired to pose outside of screenings of Dean's movie Giant at a Chicago theater in 1956. His interest in Dean would ultimately lead to Conrad finding his own success as an actor as well, as he had a chance encounter the following year with actor Nick Adams while visiting Dean's Indiana gravesite. Through Adams, Conrad snagged his first bit part in the movie Juvenile Jungle, marking the first of dozens of roles to come in subsequent years.
Conrad is very well known for his classic television work, including his starring role on The Wild Wild West for which he did most of his own stunts and fight scenes. Another one of his most memorable TV roles came in the late '70s on the series Baa Baa Black Sheep, where he played World War II figher ace Pappy Boyington. Conrad's performance in the role managed to him a People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Actor along with a Golden Globe nomination. He also appeared on shows like Hawaiian Eye, Maverick, High Mountain Rangers, and even played himself on the comedy series Just Shoot Me.
On the small screen, Conrad often played the role of prosecutor Paul Ryan in a series of television movies. Some of his more well-known big screen roles include 'Pretty Boy' Floyd in Young Dillinger and later John Dillinger himself in The Lady in Red. He also had a very memorable role in the Christmas comedy Jingle All the Way as Officer Hummell, who has frequent run-ins with Arnold Schwarzenegger's character. Conrad's final acting role came in the 2002 movie Dead Above Ground, as a serious car accident the following year left him with serious injuries. Conrad would later host his own radio show on CRN Digital Talk Radio after his retirement as a performer.
In addition to his work as an actor, Conrad had also been a singer, recording multiple albums as a teen idol under the name Bob Conrad. Through Warner Bros. Records, Conrad found some Billboard success with his single "Bye Bye Baby." His musical work also includes releasing two albums for the Mexican label Orfeon, which included a few singles sung in Spanish.
Conrad's survivors include eight children and eighteen grandchildren. Our thoughts are with them at this time. Conrad was a fantastic performer with many memorable performances on both the big and small screens, and he will be forever missed. This news comes to us from People.