The first Benji movie was the final screen role for three beloved classic TV stars, including the dog
Francis Bavier and Edgar Buchanan would never be seen again. The same goes for Higgins the dog.
In 2000, Patricia Hitchcock, daughter of cinema master Alfred Hitchcock, was speaking about her father at the University of Southern California. She revealed something shocking about the master of suspense — his guilty pleasure.
The Seventies were loaded with groundbreaking horror films — from The Exorcist to Alien. But Hitchcock loved Benji. Yes, Benji, the 1974 movie about the adorable dog. Patricia claimed her father was fond of the flick. Perhaps it was because many of the actors were familiar to him.
Benji stars Frances Bavier (Lady with the Cat) and Edgar Buchanan (Bill) had both appeared on episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. We count half a dozen Benji cast members who also appeared on TV in Hitchock shows.
But back to Bavier and Buchanan. These beloved performers were part of the folksy wave of feel-good comedy in 1960s television. You know them best as Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show and Uncle Joe from Petticoat Junction. The two had a lot in common — playing the elder family members on rural sitcoms. Perhaps their biggest commonality is Benji.
Benji would be the final screen roles for both Bavier and Buchanan. They were born four months apart at the start of the century, though they grew up on opposite ends of the country. Buchanan studied dentistry in Oregon while Manhattanite Bavier trained on the stage. Their career paths would lead them both to CBS sitcoms in the Sixties. And they would end their careers together in Benji.
They were not the only two thespians bowing out with Benji. The canine himself said goodbye, too.
Playing Benji was Higgins, arguably the biggest dog star of his era… and Buchanan's former costar. Yes, Higgins was indeed the dog who played, well, "Dog" on Petticoat Junction. Higgins — believed to be a Miniature Poodle, Cocker Spaniel, and Schnauzer mix — was long in the tooth in Benji, in his 16th year of life. He would die in 1975. Buchanan would pass in 1979, and Bavier a decade later. Knowing Benji was the last hurrah for all of them only adds to the tugging on the heartstrings.