|Robert George Young
Birthplace: Chicago, IL
Good News of 1938
Good News of 1939
The Gulf Screen Guild Theatre
The Kraft Music Hall
The Pepsodent Show
Lux Radio Theatre
The Lady Esther Screen Guild Players
A Passport for Adams
Cavalcade of America
The Frank Morgan Show
The Doctor Fights
This Is My Best
Theatre of Romance
The Fifth Horseman
The Family Theatre
Hollywood Fights Back
Father Knows Best
One Man's Family
Virginia: Pattern for Resistance
How America Votes
The Hidden Revolution
Robert Young c. 1959
Robert Young c. 1931
Robert Young Player's Cigarettes card, c. 1935
During the end of his Metro Goldwyn Mayer contract years
Father Knows Art, Too. Robert Young kibitzes daughter Elizabeth, 13, as she tackles one of her first oil paintings.
|While born in Chicago to an Irish immigrant father and an American mother, from the age of 10 forward he grew up in Los Angeles, California, graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles. Soft-spoken Young acquired some stage experience with the Pasadena Playhouse before entering films in 1931.
His movie career consisted of playing charming, good-looking, often bland characters. He rarely "got the girl". Louis B. Mayer is quoted as saying of Young, "He has no sex appeal." But he did play in as many as eleven films per year for a decade starting with the second Charlie Chan movie, The Black Camel (1931). He also distinguished himself as the redoubtable spy in Alfred Hitchcock's Secret Agent (1936), a distinctly un-bland characterization.
He began his Radio career in the late 1930s becoming a mainstay in the Maxwell House Coffee-sponsored Good News series' of 1938 and 1939. He made another 30 appearances during the 1940s in The Gulf Screen Guild Theatre, The Pepsodent Show, Kraft Music Hall, The Lady Esther Screen Guild Players, several Cavalcade of America episodes, Suspense, Lux Radio Theatre, and in several Family Theatre episodes. In all, some 100 Radio appearances before 1949.
But in 1949, Young began his starring role as Jim Anderson in Father Knows Best, as an average father dealing with average family situations--a role tailor-made for his extremely likeable personality. The show ran for five years before going to Television in 1954, by which time he became America's Father for six years until the show was canceled in 1960. It was during the last two years of his Father Knows Best television show that we believe he participated in The Episcopal Church's 18-episode The Witness program, a program again perfectly suited to his kindly, fatherly Radio and Television persona.
Those same fatherly, loving, kindly roles were an adoring public's only real view of Robert Young. But what his millions of fans never saw or knew of was his agonizing battle with depression and alcoholism. This was a difficult struggle for him for most of his adult life. He went to great lengths to disguise this inner torment from his friends, family and producers and his struggle went untreated for most of his performing years.
From the February 14th 1952 edition of the Long Beach Press-Telegram:
Gals at Home
By GENE HANDSAKER
HOLLYWOOD. The day Robert Young's fourth daughter was brought home, new-born from the hospital, the actor was outnumbered 12 to 1 by the female sex.
That included the cook, maid, twice-a-week laundress, once-a-week steamtress, two nurses, and Bob's mother-in-law. Even when just his wife and four daughters are there, he says, "I'm pretty well out-voted."
But the slender, easy-going star enjoys his minority role. "Actually, I was never too much set on the idea of having a boy," he says. "I've found there's no point in resisting or fighting the situation. I might as well go along with it."
Bob sat down the other day and reflected on his growingly outnumbered status since he married Betty Henderson, high school acquaintance whom he had thought "an awful bore" in 10th-grade history. Wed in 1933, they've been augmented successively by
Carole, now 18, "reesrved, shy, self-conscious; there's a lot of me in her," Bob says. "She has steadfast friends but they're few in number."
Barbara, 14, "vivacious, like her mother. A 'junior miss'; plays the piano; enjoys whatever she's doing."
Betty Lou, 8, "acts, thinks and looks like her mother. Has a mind like a steel bear trap; thinks in a straight line, with humor and perception."
Kathy, 6, "we call her 'The Leprechaun.' Lives in a little world of her own but emerges now and then to confer with us. The pet of all our friends. My wife says. 'She never meets a stranger.'"
Summing up his womenfolk, Bob mused: "It's very interesting how these dames work. They appear to be on any side; they'll all agree with me. But a thing always works out the way they want. I'm not quite aware of it until it has taken place.
"Every once in a while I want to take a stand just to assert my masculinity. But we've never had an issue come up that was important enough."
Whenever Bob brings a 16-mm. movie home, to show on their projection machine, 8-year-old Betty Lou asks if he's in it. If he says he isn't, she makes a great show of crying, "Oh, no? Wonderful!" Young adds, "They make a kind of .game of pushing me around. But when the chips are down, they're all on my side."
All in all, Bob agreed, the situation is somewhat as it is on his radio show, "Father Knows Best." The format there is: Father THINKS he knows best. "Every once in a while," Young admitted, "I realize I'm being led along, gently and subtly, by the nose."
From the June 15th 1958 edition of the Independent STAR-NEWS:
TV's Favorite Family Man
Typical of Average
By Pat Nogler
All fathers, including television dads, will be reaping their rewards today.
This being so, it's only natural that we not let this day pass without making a to do over TV's most popular dad and Emmy Award winner Robert Young, of NBC-TV's "Father Knows Best" series.
A dignified man with a most pleasing smile and amiable way, Robert Young finds his role as a father very satisfying both on and off screen. In speaking of his TV portrayal of Jim Anderson, in the "Father" series, Bob says he feels very much at home. "You see in private life I have four attractive daughters, Carol, Barbara, Elizabeth and Kathleen.
You can readily see then that being a devoted family man, Young was more than eager to do the 'wholesome' family show which was conceived after Eugene B. Rodney, producer of the program, and he sat through many talk sessions discussing their respective families.
There is--and was thenan abundance of children on all sides, the girls in the Young household and a houseful of boys at the Rodney home. Each parent would talk about their problems, and the every day issues of family life. This, of course made never ending conversation, as any family man will tell you. Their problems, not too serious, often were very funny.
So, with two such "pros" as Young and Rodney talking, it was inevitable that they should eventually say to each other'"this might make a good series." And that is exactly what happened. The program proved excellent listening fare for 5 years on NBC Radio, before switching to television.
Since 1954, the "Father Knows Best" show, has won four national awards, including the Sylvania TV Award, the 1955 National Association for the Betterment of Radio and TV Award, a Christopher Award and the 1955 Family Service TV Award.
With the sincerest interests at heart for the youngsters of America, Bob launched a radio portion of a national campaign to reduce highway accidents among teen-aged drivers. This was early in 1950. He succeeded in enlisting almost 4,000,000 members in the Robert Young Good Drivers Club.
Following along this same theme, one of the TV "Father" episodes has been" shown numerous times off TV in the Cleveland, Ohio, public schools driving classes. The particular episode we are referring to is the "Safety First" story in which Bud Anderson, played by Bill Gray, is made to serve as school crossing monitor because he had misused his father's car.
Other episodes of the weekly program keep popping up in English classes and at private screenings for public service organizations. Few television shows receive as many special requests for prints and scripts.
As Bob and his friend Rodney point out, "We definitely don't try to preach or instruct. We only make an effort to entertain and amuse, bringing out comedy in honest and believable situations. That, they believe, is what makes "Father" interesting to educators.
On receiving the show's most recent award, the Volunteers of America Award at the organization's annual convention, Young pointed out that the comedy in the show is based on a credible portrayal of a typical American family.
"If the viewers won't laugh at us every time we think they ought to," said Bob, "we hope they'll at least like us. And we think they'll like us if we're their kind of folk. From the countless number of letters we receive, he added, we're inclined to believe that the vast majority of families and fathers, are rather accurately typified in "Father Knows Best."
When Young is not occupied with being TV "Father," he spends his time with his wife Betty in their charming Beverly Hills home where they try to have their family together whenever possible. Their daughter Carol is now married and Barbara attends the University of Southern California where she is majoring in music. The other two girls are still junior members of the family and are leading the lives of young school girls.
An interesting sidelight, in tune with the day, we learned that altogether there are 35 real life fathers in the staff of "Father Knows Best," including Young, the producer, and director, cameramen, technicians, etc. Among them they have 81 children. All these fathers are experts on the show, because naturally, they all know best.
From the March 19th 1959 edition of The Progress:
The Robert Youngs Now Have
Been Married Three Times
By DOROTHY ROE
Associated Press Women's Editor
HOLLYWOOD (AP) - It's not often a girl gets to marry the same man three times, with no intervening divorces.
This is the unique accomplishment of charming, red-haired Betty Young, wife of tne screen and TV star, Robert Young, and mother of four daughters.
The first Young wedding was performed by a justice of the peace in Santa Ana, Calif., when Bob and Betty were very young. The second took place on their 25th wedding anniversary, last March, in the Episcopal chapel of the Bishop School at La Jolla, alma mater of all the Young daughters who are old enough. The third showed up as an episode in Young's long-standing TV series, "Father Knows Best," just a few weeks ago.
"I don't know whether it was the children's idea or ours," says Betty, "but everybody agreed that since we have never had a church wedding it was high time to have one, and our silver wedding anniversary was a good date.
"So we went through the whole ceremony at the beautiful little chapel on the campus of the school which has been a sort of second home to our daughters. The ceremony was performed by the chaplain, Canon Frederick J. Stevens, and Bob's best man was the J.P. who married us the first time only now he's Superior Court Judge Kenneth Morrison.
"It gives you a strange feeling to see your own life being played on a television screen by your own husband and his TV wife. But I enjoyed the film version of my wedding almost as much as I did the first two real ones."
Many episodes of Young's TV series parallel events in his own lovely family, although both he and Betty insist they never interfere with the script writers. His screen family consists of actress Jane Wyatt as his wife, and three children.
His real family consists of Betty and their four daughters: Carol Anne, now Mrs. Arthur Proffitt and a teacher at the Buckley School in Los Angeles; Barbara, 21, student at U.S.C.; Betty Lou, 15, a student at the Bishop School and Kathleen, 13, who is in the seventh grade at the Buckley School, where her sister teaches "Bobby and I always put our family first," Betty 'says, "And I guess that's why he's able to be such a convincing father on the screen."
Having basically retired from Film, he'd already claimed over 100 movies to his credit. And after Father Knows Best left the air, he continued making guest appearances on many television shows and television movies until his revival in Television in 1969's Marcus Welby, M.D. which ran for seven years until it was canceled in 1976.
From the April 29th 1972 edition of Pacific Stars and Stripes:
Thrives on Hard Work
How Robert Manages to
By LAWRENCE LAURENT
c 1972, The Washington Post
WASHINGTON Robert Young was a major motion picture actor in the 1930s but he wasn't happy.
In those days of motion picture tycoons and moguls, when five studios dominated the industry, actors weren't permitted to be serene, fulfilled, satisfied or contented. They were supposed to be insecure and manageable.
Young, for example, was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for 15 years. "And every year," Young recalls, "I expected to be dropped." He expected to be fired mainly because of the kinds of daily greetings he got when he went to work. "One guy would greet me and say, 'Gee, Bob, if only you could gain a little weight. . . .' the next guy I'd run into would say something like, 'Gee, Bob, if only you had sex appeal. . ."'
Young's reminiscences were interrupted by his wife, the former Betty Henderson, to whom he has been married for nearly 40 years. She said: "I never complained about your sex appeal."
Young's face lighted into a smile. He patted Betty's hand. "No, you never have," he said. "But we lived through some problems." Those problems included the insecure actor's excesses with booze. No, despite what you may have read in the movie fan magazines, Robert Young was never an alcoholic; never joined Alcoholics Anonymous for a cure, and never "almost ended his career" because of alcohol. He didn't, for example, miss many work calls.
He made 84 motion pictures from 1931 ("The Black Camel") to 1966 ("Born Free") and he was ready to retire.
Along with motion pictures, Young worked in radio. He was master of ceremonies for "Good News of 1937" and had a six-year run on NBC radio in "Father Knows Best."
He moved quickly and easily to television and this is where his life changed. "Father Knows Best" became a television series in 1954 and lasted one season on CBS before it was dropped. It was renewed the following year on NBC and continued for five seasons.
Young won two "Emmy" awards for his work as insurance agent and idealized father. More important, he wonat long lastfinancial security.
He didn't need to work after that, but an old friend talked him into making a mistake called "Window on Main Street." Young is not an embittered man, but he is never very happy when he discusses that TV series. "I played the town's busybody . . . kind of a male Mary Worth . . . in each episode I stuck my nose into someone else's business . . . The show lacked comedy, warmth snd drama... it lasted one season and I was delighted when it was canceled."
Robert and Betty Young decided that the time had come for retirement. Their four daughters were grown and the film business wasn't good. The Youngs moved to Rancho Santa Fe, 25 miles north of San Diego. This is a resort community built around a golf course.
They built a small, two bedroom house and named it "The Enchanted Cottage," after a motion picture that Young had made in 1945.
Bob enjoyed retirement, but he reckoned without the persuasiveness of television producer David Victor, who persuaded Young to "try again" in an episode of "The Name of the Game." Young played an eccentric millionaire ("I got enough money to be able to wear white socks. You got enough money to be able to wear white socks?") and he enjoyed the work.
Equally important, David Victor liked Young's work and David Victor is a very persuasive man. He had guided "Dr. Kildare" through four successful hospital seasons and Victor now wanted to do a series about a general practitioner, whose office was in his home. David Victor also wanted Robert Young to come out of retirement and to play "Marcus Welby, M.D."
"So, you have financial security," he told Young. "Now, you can be rich as well as secure."
Dr. Welby first turned up as a two-hour, made-for-TV motion picture and even before the film was televised it became a series. Word came early in 1969 that the most certain hit for the next season would be "Marcus Welby."
The forecast was correct, for the series was quickly established as the top-rated program in all television. (It helped, of course, that this entertainment series played opposite the "CBS News Hour" and that, once every four weeks, NBC brought in its "First Tuesday" series. As former NBC executive Paul Klein wrote in TV Guide, "Well over two-thirds of all homes viewing the networks at 10 to 11 p.m., decided 'Welby' is the least objectionable program.")
Even when the news programs were moved, the "Welby" series stayed among the four most popular programs in all television.
Young never did sell the huge home (6,000 square feet of space and five baths) in Beverly Hills, where he and Betty raised their family. He still uses the place when he's working. By contract, he's on call from noon, Monday to noon, Friday and the long weekends are spent at Rancho Santa Fe and the Enchanted Cottage.
More important, however, is the peace, serenity and fulfillment that has come to Robert Young as he approaches the age of 65.
"When I was a young man I was afraid of everything.
"Life was a chore. But today, it's great.
As must be apparent in the above article, Robert Young and his representatives had been attempting to disquise Young's depression and alcohol issues for much of Young's career-and well after. Robert Young, by then in his seventies, finally confronted--and defeated--a secret 40-year battle with alcohol and depression after an abortive suicide attempt in 1991. Once Young successfully recovered, he devoted the remaining seven years of his life to alerting the public to the dangers of untreated depression and alcoholism.
From the July 24th 1998 edition of Pacific Stars and Stripes:
Actor Robert Young, 91, dies;
won 3 Emmys
*Popular star will always be
remembered for his roles
in "Father Knows Best" and
"Marcus Welby, M.D."
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES -- Robert Young, loved by millions of viewers as television's all-knowing dad on "Father Knows Best" and the compassionate "Marcus Welby, M.D.," has died. He was 91.
Young died Tuesday evening at his home in Westlake Village, his physician, Dr. John Horton, said. He had suffered from heart problems, Horton said.
Jane Wyatt, Young's co-star on Father Knows Best," paid tribute to him as "simply one of the finest people to grace our industry."
"Though we never socialized off the set, we were together every day for six years and during that time he never pulled rank (and) always treated his on-screen family with the same affection and courtesy he showed his loved ones in his private life," she said.
After a prolific career in films, where Young appeared in such well-remembered movies as "Sitting Pretty," "Northwest Passage," and "Journey for Margaret," he went on to even greater success in the two long-running television shows that were among the most popular of their respective decades.
Young won two Emmys for "Father Knows Best" and a third for "Marcus Welby, M.D."
"Father Knows Best," which Young originated on radio in 1949, was moved to television in 1954 and, after a rocky start in the ratings, finished its run in 1959-60 as No. 6. It was so popular that CBS continued it in prime-time reruns for two seasons after Young decided he'd had enough and the original run ended in 1960.
In contrast to the shows where comedy came largely from a blundering character, "Father Knows Best" aimed for chuckles more than belly-laughs as Jim Anderson and wife Margaret (played by Wyatt) thoughtfully soothed the growing pains of their Betty (Elinor Donahue), Bud (Billy Gray) and Kathy (Lauren Chapin).
Answering latter-day criticism that the show wasn't realistic, Young said that adding a subplot about illness or drugs "would have been like taking a beautiful painting and obliterating it with black paint--and that really would have turned the audience off. We never intended the series to be more than a weekly half-hour of fun and entertainment."
He recalled telling a producer friend, in the process of creating the original radio show, "I'd like to be the father, but not a boob." He said they strove to create "what we thought would be representative of a middle-class American family, if there was such a thing. There probably isn't, but that was what we were looking for."
"Marcus Welby, M.D.," which ran on ABC from 1969 to 1976, got even larger audiences with a similarly thoughtful, compassionate lead character. It was the highest-rated show in the 1970-71 season the first ABC show to be so rated and was in the top 15 shows for four seasons, 1969-73.
Young's role as the general practitioner who strove to understand patients' hopes and fears as well as their diseases brought him praise from medical groups.
"He's understanding and dedicated," Young once said of his character. "These are words that for some reason have fallen into disuse. I knew from the start that I had to come back to play this man."
"I enjoy acting," Young once remarked. "Whenever anyone says 'retire' I say, 'Retire to what?'"
He was married to the same woman for more than 60 years, and they had four daughters.
Young was born Feb. 22, 1907, in Chicago, fourth of five children of an Irish immigrant building contractor. The family moved to Los Angeles when he was 10.
He said he found the makeup he wore for high school plays a shield for much of his natural shyness. After graduation, he worked as a bank clerk by day and a student actor nights at the Pasadena Community Playhouse.
"The world has lost one of its last real leading men, and I have lost my father," daughter Betty Lou Gleason said in a statement.
The Rock Island, Illinois Robert Young Center for Community Mental Health, an affiliate of Trinity Regional Health System, is a comprehensive community mental health center named after Young for his work on passage of the Illinois Tax Referendum 708, which earmarked funds for both mental health community awareness programs and the Center itself.