Robert Young (Wikimedia Commons/NBC Television)
Although his movie career began in the early 1930s and lasted more than two decades, Robert Young wouldn't start raking in the awards until he made the move to television. It was on the small screen, as an iconic dad and, later, as a kindly doctor, that Young truly made his mark. On the 15th anniversary of Young's death, we're remembering the two TV shows that brought him his greatest fame.
Young made his TV debut in 1954 on Father Knows Best, having already starred in the show's radio version for five years. Playing Jim Anderson, father to Betty, Bud and Kathy, Young was the classic 1950s TV father – a working man (in this case, an insurance agent) who found time to be a gentle father and dispense good advice.
With Jane Wyatt playing wife Margaret, the Andersons were family favorites for six seasons – plus a pair of reunion movies that aired in 1977. For his role in the series, Young won two Emmy Awards.
In 1969, a decade after Father Knows Best ended its run, Robert Young became another kind of advice-giver when he took on the title character in Marcus Welby, M.D. Dr. Welby was a private practitioner who was willing to think outside the box in order to find the right cure. He often clashed with his younger, more strait-laced partner, played by James Brolin.
Marcus Welby, M.D. ran for seven seasons, and in its second year, it became the first show in ABC's history to hit No. 1 on the Nielsen ratings. It was award-winning, too – Young won an Emmy and a Golden Globe, as well as a pile of additional nominations, for his work as the gentle doctor.
Robert Young's personal life was not as idyllic as those of the characters he played – the actor struggled with depression and alcoholism. But just as his characters did, he worked to help others, fighting for the passage of a law supporting mental health programs in his home state of Illinois. The law passed, and Young's legacy includes both superb acting and a mental health facility named in his honor in Rock Island, Illinois.
Written by Linnea Crowther