He was on the screen for decades. Then on our TV for another decade of two!
First a handsome leading man at MGM.
Then a star. Then one of the first big screen stars to make the transition to television.
He had, in fact, one of the longest careers in Hollywood, starting as a male lead in the 1930s, segueing to roles in B pictures, re-emerging as a leading man again in the 1940s and eventually becoming one of the biggest stars on television with 2 hit series.
Talk about roller-coaster resumes. Young started out in movies in the early Thirties under the aegis of MGM, the studio which more or less nourished his fledgling career. That worked out pretty well, with Young costarring with some of MGM most glamorous costars.
Then a partial fade-out to independent films, some of which are better than what MGM had offered.
By the late Forties, Young’s career as a leading man was in eclipse, rescued by a radio version of what became his signature tv series, Father Knows Best. In the late Sixties and Seventies came another smash series, with Young as paternalistic Marcus Welby, M.D.
Young is most recalled today for those two tube series, despite a feature film dossier that stands up today. And he was the personification of the Hollywood adage that actors are NOT in private what they appear to be onscreen.
Robert Young the actor came across in each as a well-balanced, reliable patriarchal type who embodied a kind of sunny American optimism. Robert Young the man was different — prone to bouts of heavy drinking and depression.
Both came into play one morning in early January 1991 — the actor was 83 at the time (he died in 1998 at age 91). According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, county police were dispatched to Young’s home, and found a hose attached to the exhaust pipe of his vehicle. Young confessed to a suicide attempt following a bout of boozing.
Nonetheless, Young led a long life. He died in 1998 at the age of 91.
In any case, he logged an extraordinarily long and versatile career, always at least on the cusp of stardom.