Nationality: American. Born: Robert George Young in Chicago, Illinois, 22 February 1907. Education: Attended Lincoln High School, Los Angeles. Family: Married Elizabeth Louise Henderson, 1933 (died 1994), daughters: Carol Anne, Barbara Queen, Elizabeth Louise, and Kathleen Joy. Career: Worked as clerk, salesman, reporter, and loan company collector while studying and acting with the Pasadena Playhouse; 1931—toured with a stock company's production of The Ship ; 1931–45—contract with MGM: film debut in
The Black Camel (MacFadden) (as Jimmy Bradshaw); The Sin of Madelon Claudet (Selwyn) (as Dr. Claudet); The Guilty Generation (Rowland V. Lee) (as Marco Ricca); Hell Divers (George Hill) (as young officer)
The Wet Parade (Fleming) (as young officer); New Morals for Old (Brabin) (as Ralph Thomas); Unashamed (Beaumont) (as Dick Ogden); Strange Interlude (Leonard) (as Gordon); The Kid from Spain (McCarey) (as Ricardo)
Men Must Fight (Selwyn) (as Geoffrey); Today We Live (Hawks) (as Claude); Hell Below (Conway) (as Lt. Brick Walters); Tugboat Annie (LeRoy) (as Alec Brennan); Saturday's Millions (Sedgwick) (as Jim Fowler); The Right to Romance (Santell) (as Bob Preble); La ciudad de carton ( Cardboard City ) (King) (as himself)
Carolina ( The House of Connelly ) (Henry King) (as Will Connelly); Spitfire (Cromwell) (as John Stafford); The House of Rothschild (Werker) (as Captain Fitzroy); Lazy River (Seitz) (as Bill Drexel); Hollywood Party (Rowland and others) (as himself); Whom the Gods Destroy (Walter Lang) (as Jack Forrester); Paris Interlude (Marin) (as Pat Wells); Death on the Diamond (Sedgwick) (as Larry Kelly); The Band Plays On (Mack) (as Tony Ferrera)
West Point of the Air (Rosson) (as Little Mike); Vagabond Lady (Sam Taylor) (as Tony Spear); Calm Yourself (Seitz) (as Pat); Red Salute ( Her Enlisted Man ; Runaway Daughter ; Arms and the Girl ) (Lanfield) (as Jeff); Remember Last Night? (Whale) (as Tony Milburn); The Bride Comes Home (Ruggles) (as Jack Bristow)
Three Wise Guys (Seitz) (as Joe); It's Love Again (Saville) (as Peter Carlton); The Bride Walks Out (Jason) (as Hugh MacKenzie); Secret Agent (Hitchcock) (as Marvin); Sworn Enemy (Marin) (as Hank Sherman); The Longest Night (Taggart) (as Charley Phelps); Stowaway (Seiter) (as Tommy Randall)
Dangerous Number (Thorpe) (as Hank Medhill); I Met Him in Paris (Ruggles) (as Gene Anders); Married before Breakfast (Marin) (as Tom Wakefield); The Emperor's Candle-sticks (Fitzmaurice) (as Grand Duke Peter); The Bride Wore Red (Arzner) (as Rudi Pal); Navy Blue and Gold (Wood) (as Roger Ash)
Paradise for Three (Buzzell) (as Fritz Hagedorn); Josette (Dwan) (as Pierre Brossard); The Toy Wife (Thorpe) (as Andre Vallaire); Three Comrades (Borzage) (as Gottfried Lenz); Rich Man, Poor Girl (Schunzel) (as Bill Harrison); The Shining Hour (Borzage) (as David Linden)
Honolulu (Buzzell) (as Brooks Mason/George Smith); Bridal Suite (Thiele) (as Neil McGill); Miracles for Sale (Browning) (as Michael Morgan); Maisie (Marin) (as Slim Martin)
Northwest Passage (Conway and King Vidor) (as Langdon Towne); Florian (Marin) (as Anton); The Mortal Storm (Borzage) (as Fritz Marberg); Sporting Blood (Simon) (as Myles Vanders); Dr. Kildare's Crisis (Bucquet) (as Douglas Lamont)
The Trial of Mary Dugan (McLeod) (as Jimmy Blake); Western Union (Fritz Lang) (as Richard Blake); Lady Be Good (McLeod) (as Eddie Crane); Married Bachelor (Buzzell) (as Randolph Haven); H.M. Pulham, Esq. (King Vidor) (title role)
Joe Smith, American ( Highway to Freedom ) (Thorpe) (title role); Cairo (Van Dyke) (as Homer Smith); Journey for Margaret (Van Dyke) (as John Davis)
Slightly Dangerous (Ruggles) (as Bob Stuart); Claudia (Goulding) (as David Naughton); Sweet Rosie O'Grady (Cummings) (as Sam Mackeever)
The Canterville Ghost (Dassin) (as Cuffy Williams)
The Enchanted Cottage (Cromwell) (as Oliver); Those Endearing Young Charms (Lewis Allen) (as Hank)
Lady Luck (Marin) (as Scott); The Searching Wind (Dieterle) (as Alex Hazen); Claudia and David (Walter Lang) (as David Naughton)
They Won't Believe Me (Pichel) (as Larry Ballantine); Crossfire (Dmytryk) (as Captain Finlay)
Relentless (Sherman) (as Nick Buckley); Sitting Pretty (Walter Lang) (as Harry)
Adventure in Baltimore (Wallace) (as Dr. Sheldon); Bride for Sale (William D. Russell) (as Steve Adams); That Forsyte Woman ( The Forsyte Saga ) (Bennett) (as Philip Bosinney); And Baby Makes Three (Levin) (as Vernon Walsh)
The Second Woman (Kern) (as Jeff Cohalan); Goodbye, My Fancy (Sherman) (as James Merrill)
The Half-Breed (Gilmore) (as Dan Craig)
Secret of the Incas (Jerry Hopper) (as Dr. Stanley Moorehead)
Marcus Welby, M.D. ( A Matter of Humanities ) (Rich—for TV) (title role)
Vanished (Kulik—for TV) (as Senator Earl Gannon)
All My Darling Daughters (Rich—for TV) (as Judge Charles Raleigh)
My Darling Daughters' Anniversary (Pevney) (as Judge Charles Raleigh)
Little Women (Rich—for TV) (as James Laurence)
The Return of Marcus Welby, M.D. (Singer—for TV) (title role)
Mercy or Murder? (Gethers—for TV) (as Roswell Gilbert); Conspiracy of Love (Black—for TV) (as Grampa Joe Woldarski)
Marcus Welby, M.D.—A Holiday Affair (Singer—for TV) (title role)
Die Verlorene Tochter ( The Lost Daughter ) (Cardinal) (as First Male Journalist)
"How I Won the War of the Sexes by Losing Every Battle," in Good Housekeeping , January 1962.
Parish, James Robert, and Gregory W. Mank, The Hollywood Reliables , Westport, Connecticut, 1980.
Current Biography 1950 , New York, 1950.
Schwibs, M.W., "A Visit With Robert Young," in Classic Images (Muscatine), July 1995.
Obituary, in Variety (New York), 27 July 1998.
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After a long screen career that was noteworthy primarily for his survival while other, more flamboyant actors burned brightly and then disappeared, Robert Young achieved his greatest success at an age when most actors begin to think of retirement. Exuding a screen personality that conveyed a carefree yet honest and sympathetic air, he made a career of playing light romantic leads in predominately B pictures. When he grew too old to play such roles convincingly, he made a smooth transition to character parts. His stock in trade was that, while conveying a strength that was sufficient to win the heroine, he did not exhibit a fiery passion that would make her feel threatened.
Young's strongest screen work came in the immediate postwar period: The Searching Wind (playing a deluded U.S. ambassador in prewar Europe); They Won't Believe Me (as a deceitful husband); and Crossfire (as a weary but determined cop attempting to solve a murder). His best screen performance, however, that of Oliver in The Enchanted Cottage , demonstrated Young's considerable range. The film, intended to raise the morale of disfigured soldiers returning from the war, required the actor to play a G.I. who returns from combat with severe scars and nerve damage, afraid to face his former fiancée. Playing opposite Dorothy Maguire, who acted the role of a similar social outcast, he created an unforgettable character that, while rooted in the quiet reality one expects from a Young portrayal, soared briefly in the enchantment of his own self-deception. In the end, the actor merged both aspects of the character to create a man, who, although physically deformed, could look upon himself as miraculously whole in the aspects of life that are the most meaningful.
Perhaps it was this image of self-acceptance and quiet strength that somehow transformed him into the prototypical patriarch of the universal American family on television in the 1950s. In the new medium, he enjoyed an even stronger success than he had known on the large screen. The long-running Father Knows Best rejuvenated his career and propelled him into an equally popular series that began in 1969, Marcus Welby, M.D.
—Stephen L. Hanson, updated by Audrey E. Kupferberg