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Father Knows Best aired from October 1954 until September 1960 on CBS and NBC.
Father Knows Best was the classic wholesome family situation comedy. It was set in the typical Midwestern community of Springfield, where Jim Anderson ( Robert Young), was an agent for the General Insurance Company.
Every evening, he would come home from work, take off his sports jacket, put on his comfortable sweater and deal with the everyday problems of a growing family . In contrast with most other family comedies of the period, in which one or the other of the parents was a blundering idiot, both Jim and his wife, Margaret ( Jane Wyatt) , were portrayed as responsible, thoughtful adults. When a family crisis arose, Jim would calm everyone down with a warm smile and some sensible advice.
When Father Knows Best went on television in 1954, the three children were aged Betty ( Elinor Donahue)- 17, Bud( Billy Gray) - 14 and Kathy( Lauren Chapin) - 9. As the seasons passed, two of them graduated from high school, first Betty in 1956 and then Bud in 1959. However, neither one of them left home, choosing to go to Springfield State College. In one episode, Jim and Margaret wanted Betty to attend their alma mater but soon realized that she was an adult now and capable of making her own choice - she chose State.
Other regulars in the cast over the years included Sarah Selby as Miss Thomas; Robert Faulk as Ed Davis; Vivi Jannis as Myrtle Davis; Yvonne Lime as Dottie Snow; Paul Wallace as Kippy Watkins; Jimmy Bates as Claude Messner; Roger Smith as Doyle Hobbs; Robert Chatman as Ralph Little; Sue George as April Adams; and Roberta Shore as Joyce Kendall. Natividad Vacio occasionally appeared as gardner Frank Smith, a newly nationalized American citizen.
The Andersons were an idealized family - the kind that viewers related to and wished to emulate back in the 50's. The kids went through the normal problems of growing up, including those concerning friends, school and, of course, the opposite sex! They didn't always agree with their parents and occasionally succeeded in winning their independence. But the arguing was minimal and everything always seemed to work out by the end of the half hour.
Like many shows of the period, Father Knows Best began as an NBC radio series. It began in 1949, with Robert Young in the starring role. He was the only member of the radio cast that made the change to TV in 1954.The characters were created by Ed James and he wrote more than 100 scripts for the radio version. Jean Vander Pyl-the voice of Wilma on the Flintstones played the role of Margaret on many broadcasts. In the radio version the title of the show ended with a question mark, suggesting that Jim's role as family leader and arbiter was dubious.
In 1953 Robert Young and his partner Eugene B. Rodney decided to try the format out on TV. In partnership with Screen Gems , a pilot was developed. It was aired on The Ford Theatre in 1953, and was entitled " Keep It In The Family." It starred Robert Young in the identical Father Knows Best home but with an entirely different cast. It was decided the family in the pilot episode wasn't good enough to belong to such a " sterling father" so the hunt was on for a new cast which resulted in the one viewers know today.
Father Knows Best debuted on CBS on Oct. 3, 1954. A few weeks after the show began , the sponsor ( Kent Cigarettes), became dissatisfied with its low ratings and decided not to extend the 26 week contract. Fans sent letters of protest with most people hitting that " this is one of the very few good shows that our whole family , young and old watches and likes . We even learn something from it." Television Columnist even took up the crusade, urging audiences to write to the President of the CBS network and suggesting that Father might have a higher rating in the polls if it was shown earlier, Sundays at 10 pm , they said was too late for a family show. Father Knows Best even won the 1954 Sylvania Award for outstanding family entertainment, but CBS and Kent Cigarettes canceled the show anyway in March 1955.
Just when the show seemed scheduled to leave the air for good , The Scott Paper Company ( seeing the public response), picked up the sponsorship contract and moved it to the NBC Network at an earlier hour ( 8:30 pm). From there the rest is history. Within a year, 19 million households tuned in to watch Father Knows Best on Wednesday Evenings. By 1960 it was finishing in the top 10 every week, becoming an institution.
The show became such a symbol of the "typical" American family that the U.S. Treasury Department commissioned the producers to film a special episode to help promote the 1959 U.S. Savings Bond Drive. The story, "24 Hours in Tyrant Land," told how the Anderson children attempted to live for a day under a make-believe dictatorship. Never aired on TV, this special episode was distributed to schools, churches and civic organizations to show the importance of maintaining a strong American Democracy.
Movie actor Robert Young created and defined the role of Jim Anderson. His approach to playing him was perfect, he radiated affection, admitted his own shortcomings and had an uncanny ability to view life from the same perspective as his fictional children. In terms of temperament, directors referred to Young as Hollywood's most unstarlike star! He worked hard, seeked direction, apologized for fluffs in lines, was dependable and got his sleep nights instead of prowling nightclubs. He was already happily married to his wife Elizabeth for 24 years when he began Father Knows Best and remained married to her for the rest of his life.
During the 1959-1960 season - its last with original episodes - Father Knows Best had its most successful year, ranking #6 among all TV programs. By the end of the year, however, Robert Young had had enough of the role, which he had been playing for 11 years, and decided it was time to move on in his career. This was one of the rare occasions in the history of television when production on a series ended when it was at the peak of its popularity.It was not quite the end however because CBS scheduled rerun episodes in primetime for another 2 years, also a rarity and ABC reran them for another season after that.
There were 203 episodes filmed between 1954 and 1960 but only 190 episodes are shown in syndication. Two episodes, #40 " Stagecoach To Yuma" and #202 " Not His Type" are considered lost. The other 11 missing episodes were recut versions of earlier episodes usually having a family member recalled what happened to them using a flashback sequence. Those original 11 episodes were originally remade for 2 reasons. 1) It was really cheap to produce an episode with old footage and 2)tv was still so new, it was fascinating to see the physical changes in a character over a matter of years. Unfortunately when Father Knows Best was canned for syndication, the distributers decided one of each episode was enough. So most of the recut episodes have been lost.
Father Knows Best was well regarded in the television industry itself with Robert Young winning 2 emmy awards for his portrayal of Jim Anderson and Jane Wyatt winning 3 for her role as Margaret.
As for the legacy of Father Knows Best, at least one former cast member didn't like it. Billy Gray who played Bud had this to say about the show: " I wish there was some way I could tell kids not to believe it-the dialogue, the situations, the characters-they were all totally false. The show did everybody a disservice. The girls were always trained to use their feminine wiles, to pretend to be helpless to attract men. The show contributed to a lot of problems between men and women we see today. And it gave everyone a bad comparison with their own lives. People said to themselves, " If my mother and father aren't like that, they must be really bad people." I think we were all well motivated, but what we did was run a hoax. Father Knows Best purported to be a reasonable facsimile of life. And the bad thing is that the model is so deceitful. It usually revolved around not wanting to tell the truth, either out of embarrassment, or not wanting to hurt someone, or...Looked at from a certain slant, it's an incredibly destructive pattern for emulation. If I could say anything to make up for all the years I lent myself to that kind of bullshit, it would be: You know best. "
After Father Knows Best ceast production, Young, Wyatt and Donahue continued to appear frequently on television. Young of course starred in Marcus Welby M.D. for 7 years ( 1969-1976). Gray and Chapin ,however, made few tv appearances. On May 15, 1977, the 5 appeared together in The Father Knows Best Reunion on NBC. The slow moving hour long special proved disappointing. A second reunion special called Father Knows Best: Home For Christmas aired on Dec. 18, 1977.
Robert Young passed away on July 22, 1998.
Here's his Obituary as reported by The New York Times
Robert Young of 'Father Knows Best' Dies at 91
By BERNARD WEINRAUB JULY 23, 1998
Robert Young, an actor who created solid, wholesome, common-sense characters on television in ''Father Knows Best'' and ''Marcus Welby, M.D.,'' died on Tuesday night at his home in Westlake Village, a Los Angeles suburb. He was 91.
After a prolific career as a dependable film actor during Hollywood's golden age in the 1930's and 40's, he went on to even greater success in the two long-running television shows that were among the most popular of their respective decades. Mr. Young's television roles were built on integrity, clarity and kindness. Although ''Father Knows Best,'' which Mr. Young originated on NBC radio in 1949, was a classically wholesome and idealized portrait of family life in the Midwest, circa the 1950's and early 60's, Mr. Young insisted that the character he played, Jim Anderson, should be more realistic than other sitcom dads, who were often dimwitted.
''I'd like to be the father, but not a boob,'' he told a producer friend during the process of developing the radio show. He and the show's creators sought to portray ''what we thought would be representative of a middle-class American family, if there was such a thing,'' Mr. Young once recalled. ''There probably isn't, but that was what we were looking for.''
Mr. Young's portrayal of a strong and humorous father with no serious problems was all the more remarkable because he was privately battling personal demons, including alcoholism. He attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during the making of the show.
After its television debut in 1954, the half-hour show, in which Jim Anderson, his wife, Margaret, played by Jane Wyatt -- Mr. Young was the only member of the radio cast who made the transition to television -- had three children, was not particularly successful, and CBS canceled it in 1955. But so many viewers demanded that the show be reinstated, and urged that it move from 10 P.M. to an earlier time slot so that the whole family could watch, that NBC picked it up the following season and showed it at 8:30, initially on Wednesdays.
The show prospered on NBC and then back at CBS. In its 1959-60 season, its last with original episodes, ''Father Knows Best'' had its most successful year, ranking sixth among all television shows. Successful reruns followed on CBS and ABC until 1963.
Mr. Young ''never had any problems about being a prima donna,'' Billy Gray, who played the son, Bud, on the show said today. ''He was very generous as an actor.''
After ''Father Knows Best'' ceased production, Mr. Young said he had tired of the role and wanted to move on. Like ''Seinfeld,'' it was one of the rare cases in the history of television when production of a series ceased at the peak of its popularity. Mr. Young himself always defended the program but seemed fully aware of its white-bread style and shortcomings.
Adding subplots about illness or drugs or serious problems, he once said, ''would have been like taking a beautiful painting and obliterating it with black paint -- and that really would have turned the audience off.'' He added, ''We never intended the series to be more than a weekly half-hour of fun and entertainment.''
After a brief semi-retirement, which Mr. Young said he loathed -- ''When anyone says 'retire,' I say 'retire to what?' '' he once said -- he was cast in 1969 as Marcus Welby, a Santa Monica general practitioner who involved himself in the lives of his patient.
Grant Tinker, former chairman of NBC and then a television executive at Universal Studios (which produced ''Marcus Welby, M.D.''), recalled in an interview that Ralph Bellamy was set to play the role. ''Robert Young suddenly appeared and was sitting in my office,'' Mr. Tinker said. ''Someone had gotten him the pilot script. His opening words to me were, 'I want to be Marcus Welby.' '' Mr. Young got the part.
''There was a very sympathetic quality to Young as an actor,'' Mr. Tinker said. ''You can easily confuse him with a kindly doctor. He was also a guy who had a backbone. He was very determined.''
The one-hour show, with James Brolin as his youthful medical sidekick, had its premiere on Sept. 23, 1969, and was an instant success. It became the biggest hit in the history of the ABC network up to that time. Part of its initial success was a result of weak competition, with CBS and NBC opposing it with news documentary programs. But viewers clearly adored the show and remained faithful to it against stronger competition in later years. The show's last broadcast was in 1976.
Although the series itself, unlike ''Father Knows Best,'' dealt with serious problems like autism, blindness, LSD side effects, drug addiction and leukemia, Marcus Welby himself was something of a fantasy doctor who took a deeply personal approach to all of his patients. He treated not only physical ailments but the fears and family issues of each person.
''He's understanding and dedicated,'' Mr. Young once said of Marcus Welby. ''These are words that for some reason have fallen into disuse. I knew from the start that I had to come back and play this man.''
Mr. Young, who won two Emmys for ''Father Knows Best,'' won a third for ''Welby.'' He was also held in esteem by medical groups.
He was married to the same woman for more than 60 years. Mr. Young was 17, and in high school, when he met Elizabeth Louise Henderson, who was 14. They married in 1933. She died in 1994. Mr. Young is survived by their four daughters, Betty Lou Gleason, Carol Proffitt, Barbara Beebe and Kathy Young. He also had six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Despite the characters he played and his public image, Mr. Young was a complex and, in many ways, troubled figure.
He had a history of alcoholism and depression. In 1991, at 83, he tried to commit suicide by running a hose from his car's exhaust pipe to the interior of the vehicle. The attempt failed because the battery was dead and the car wouldn't start. He later admitted that he had been drinking when he asked his wife to enter into a suicide pact with him and then tried to take his life.
Mr. Young, the son of an Irish immigrant building manufacturer, was born in Chicago on Feb. 22, 1907, the fourth of five children. The family moved to Seattle and then Los Angeles when he was a boy. As a teen-ager, Mr. Young wanted to be an actor. He took part in high school dramatics and, after graduation, studied and acted at night at the Pasadena Community Playhouse. He worked part time as, among other jobs, a drugstore clerk and loan collector.
His theater work and good looks stirred Hollywood's interest in 1931, and a screen test brought his first role in ''The Black Camel,'' a Charlie Chan mystery. Signed by MGM, Mr. Young soon appeared in an extraordinary number of films in the early 1930's: in the course of 4 years he appeared in 24 pictures, playing serious roles in many of them. He appeared in such films as ''The Sin of Madelon Claudet'' (with Helen Hayes), ''Hell Divers,'' ''Strange Interlude,'' ''Tugboat Annie,'' ''The House of Rothschild'' and ''Today We Live.''
Slowly, Mr. Young forged a career not so much as a top movie star, in the vein of Clark Gable or Gary Cooper, but as a dependable actor whom audiences enjoyed watching. His co-stars included Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Katharine Hepburn, Greer Garson, Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow.
Among his most noted pictures at MGM were ''Three Comrades'' and ''The Shining Hour'' (both made in 1938), ''Northwest Passage'' (1940) and two 1942 features, ''Joe Smith, American'' and ''Journey for Margaret,'' in which he played a war correspondent who befriends a British orphan. The film made Margaret O'Brien, who played the orphan, a star.
Perhaps his most memorable performance was in RKO's 1945 love story ''The Enchanted Cottage,'' in which Mr. young played a battle-scarred war veteran.
Some critics said Mr. Young's later films were some of his best, including ''Claudia'' (1943), ''Those Endearing Young Charms'' (1945), ''Crossfire'' (1947), ''Sitting Pretty'' (1948) and ''Goodbye, My Fancy'' (1951).
''I am a plodder,'' Mr. Young once said. ''My career never had any great peaks. But producers and directors knew I was reliable. So when they couldn't really get the big stars, they'd say, 'Let's get Bob.' As a result I always kept working, each time a little higher.''
Here's Jane Wyatt's Obituary as reported by The New York Times.
Jane Wyatt, Mother on Father Knows Best, Dies at 96
By ROBERT BERKVIST
Published: October 23, 2006
Jane Wyatt, who reigned as America's ideal suburban mom during the 1950's when she starred with Robert Young in the television sitcom Father Knows Best and who nearly lured Ronald Colman away from diplomacy and into a lamasery in Frank Capra's 1937 film Lost Horizon, died on Friday at her home in Bel Air, Calif. She was 96.
Her death was confirmed by her publicist Meg McDonald, The Associated Press reported.
A petite, attractive brunette, Ms. Wyatt found it hard to avoid being typecast and wound up playing quite a few of what she described as "good wives of good men," though she confessed she would have been happier playing the murderer or the heavy. She did get to play a few offbeat roles on stage and screen. In Philip Barry's wryly titled play The Joyous Season (1934), she was a moody member of a family seething with petty feuds. As the wife of an attorney (Dana Andrews) in the 1947 film Boomerang, she became embroiled in the corruption surrounding a notorious murder. And in Lillian Hellman's Autumn Garden, on Broadway in 1951, she was married to an indolent drifter (Fredric March) for whom she felt nothing but contempt.
For the most part, however, as she shuttled between Hollywood and Broadway, she was called upon to be loyal, loving and courageous. In None but the Lonely Heart, a 1944 film starring Cary Grant and Ethel Barrymore, she was an adoring musician who pined for an indifferent Grant. She was cast as a courageous nurse in Canadian Pacific (1949); as the faithful, supportive wife of a naval airman (Gary Cooper) in Task Force (1949); and as a happily married (to David Wayne) mother of five in My Blue Heaven (1950).
Her Broadway credits included Night Music (1940), by Clifford Odets, a Group Theater production directed by Harold Clurman, in which she played a young woman who finds the love of her life in New York; and Hope for the Best (1945), by William McCleery, with Ms. Wyatt as a factory worker who helps a popular columnist (Franchot Tone) see the light of liberalism.
Jane Waddington Wyatt was born on Aug. 12, 1910, in Campgaw, N.J., into a family of distinguished lineage and grew up in New York City. Her father was an investment banker, her mother a writer for Commonweal and other publications. She attended the Chapin School and studied at Barnard College for two years before joining the apprentice school at the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge, Mass. Back in New York she found work as an understudy in a Broadway show, and her name was removed from the New York Social Register. Clearly, the wicked stage was no place for proper young ladies.
Not daunted, she continued to audition and soon made her Broadway debut in 1931 in A. A. Milne's Give Me Yesterday, as the daughter of an ambitious British politician (Louis Calhern). She achieved a breakthrough of sorts in 1933 when she succeeded Margaret Sullavan in Dinner at Eight, the hit comedy by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, and then toured in the show, leading to a contract offer from Universal and her Hollywood debut in One More River (1934), based on John Galsworthy's last novel.
Ms. Wyatt said at one point that her favorite film role had been in Task Force, opposite Gary Cooper, but she is probably best remembered for her work in Lost Horizon, based on the novel by James Hilton and directed by Frank Capra. Most of the film's action takes place in Tibet in a fabled region called Shangri-La, ruled by an ancient High Lama. A plane crash brings a small group of Westerners led by a British diplomat Bob Conway (Ronald Colman) to the lamasery. There, Colman meets and is entranced by Sondra (Ms. Wyatt), an attractive young woman who has grown up in Shangri-La. The High Lama is looking for a successor, Sondra is looking for love, and the Colman character must choose whether to stay or return to the war-torn world beyond the mountains. Critics agreed that Ms. Wyatt was luminous in the role.
Ms. Wyatt had already made a number of appearances in television dramas before she joined the cast of Father Knows Best in 1954. The show followed the lives of the Anderson family in the Midwestern town of Springfield, with Robert Young as Jim Anderson, Ms. Wyatt as his wife, Margaret, and their three children, two of them teenagers. Family crises arose a son's first dance, a daughter's first crush and were firmly but lovingly resolved. When CBS dropped the show in 1955 there were so many protests from viewers that NBC was persuaded to pick it up. Father Knows Best returned to CBS for the 1959-1960 season, its final run of new episodes. The show brought Ms. Wyatt three Emmy Awards. In 1977 she returned to the role, this time as a grandmother, in two made-for-television movies, The Father Knows Best Reunion and Father Knows Best: Home for Christmas.
Ms. Wyatt married Edgar Bethune Ward in 1935. He died in 2000. She is survived by their two sons, Christopher Ward of Piedmont, Calif., and Michael Ward of Los Angeles; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
One of her more offbeat television parts was that of Amanda, the human mother of Mr. Spock, the pointy-eared Vulcan member of the Star Trek crew of space voyagers in the late 1960's. She reprised the role in the 1986 film, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
To read some articles about Father Knows Best go to http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=8gAqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=hMwEAAAAIBAJ&dq=father%20knows%20best%20robert%20young&pg=6525%2C6196011 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=KQkrAAAAIBAJ&sjid=r5kFAAAAIBAJ&dq=father%20knows%20best%20robert%20young&pg=3318%2C1806400 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ZCNVAAAAIBAJ&sjid=bIADAAAAIBAJ&dq=father%20knows%20best%20robert%20young&pg=4228%2C1189487 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=UFAJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=pkIDAAAAIBAJ&dq=father%20knows%20best%20robert%20young&pg=1759%2C4685967 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=54BPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6wQEAAAAIBAJ&dq=father%20knows%20best%20robert%20young&pg=1657%2C7667664 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=jOQTAAAAIBAJ&sjid=NgUEAAAAIBAJ&dq=father%20knows%20best%20robert%20young&pg=6507%2C1962524 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=puQTAAAAIBAJ&sjid=NgUEAAAAIBAJ&dq=father%20knows%20best%20robert%20young&pg=4131%2C7460520 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=4OYrAAAAIBAJ&sjid=MGcFAAAAIBAJ&dq=father%20knows%20best%20robert%20young&pg=1072%2C3711424
To watch some episodes from Father Knows Best go to http://www.solie.org/alibrary/FatherKnowsBest.html
For a Page dedicated to Father Knows Best go to https://web.archive.org/web/20080117170559/http://tvland.classictvhits.com:80/FatherKnowsBest/
To go to Tim's TV Showcase go to http://timvp.com/tv/fatherknowsbest/
For an episode guide of Father Knows Best go to http://ctva.biz/US/Comedy/FatherKnowsBest.htm
For a Robert Young Trivia Page go to http://www.meredy.com/rytriv.html
For a Tribute to Robert Young go to http://www.classicmovies.org/a-tribute-to-robert-young/
To listen to episodes from the radio series go to https://free-classic-radio-shows.com/Comedy/Father-Knows-Best/index.php
For Father Knows Best-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/shows/father-knows-best
For a Review of Father Knows Best go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130121173846/http://televisionheaven.co.uk/fkb.htm and http://www.museum.tv/eotv/fatherknows.htm
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndlvROHTuUc
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Keywords: Father Knows Best