Jim Backus

Show Count: 62
Series Count: 4
Role: Old Time Radio Star
Old Time Radio
Born: February 25, 1913, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Died: July 3, 1989, Los Angeles, California, USA

James Gilmore "Jim" Backus (February 25, 1913 – July 3, 1989) was an American radio, television, film, and voice actor. Among his most famous roles are the voice of nearsighted cartoon character Mr. Magoo, the rich Hubert Updike III on the radio version of The Alan Young Show, Joan Davis's character's husband (a domestic court judge) on TV's I Married Joan, James Dean's character's father inRebel Without a Cause and Thurston Howell, III on the 1960s sitcom Gilligan's Island. He also starred in his own show of one season,The Jim Backus Show, also known as Hot off the Wire.

An avid golfer, Backus made the 36-hole cut at the 1964 Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournament.

Early life

James Gilmore Backus was born February 25, 1913, in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in Bratenahl, Ohio, a wealthy village surrounded by greater Cleveland. He was the son of Russell Gould Backus, a mechanical engineer, and Daisy Gilmore (née Taylor) Backus. Backus attended Shaw High School (Ohio) in East Cleveland, Ohio. Backus was expelled from the Kentucky Military Institute for riding a horse through the mess hall.



Virginia Brissac, Backus, Ann Doran, Edward Platt and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.

Backus had an extensive career and worked steadily in Hollywood over five decades, often portraying characters with an "upper-crust", New England-like air, such as Thurston Howell, III in Gilligan's Island. He appeared in A Dangerous Profession (1949) (as well as narrating), Deadline – U.S.A. (1951), withHumphrey Bogart, Pat and Mike (1952), with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1957), and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). He also made appearances on The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).

Backus was the voice of the near-sighted cartoon character Mr. Magoo. In 1952, he had a brief scene inDon't Bother to Knock with Marilyn Monroe. Years later, when Backus was a frequent talk show guest, he would recount the time Monroe urgently beckoned him into her dressing room. Once there, she exclaimed in her breathy voice, "Do Mr. Magoo!" In 1980, the U.S. Department of Educationimplemented a $200,000 project that developed textbooks for children to root out racism, sexism, and negative stereotypes of handicap individuals. The teachers guide that accompanied a 1982 third grade text recommended to ask students why people laugh at handicapped cartoon characters, including Porky Pig, who stutters, and Mr. Magoo, who is severely nearsighted.

He frequently could be heard on prime-time radio programs in the postwar era, including The Jack Benny Program, and portrayed an exceedingly vain character named Hartley Benson on The Mel Blanc Show on the CBS Radio Network; as well as a similar character named Hubert Updike on The Alan Young Show on the NBC Radio Network.

In stark contrast to his usual affluent characters, he appeared on The Brady Bunch as an old gold prospector, a role he also played on a Gilligan's Island episode. He also appeared in the final season episode "The Hustler" in which he plays Mike's boss, Mr. Matthews.

Backus stayed with Gilligan's Island between 1964 and 1967 and did revivals of the TV series in TV films made between 1978 and 1982. He also did revivals of Mr. Magoo from 1964 to 1977, which included The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo and What's New, Mr. Magoo. Backus also costarred in the comedy show I Married Joan from 1952 to 1955, portraying the husband of Joan Davis.

Writing and recording

Backus and his wife, Henny Backus, co-wrote several humorous books, including Only When I Laugh. He also co-wrote the 1971 family film Mooch Goes to Hollywood, about a dog who tries to become a movie star. In 1984, he wrote his autobiography, Backus Strikes Back. They also wrote What Are You Doing After the Orgy?, the title taken from a line of Backus's in the 1965 film John Goldfarb, Please Come Home.

In the late 1950s, he made two novelty 45 rpm records, "Delicious" and "Cave Man". In 1974, a collection of Backus' old radio material was compiled into a full-length comedy LP album released on the DORE label under the title The Dirty Old Man. Backus also played the voice of God in the recording of Truth of Truths, a 1971 rock opera based on the Bible.

Television commercials

Backus acted in several television commercials. As Mr. Magoo, he also helped advertise the General Electric line of products over the years. He was also spokesperson for La-Z-Boy furniture during the 1970s. In the late 1980s, he was reunited with former co-star Natalie Schafer in an advertisement for Orville Redenbacher's Popcorn. They reprised their roles from Gilligan's Island, but instead of still being shipwrecked, the setting was a luxurious study or den. Both performers were rather frail and this would be the last television appearance for both.


On July 3, 1989, Jim Backus died in Los Angeles, California from complications of pneumonia, after suffering from Parkinson's disease for many years. Backus was buried at the southwest corner of Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles.

Source: Wikipedia

Alan Young Show, TheAlan Young Show, The
Show Count: 57
Broadcast History: 28 June 1944 to 20 September 1944, 3 October 1944 to 28 June 1946, 20 September 1946 to 30 May 1947, and 11 January 1949 to 5 July 1949
Cast: Alan Young, Jean Gillespie, Doris Singleton, Ed Begley, Louise Erickson, Jim Backus, Nicodemus Stewart, Hal March, Ken Christy
Director: Helen Mack
Producer: Helen Mack
The series began on NBC Radio as a summer replacement situation comedy in 1944, featuring vocalist Bea Wain. It then moved to ABC Radio with Jean Gillespie portraying Young's girlfriend Betty. The program was next broadcast by NBC for a 1946-47 run and was off in 1948. When it returned to NBC in 1949, Louise Erickson played Betty and Jim Backus was heard as snobbish playboy Hubert Updike III.
Mel Blanc ShowMel Blanc Show
Show Count: 41
Broadcast History: 3 September 1946 to 24 June 1947
Sponsor: Colgate
Cast: Bea Benaderet, Mel Blanc, Mary Jane Croft, Hans Conried, Alan Reed, Earle Ross, Jim Backus, Joe Kearns, Sportsmen Quartet
Director: Joe Rines, Sam Fuller
Producer: Joe Rines, Sam Fuller
Broadcast: December 21, 1948
Added: Jul 02 2022
Broadcast: January 30, 1949
Added: Jul 30 2022
Broadcast: 01 August 1946
Added: Aug 03 2007
Broadcast: 21st October 1947
Added: Nov 10 2013
Broadcast: 22nd November 1948
Added: Aug 30 2010
Broadcast: 5th December 1946
Added: Jun 13 2001
Broadcast: December 11, 1938
Added: Dec 28 2023
Broadcast: 16th August 1950
Added: Oct 09 2011
Broadcast: December 28, 1948
Added: Jul 09 2022
Broadcast: December 5, 1956
Starring: Alan Young, Jim Backus
Added: Dec 05 2019
Broadcast: August 8, 1956
Starring: Jim Backus
Added: Sep 14 2019
Broadcast: 19th August 1962
Added: Nov 28 2013
Broadcast: 25th March 1952
Added: Nov 22 2011
Broadcast: January 16, 1949
Added: Jul 23 2022
Broadcast: 22nd October 1951
Added: Oct 22 2012