Vintage Hunk: Robert Young

By: Mike McCrann

Marcus Welby and the Father Knows Best proud papa as a vintage hunk?
Of course.
Years before Robert Young dominated 50s and 60s television as the kindly wise older man, there was Robert Young the movie star. For twenty years Young was a popular leading man who co-starred with some of the great beauties of the era. Mostly Robert Young was bland without much flair but every once in a while he was cast as an evil man or a prize heel.
In The Mortal Storm, Young was the Nazi who had his troops open fire on Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart as they try to ski into Austria at the end of the film. Young was chilling as the nice German who becomes a vile bigot during Hitler's rise to power. When Young confronts Sullavan's brothers (including Robert Stack) and tells them she is dead he screams: "It was my duty." Scary stuff.
Robert Young's most atypical role was in the great 1947 film noir They Won't Believe Me in which he plays a cad who is married to a rich older woman and has affairs with both Jane Greer and Susan Hayward that finally lead to a murder trial and a twist ending. Young was sexy and totally convincing in this rare change of pace role.
Robert George Young was born in Chicago in 1907. Early appearances at the Pasadena Playhouse led to an MGM contract. Young made more than 100 films in the next 20 years. Some of them were good including Alfred Hitchcock's Secret Agent and H.M. Pulham, Esq where he played the staid Boston Bra who falls in love with gorgeous Hedy Lamar. Other hits like Journey for Margaret which made little Margaret O'Brien a star and his co-starring films (away from MGM) with Dorothy McGuire (Claudia and The Enchanted Cottage) showed that Young was a fine actor. He never gave a bad performance and apparently was liked by all those he worked with. Hedy Lamar called Young her favorite leading man.
Television made Robert Young a superstar. The iconic Father Knows Best with Jane Wyatt as his wife ran for six years and created the image we have today of the actor - wise, loving and all knowing. Playing Marcus Welby for 7 years brought Young an Emmy for Best Actor and another batch of loyal fans.

But there was a dark side to Robert Young. He was married to one woman from 1933-1994 and had four daughters, but Young suffered from severe depression and alcoholism. He even tried to commit suicide. He later publicly addressed all these issues in an attempt to help others.
Robert Young died in 1998 at age 91. Young left behind not only a huge body of film work but television glory. If you want to see Robert Young at his best (and sexiest) check out The Mortal Storm and They Won't Believe Me. You wont see father knowing anything, but you will see a fine actor at his finest.


Below is a wonderful video montage of Robert Young's most memorable images.