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Jim Backus Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (23) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 25 February 1913Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Date of Death 3 July 1989Los Angeles, California, USA  (pneumonia)
Birth NameJames Gilmore Backus
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Jim Backus was born James Gilmore Backus on February 25, 1913 in Cleveland, Ohio. He was one of the few actors to do it all: radio, Broadway, movies, television and cartoons. After attending preparatory school in his hometown Cleveland, Backus enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, to ply his trade. While waiting for parts, he did radio and became friends with such future notables as Garson Kanin and Keenan Wynn. Backus stuck it out and soon was doing motion pictures in addition to radio. He was typecast in roles as "rich types" but broke the mold when he portrayed James Dean's father in the classic Rebel Without a Cause (1955). With his career in full swing, Backus also tackled two roles that he would be best known for, Mr. Magoo in cartoons and Thurston Howell III in Gilligan's Island (1964). After the series' run ended, he continued doing guest spots on television and movies, before passing away on July 3, 1989.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ken Severson

Spouse (2)

Henny Backus (14 January 1943 - 3 July 1989) (his death)
Betty Kean (? - ?) (divorced)

Trade Mark (2)

Rich smooth voice
Often played wealthy, upper-class figures

Trivia (23)

Following his death, he was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.
One of his teachers in grade school was Margaret Hamilton, who would later play the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Attended the Kentucky Military Institute. One of his classmates was future fellow actor Victor Mature.
Used to work as a radio announcer in New York City.
When Backus was doing radio plays, one of his characters Hubert Updyke III would become the basis for Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island (1964).
Was an avid golfer.
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith. pg. 34-35. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
He was once roommates with Martin Gabel.
He not only played Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island (1964), once he also did a double-role, portraying a man, that impersonated Thurston Howell III, but was a criminal, in Gilligan's Island: Will the Real Mr. Howell Please Stand Up? (1966). The man later falls off a yacht, while drinking wine from a lady's slipper.
He reached the United States Top 40 Pop charts for a couple of weeks in 1958 with his novelty recording, "Delicious!" on Jubilee Records featuring instrumental backing from Appleknocker and His Group. The female part was comedienne Phyllis Diller. It was basically the two of them taking a drink of champagne and exclaiming "Delicious!". As the record progresses, they get drunker and giddier, slurring the word and laughing hysterically.
He provided the voice of Wally the Bird on the Western Airlines ads of the 1950s. His one-liner was simply "Western Airlines, the O-O-ONLY way to fly." He repeated this line in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives." Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 43-45. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
Was the first choice to play Abner Kravitz on Bewitched (1964), but turned down the role, as he was already working on Gilligan's Island (1964).
Suffered from Parkinson's disease in later years and had to be carried into Gilligan's Island (1964) creator Sherwood Schwartz's 70th birthday party in 1987 because he could not manage the steps into Schwartz's house.
In November 1957, Eva Gabor was his landlady - he sublet her New York City apartment.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1735 Vine Street in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
Had played the same character (Thurston Howell III) on three different series: Gilligan's Island (1964), The New Adventures of Gilligan (1974) and Gilligan's Planet (1982).
Had appeared with Mickey Rooney in four films: The Big Operator (1959), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County (1970) and Pete's Dragon (1977).
Had appeared with Natalie Wood in four films: Father Was a Fullback (1949), The Rose Bowl Story (1952), Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and The Girl He Left Behind (1956).
Best remembered by the public for his roles as the voice of Mr. Magoo and as Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island (1964).
Jim Backus passed away on July 3, 1989, six months before his Gilligan's Island (1964) co-star Alan Hale Jr.'s death.
Second husband of Betty Kean. Ex-brother-in-law of Jean Kean.

Personal Quotes (2)

Many a man owes his success to his first wife and his second wife to his success.
Mr. Magoo's appeal lies in our hostility toward an older generation. But he's not only nearsighted physically; his mind is selective of what it sees, too. That is where the humor, the satire lies, in the difference between what he thinks he sees and reality as we see it.

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