The Cast of Father Knows Best
Father Knows Best was one of the most beloved classic TV sitcoms of its era and quickly became one of the most-watched family shows of its age, first debuting on radio and then moving to television as Father Knows Best (debuting on radio before moving on television later on). It quickly rose in popularity over time to become one of the most-watched family shows of its time.
Robert Young, Jane Wyatt, and Elinor Donahue all appeared as cast members in this groundbreaking drama series. Since then, many of them have gone on to other projects.
Robert Young, born February 22 in Chicago, Illinois, in 1907 and known for his roles on Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby M.D., passed away July 21, 2017, from respiratory failure at Westlake Village, California. Young started acting professionally during the 1920s, appearing in theater productions and silent movies before being recruited by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Talent Scouts to appear as Jim Anderson from Father Knows Best.
Young was best known for playing the steadfast father in Father Knows Best for ten years until he became tired of portraying this role. Later, he made an appearance as Dr. Marcus Welby in another series. Additionally, he appeared in numerous other movies and television shows.
Following his success on Father Knows Best, Young became an acclaimed and lucrative actor, making millions during his career and garnering public adoration. Yet Young wasn’t content in life, suffering from depression and alcoholism and feeling guilty for playing the steadfast father on television while feeling so disappointed. In past interviews with The Times, he revealed this truth by admitting his sense of guilt in playing that character on screen when, in reality, it often left him feeling powerless to fulfill its responsibilities.
While the show was popular, it did spark considerable controversy. Many medical professionals voiced displeasure at how it depicted doctors – for instance, many actual physicians don’t sit with patients all night or drive them home from hospitals unasked for advice from other sources.
However, this series was widely considered one of the most successful television programs of its time. It was filmed using three cameras and featured regular guest stars as regular cast members. Famous among viewers for six years and winning various awards and nominations.
Robert Young was the only member of Father Knows Best’s cast to continue acting after its conclusion, appearing in several popular television shows such as Stagecoach to Yuma and What’s My Line? Additionally, he appeared in more than 100 films.
Father Knows Best was an iconic 1950s TV sitcom known for capturing America’s heart. The show followed the lives of the Anderson family as they embarked upon their daily adventures, making this series groundbreaking when it first explored suburban living. Today, it holds a special place in many people’s hearts.
Jane Wyatt became one of the most recognized actresses from 1934 until 1960 and won three consecutive Emmy awards with this series, with Jane playing Margaret Anderson from 1954-60, bringing realism, devotion, and strength into any household she entered. Wyatt had been seen both onscreen and on Broadway; her debut was 1934’s One More River. However, many more people remember her best in Frank Capra’s 1937 movie Lost Horizon, where her role made a first impression paired with Robert Young – often on film or Broadway! Her roles brought realism, devotion, and strength into any household setting or scene she entered.
Wyatt made 203 appearances during her time on the show and became a beloved character that all viewers could relate to and relate to. While some episodes could be confusing or unpredictable, Wyatt always kept things real and relatable for its viewers.
Wyatt continued her performance career after the show’s end by appearing in several television programs and dabbling in painting; she became a member of both the California Art Club and the American Society of Portrait Artists; additionally, she donated time and energy towards supporting charitable organizations such as March of Dimes.
Wyatt died peacefully at her Bel-Air, California home on October 20, 2006. She was 96.
Wyatt will be greatly missed by her daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons. She was an iconic and gifted actress – beloved and inspirational to women everywhere – whose legacy will live on for generations.
Elinor Donahue became one of America’s most recognizable faces when Father Knows Best premiered on television in 1954, playing Betty Anderson as an 18-year-old teenager. The show ran for ten years, making her an instant celebrity. Later, she went on to appear in several more television shows and movies such as ABC-TV’s Jukebox Jury as a musical judge; Crossroads religion anthology series Crossroads episode “The White Carnation,” U.S. Marshal guest starred, Redigo short-term series; Have Gun Will Travel series among many others.
Elinor Donahue didn’t want to audition for her role of Betty Anderson on Father Knows Best; however, her agent persuaded her to do so and believed it would help launch her movie career. Donahue later reflected that playing Betty Anderson felt forced and unrealistic for her; furthermore, she didn’t care much for Jim and Margaret’s relationship as it felt artificial and unrealistic.
After Father Knows Best, Donahue took on the leading role of pharmacist Ellie Walker on The Andy Griffith Show. Although she appeared in 12 episodes, Donahue found she and Sheriff Andy Taylor didn’t have any chemistry on camera and ultimately left after only 12 appearances despite fearing producers may fire her.
Donahue made numerous guest appearances during the 1960s and 70s on sitcoms and dramas. She played Sister Bertrille on three episodes of The Flying Nun TV version and appeared regularly on both daytime dramas, Many Happy Returns and Days of Our Lives; additionally, she appeared in one episode each of the NBC Western series The Westerner and comedy show Diff’rent Strokes.
Donahue had a recurring role as Bridget, a Beverly Hills department store clerk, on Mork and Mindy in 1985. Additionally, she guest starred on Newhart and The Golden Girls and was Chris Elliot’s mother in Get a Life (short-lived series). Later in life she appeared in movies like Pretty Woman and Lady Palimore in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1990s).
If you grew up during the 1950s, chances are you watched the sitcom Father Knows Best. As one of the most beloved programs of its time and a cultural icon for many Americans, its timeless, wholesome values and relatable characters made Father Knows Best an instant classic that continues to be loved today by generations of families across generations. But what has happened since? Where have the actors of Father Knows Best gone after filming stopped? How have their careers developed since?
Billy Gray, best known as Bud Anderson on The Waltons, had an extensive acting career that began when he was only three. From child acting roles in films and television shows as a child actor through several minor parts with big-name stars such as Humphrey Bogart and Doris Day in movies to playing young Jim Thorpe in Jim Thorpe: All-American in 1951 as well as Bobby in The Day the Earth Stood Still as Bobby.
However, his clean image was severely tarnished in 1962 when he was arrested for possessing marijuana seeds and residue. While this did not derail his career entirely, it did damage his reputation significantly and rendered him virtually undesirable for several years afterward.
Billy Gray continued his work after Father Knows Best ended, appearing on television and film projects and competing in Class A speedway motorcycle racing. Today, he lives in Topanga, California – in the same house he purchased while filming Father Knows Best in 1957!
While most of the cast of Father Knows Best have passed on, some members remain alive today. Robert Young died at 91, and Jane Wyatt died in 2006. Billy Gray turns 80, while Elinor Donahue – his on-screen wife from Father Knows Best – is now 73.
Gray also enjoys an accomplished business career as an inventor. He co-owns BigRock Engineering and has created various products over time, such as high-tech guitar picks and self-massagers.