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'Marcus Welby' actor Robert Young dies

graphic July 22, 1998
Web posted at: 9:26 a.m. EDT (0926 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Actor Robert Young, best known for his lead roles in the long-running television shows "Marcus Welby, M.D.," and "Father Knows Best," died Tuesday night, according to a statement issued by his publicist.

Young, 91, died of respiratory failure at his home in Westlake, California, the statement issued Wednesday by Bernstein Communications said.

A L S O :

Robert Young's career credits: More than 'Father Knows Best'

"The world has lost one of its last real leading men, and I have lost my father," said daughter Betty Lou Gleason.

"When I saw Dad a couple of days ago, we had a wonderful visit. He was alert and joking, so it came as a real shock to learn he'd gone so fast."

A funeral and memorial service will be held in the Los Angeles area, probably next Monday, the statement said.

CNN's Jill Brooke on the life and career of Robert Young
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Beloved figure

Young started his acting career in 1931, after a talent scout saw him in a play. That year, he achieved stardom in "The Sin Of Madelon Claudet."

Father Knows Best
"Father Knows Best"  

In the years that followed, Young performed on stage, on the radio and in the movies, playing the romantic lead in dozens of films before making a permanent mark on television.

Young became a pop culture icon for playing the all-American dad Jim Anderson in "Father Knows Best," which aired from 1954 to 1963.

"Look, son, let me give you a tip -- cling to your youth. Time has a way of moving forward, never backward -- stay with it as long as you can," was one line of advice from the caring dad.

For seven years in the 1970s, Young also played the kindly doctor on the popular "Marcus Welby, M.D."

In his TV roles and in his many movies, such as "They Won't Believe Me," Young exuded a calm optimism that won viewers' hearts.

Young once said that the secret to his success was the fact that the audience liked to see him in the role of the good guy.

"I played a guy in bad hat -- it didn't work. The audience didn't believe it," he told CNN in a 1984 interview.

Problems with alcohol, depression

It was equally hard for the public to believe Young when he confessed to his problems with depression and alcoholism. He told reporters that he sometimes felt guilty playing the reliable steady-as-a-rock patriarch, when in real life, he was often so unhappy.

Marcus Welby, M.D
"Marcus Welby, M.D."  

But that kind of candor only endeared him more to the audience.

Later in life, after he learned he had a chemical imbalance, Young spoke out about the insidious problem of depression, which led to a suicide attempt in 1991.

In his later years, Young continued acting, starring in the TV movie "Mercy Killing."

Parts were rare for an actor in his 80s, but Young said his favorite role was always that of a family man.

"Whether it was stage, film, TV," he told CNN, "I've always enjoyed it, and I derived a lot of pleasure from it."

Reuters contributed to this report.
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