James Gilmore “Jim” Backus was a radio, television, film, and voice actor. Among his most famous roles are the voice of Mr. Magoo, the rich Hubert Updike, III on the Alan Young radio show, Joan Davis’s character’s husband on TV’s I Married Joan, James Dean’s character’s father in Rebel Without a Cause and Thurston Howell, III on the 1960s hit 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 actually made the 36-hole cut at the 1964 Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournament.
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 Backus. He is of Lebanese background. Backus was expelled from the Kentucky Military Institute for riding a horse through the mess hall.
Backus had an extensive career and worked steadily in Hollywood over five decades, often portraying characters with an “upper-crust”, New English air, such as Mr. Howell in Gilligan’s Island. He appeared in Deadline – U.S.A., with Humphrey Bogart, Pat and Mike, with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Rebel Without a Cause, and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World .