A Brief History about actor Jim Backus
Thurston Howell III
Who was Thurston Howell III?
Jim Backus was already a well known actor when he took the part of the millionaire Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island. His career was extensive. He often portrayed characters with an "upper-crust" air like the character he played on Gilligan's Island. Jim Backus was on Broadway, in movies, on television, radio and was the voice of the near sighted bumbling Mr. Magoo. As Mr. Magoo he helped advertise General Electric throughout the years.
He appeared in movies like Rebel Without A Cause (1955) and Don't Bother to Knock (1952) with Marilyn Monroe. He was in the movie Deadline - U.S.A. (1951) with Humphrey Bogart and in Pat and Mike (1952) with Spencer Tracey.
His radio career included being on prime-time programs like The Mel Blance Show and Jack Benny. The character portrayed on Jack Benny was a haughty vain character named Hartley Benson. On the Alan Young Show he was the voice to the predecessor to Thurston Howell III. This was the obscenely wealthy Hubert Updike III.
Jim Backus was born James Gilmore Backus on February 25, 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, an engineer, promoted academics and sent his son to the Kentucky Military Institute. He struggled, convinced his father to let him attend Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York instead of pursuing a more traditional education.
In 1978, Jim Backus was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. After struggling for years, he died on July 3, 1989 from complications of pneumonia. He is buried at the southwest corner of Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles.
Random Facts about Jim Backus:
1. One of his teachers in grade school was Margaret Hammilton, who would later play The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
2. He used to work as a radio announcer in New York City.
3. Jim Backus was the first choice to play Abner Kravitz in Bewitched (1964), but turned it down because he was already on Gilligan's Island.
4. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1735 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.
5. He was an excellent golfer.
Mr. Howell as everyone on the island called him was "The Millionaire" in the opening lyrics of Gilligan's Island. He was so wealthy that he had many changes of clothing with him and trunks filled with money; twenty to be exact. He brought all of this on a "three-hour tour". He used to say the only thing better than the smell of money was the smell of more money. In actuality, he was a billionaire.
As a Harvard educated, New England "upper crust", he did absolutely no work when stranded on the island. He was married to Lovey Howell and slept with a teddy bear he fondly called, "Teddy". He prided himself on being a staunch Republican.
Mr. Howell bragged that he had homes in Palm Beach, Paris, Newport, New York, Monaco and all 50 states.
Thurston Howell III broke laws, used bribery and manipulation to get what he wanted. He was an incredibly corrupt character who was exceptionally greedy. Like his wife Lovey though, his heart was in the right place and he was caring and generous.
He did not spend his days on the island working. Mr. Howell did not do manual labor. He lounged, drank foo foo drinks, listened to the stock market report on the AM radio, and played golf.
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