To millions of kids who frequented Saturday matinees in the mid-'50s, Jim Backus was the voice of Mr. Magoo. To anyone who tuned into the television after 1964, he will always be Thurston Howell III, Gilligan's Island's multi-millionaire castaway.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1913, Backus began acting on stage in the '30s, quickly finding his niche on radio with a terrific range of comic voices. In the 1940s, Backus easily transitioned into TV on the variety show Hollywood House. Roles on several regular series followed, including I Married Joan, The Jim Backus Show and of course, the animated adventures of Mr. Magoo. Backus appeared in dozens of films in the '40s and '50s (including many Mr. Magoo shorts), and earned critical acclaim for his 1955 appearance as James Dean's father in Rebel Without a Cause. He also performed as a comic in Vegas, occasionally offering a live rendition of the near-sighted bumbler, Magoo.
Throughout his prolific career, Backus continued to act in feature films, TV movies and in guest-starring roles on TV series. Although a generation will forever think of him as Mr. Howell, he was never a victim of typecasting or experienced a lack of work. Backus suffered from Parkinson's disease and passed away on July 3, 1989 from pneumonia, but he continues to live on in the hearts of countless fans.
One of the world's richest men, Thurston Howell III is also known as "The Wizard of Wall Street." Though much of his money is inherited, Mr. Howell is a Harvard graduate and presumably a natural at expanding the family fortune. He met and married his wife Eunice at Harvard in the 1940s, though he never calls her by anything but her pet name, Lovey. He has a home in each of the 50 states, and is the owner of Howell Industries as well as 11 other corporations. While stranded on the island, Mr. Howell is able to keep track of his millions by listening to the radio and reading a copy of the Wall Street Journal that he happened to bring on the cruise. His most impressive skill: packing for any situation. Even marooned on a desert island, this mogul is rarely wanting for anything.