Thursday, June 2, 2016

I Remember Alan Young

In my days as a TV critic I'd toddle down to Los Angeles several times a year to interview the likes of Lucy Ball or Hank Fonda or Jim Garner.
Imagine my joy when I walked into an interview room at the Century Plaza hotel in 1988 and met Alan Young who was about to co-star in what turned out to be his last TV sitcom, Coming Of Age.
Young was the star of one of those guilty pleasures of my youth, Mister Ed.
But he also was a fellow Canadian who'd starred on CBC Radio in Vancouver before being bitten by the acting bug.
As he told me he was born in North Shields England in 1919--he later changed the date to 1924.
"Dad was a mine worker and a tap dancer": he said matter of factly. "We moved to Vancouver when I still was a baby.
"By the time I was in high school I had my own comedy-variety series on CBC Radio in Vancouver nut then I joined the Royal Canadian Navy."
After the war Young went to Toronto and flourished on CBC radio. An American agent heard him and signed him to an exclusive contract and soon "I was starring in The Alan Young Show which was the summer replacement for Eddie Cantor on NBC."
In 1946 Young made his movie debut in the comedy Margie. "A huge hit in its day, we just had a cast reunion and everyone showed up: Jeanne Crain,Conrad Janis, Glenn Langam. All of could still walk and a few still had full heads of hair."
In 1950 The Al;an Young Show debuted and "I got an Emmy as Best Actor and the show also won as best series."
Other Young films: Androcles And The L:ion (1952), Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955), Tom Thumb (1958). and The Time Machine (1960).
Then came the marvelous Mr. Ed (1961-66) on CBS.
"It took three days to shoot each half hour. There were many Mr. Eds. One only did close-ups, another excelled at that horsey laugh. An iron wedge was inserted into the horse's mouth and that was the cause of the horse moving his lips --he was trying to get rid of the iron wedge.
"Of course the show stole the concept from Francis The Talking Mule. We even had Mae West on one night but she was really dirty in her ad libs and the CBS censor had to cut her best lines."
CBS ran the series Sunday nights at 6 p.m. and it garnered huge ratings for its five years run.
After leaving acvting for church duties Yopung signed with Disney.
Starting in 1974 he voiced Scrooge McDuck in numerous Disney Disney films.
When I chatted up Young he was chipper about this return to acting and guesting on such series as Murder She Wrote, St. Elsewhere, Party Of Five, and Sabrina The Teenage Withch.
Young was very sweet that day --co-star Glynis Johns was very difficult.
In later he was living at the Screen Actors Home at Woodlawn Hills where hge died May 18, aged 96.
About his famous equine co-star he quipped to me "Mr. Ed had all the best lines, that old ham!"

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