Television Q&A

‘Father Knows Best’ ‘kids’ now senior citizens


Akron Beacon Journal

Q. Are any of the Father Knows Best cast members still alive?

Now a classic from television’s golden age, the show was not an immediate hit when it debuted in 1954, according to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows. CBS cancelled it after a single season, but viewer protests prompted NBC to pick it up ir it for three seasons, and it returned to CBS for two more.

By then it was so popular that CBS aired reruns in prime time for two seasons, and ABC for another season after that. And, of course, there were daytime repeats.

The core cast consisted of Robert Young as insurance man Jim Anderson, Jane Wyatt as his wife, Margaret, and Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray and Lauren Chapin as their children, Betty (aka “Princess”), Bud and Kathy (“Kitten”). Young died in 1998, and Wyatt in 2006. But the three younger actors are still with us, ages 76, 75 and 67, respectively.

Q. What’s the deal with Nick Turturro being gone from Blue Bloods?

Turturro is not a regular on the series; from the beginning, he has been a recurring player. He appeared in about half a dozen episodes this season. The series has been renewed for 2013-14.

Q. I watch Encore’s Westerns channel a lot. Robert J. Wilke is not a well-known name, but his face is very recognizable. What can you tell me about him?

Wilke was part of the villainous trio waiting at the train station in High Noon (the others were Lee Van Cleef and Sheb Wooley). According to the All Movie Guide, the Cincinnati native’s “first taste of popularity came while he was performing with a high-dive act at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. … Wilke entered films as a stunt man and bit player in 1936. He spent most of his movie career in Westerns … generally playing bad-guy roles.”

His long list of credits includes five guest-starring roles each on Bonanza and Laramie and four on Wagon Train. On the big screen, you may have spotted him in the original Magnificent Seven or the Bill Murray comedy Stripes. He died in 1989 at the age of 74.

Q. What’s Robert Fuller of Laramie up to? Is the show available on DVD or VHS?

At 79, Fuller has put acting behind him but still makes public appearances. At the annual Western Heritage Awards by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma in April, he was a presenter along with Anita La Cava Swift, a granddaughter of John Wayne. (Fuller was inducted into the hall in 2008.)

Laramie, which aired from 1959 to 1963 on NBC, has been released on DVD by Timeless Media in sets of each season and in a complete-series box.

Send questions to TV Mailbag, Akron Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309 or Replies cannot be guaranteed.

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