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Robert Young, 83, Attempted Suicide, Authorities Reveal

January 20, 1991|AMY LOUISE KAZMIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Actor Robert Young, who for 10 years served as the ideal TV patriarch in "Father Knows Best" and went on to star in "Marcus Welby, M.D.," attempted suicide at his Westlake Village home last week, authorities said Saturday.

Lt. Bob Barrier, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said Young, 83, ran a hose from the exhaust pipe to his car's interior last Saturday about 7:45 a.m.

Authorities were alerted after Young called a tow truck to try to start his car. The driver noticed the hose, Barrier said, and contacted authorities.

"Mr. Young had been drinking and he admitted that he had tried to end his life," Barrier said.

The actor voluntarily admitted himself for a 24-hour observation at Thousand Oak's Charter Hospital, a psychiatric treatment facility, Barrier said. Barrier did not know how long Young remained at the hospital.

Young's agent could not be reached for comment Saturday.

After the incident, Young's wife of more than 40 years, Elizabeth, 81, told authorities that her husband had asked her to "form a pact with him" to commit suicide.

"She thought he was just rambling," Barrier said.

Young has had a history of depression and alcoholism, and in previous interviews with The Times spoke of feeling guilty about portraying the steadfast, contented Jim Anderson of "Father Knows Best" when he was often unhappy.

Young portrayed Anderson, the archetype of an understanding, caring father, for 10 years through more than 200 episodes.

But at the peak of the program's popularity, Young said he was tired of the character and left the show in 1963. After taking some time off, he returned to television in another popular series, "Marcus Welby, M.D.," the story of a dedicated general practitioner in an age of medical specialization.

Young, who was born in Chicago but grew up in Los Angeles, began his acting career in 1931, after a Metro Goldwyn Mayer talent scout saw him in a play.

After a minor part in one MGM film, Young achieved stardom when cast as the romantic male lead opposite Helen Hayes in the 1931 picture "The Sin of Madelon Claudet."

In the ensuing years, he starred as the romantic lead in dozens of films before becoming more deeply involved with television.

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