Alan Young (1919-)

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Year Born: 
1919

Pioneer

Young, Alan (1919- )

Radio, TV, stage and movie comedian Alan Young was originally Angus Young. There are at least two stories on record on how he became Alan. In one, he said Americans constantly called him Agnus. They said Angus was a cow. He was young at the time and new in New York, and he didn't like being called Agnus, so he changed his name to Alan. In the other version, he changed his name when he moved to Toronto in 1942 to pick up a CBC Radio commercial contract. He said he found that listeners expected a comic named Angus to spout nothing but Scottish dialect.

He was born into a Scottish family in North Shields, on England's border with Scotland. When he was four the family moved to Scotland and then sailed to Canada from Edinburgh. They initially settled in a copper mining town in northern British Columbia but moved to West Vancouver when he was six.

He had his radio debut when he was 12 and was paid a dollar to recite a poem. At the age of 15, he was doing impersonations on a Saturday night show Bath Night Revue. In early 1937, he joined the staff of CJOR Vancouver as assistant to program director Dick Diespecker. He scripted and starred in a weekly show titled Signal Carnival, helped with news broadcasts, typed extra copies of drama scripts and occasionally swept the office. He stayed there for three years, playing every kind of role in radio drama.

CBC Radio hired Dick to produce a weekly variety show, Stag Party, and he convinced the CBC to try Alan. Alan got an immediate offer. By the summer of 1942, Alan's initial 10-minute comedy spot in the program had taken over the whole show. Among those who made their names on the program were Bernie Braden, Fletcher Markle, John Drainie and Juliette. At least the first three had previously been heard in CJOR dramas with Alan.

In 1942, Alan moved to the CBC in Toronto. He moved to New York in 1944 as a summer replacement for Eddie Cantor and followed that up with his own radio shows out of New York then Hollywood, and guest spots with other comedians. As he lost control over his scripts, his popularity decreased as fast as he'd gained fame. In 1947, depressed, he planned a Canadian tour but broke a vertebra in an accident. In 1949 he toured the American vaudeville circuit and was seen by a CBS talent scout. That proved to be his big break because he was signed by CBS-TV to a five-year contract and the world learned that he should have been a visual comedian from the start. The Alan Young Show was judged by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences as the best in TV and Alan as the best TV actor. Paramount Studios signed him to a multi-movie contract and the film Clarence made him a star.

Some of his best remembered movie performances were in Magic in 1946, Androcles and The Lion in 1953, and The Time Machine in 1960, in which he played two parts - David and James Filby. In 1993 he and Rod Taylor, the star of Time Machine, took part in Time Machine: The Journey Back, which looked at how the original time machine prop was built.

He starred in the 1960 - 65 TV series Mr. Ed and his voice was used in The Ren and Stimpy Show in 1991.

After he finished the Mr. Ed Series, he started a broadcast division for the Christian Science Church in Boston.

In 1941, Alan married Mary Anne Grimes and they had a boy and a girl. The marriage ended in 1947. In 1948 he married Virginia McCurdy who had been a vocalist on his radio program.

Written by Jerry Fairbridge - November, 2002

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