Jim Backus dies of pneumonia in Los Angeles, 1989. As a dumb kid, I only knew Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III on television’s Gilligan’s Island. As my appreciation for classic films grew, I was surprised to see him share the big screen with such heavy hitters as James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), playing Dean’s ineffectual father, and Katharine Hepburn in Pat and Mike (1952), playing a golf club manager consoling her after a bad round. Backus made his first movie in 1930 with The Truth About Youth, the first in a six-decade-long film career distinguished by character roles and voice-over work, particularly in the popular Mr. Magoo animated shorts. One of his oddest achievements was a top 40 hit in 1958 with “Delicious!,” a novelty recording he made where he and a female companion simply drink champagne and have a few laughs. Appleknocker and His Group provide the instrumental background; the woman in question has been identified by various sources as either Phyllis Diller or Hermione Gingold.
Take a listen: