Episodes: 26 (half-hour)
TV show dates: September 19, 1964 — April 24, 1965
Series status: Cancelled
Voices include: Jim Backus, Paul Frees, Marvin Miller, Dal McKennon, Joan Gardner, Julie Bennett, Howard Morris, Mel Blanc, and Shepard Menken.
TV show description:
In this show within a show, Quincy Magoo (voice of Jim Backus) is an actor who stars in productions of literary classic stories. Episodes typically begin with Magoo greeting the television viewer from his dressing room, briefly describing the story, and making typical foibles due to his trademark poor vision.
Once “on-stage” and in character, Magoo can see perfectly fine. His roles include playing Friar Tuck in Robin Hood, Doctor Watson in Sherlock Holmes, Merlin in King Arthur, Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Long John Silver in Treasure Island, as well as the title roles in William Tell, Gunga Din, Cyrano de Bergerac, Rip Van Winkle, The Count of Monte Cristo, and (appropriately) Don Quixote de la Mancha. In Snow White, Magoo plays all seven dwarfs in an acting tour de force.
Though the classic tales are abbreviated and simplified for television, they are often fairly faithful to the original texts. In one episode, Magoo plays himself as he’s asked by Dick Tracy (Everett Sloane) to infiltrate a mob of his villains. He masquerades as the international thug, Squinty Eyes. (The UPA studio also produced Dick Tracy cartoons.)
Episode 26 — Mr. Magoo’s Paul Revere
Paul Revere (Magoo) disguises himself as a Native American and takes part in the Boston Tea Party. He later warns his fellow countrymen that the British soldiers are coming during his immortal night ride on horseback.
First aired: April 24, 1965.
Mr. Magoo returned to primetime in 1970 to educate viewers about American history in a one hour special, Uncle Sam Magoo. The character later returned in a 1977-78 CBS series for Saturday mornings called What’s New Mr. Magoo?, a 1997 live-action feature starring Leslie Nielson, and various minor appearances in print and on screen. Backus supplied the voice of Magoo until his death in 1989.
Behind the Scenes
After starring in cartoon shorts for several years, lovable and nearsighted Magoo starred in Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol as Ebenezer Scrooge. Based on the Charles Dickens story, the primetime holiday special proved so popular that it paved the way for this weekly primetime series.
In 1964, Backus played his two most famous characters on the same night but on different networks. The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo ran on Saturdays at 8:30pm on NBC. Gilligan’s Island ran at 9pm on Saturdays on CBS.