- Network: ABC
- Series Premiere Date: Sep 29, 1960
- Starring: William Frawley, Fred MacMurray, Tim Considine
"MY THREE SONS" is the story of a Mid-West Aeronautical Engineer who watches his family grow up. This seemingly innocuous and simple, but effective sitcom, was a huge hit and a cornerstone of television's 'family programming' era in the 1960s. Second next to "The Adventures Of Ozzie &"MY THREE SONS" is the story of a Mid-West Aeronautical Engineer who watches his family grow up. This seemingly innocuous and simple, but effective sitcom, was a huge hit and a cornerstone of television's 'family programming' era in the 1960s. Second next to "The Adventures Of Ozzie & Harriet" as television's longest running family sitcom, "My Three Sons" was created by former "Leave It To Beaver" alumnus George Tibbles (1913-87). Executive Producer Don Fedderson (1913-94) campaigned the series as a probable vehicle for movie veteran Fred MacMurray (1908-91), who was reluctant to star in it at all. He spoke to Robert Young, of "Father Knows Best" fame and his suspicions were confirmed. He'd be working seven days a week and would barely see his real life family. Finally he gave in after the Producers guaranteed that they could have enough scripts available ahead of time to warrant filming the show within a set sixty five day period. He agreed to this, and so for example, all the scenes set in the kitchen of many different episodes were all shot together in one day, all out of sequence, which were then later edited into each episode in order. Co-star William Frawley (1887-1966), used to years of filming "I Love Lucy" in sequence before a captive studio audience and performed like a play, never got used to this schizophrenic method of filming. And thus this technique was dubbed 'The MacMurray Method' and was also used by Brian Keith on the "Family Affair" series, coincidentally also a Don Fedderson Production. Of course, the "MacMurray Method" isn't particularly novel in its creation (it is, after all, how most feature films are shot, and a method probably most comfortable and familiar to the film actor MacMurray), but its introduction to TV production methods was certainly innovative at the time.
When the series began in 1960, the boys were aged 18 (Mike), 14 (Robbie) and 8 (Chip). They were played by Tim Considine, Don Grady and Stanley Livingston, respectively.
At the beginning of the series, storylines centred on the family's adventures in suburbia, and was perhaps the hybrid of what was to become the era of the Dom-Com (Domestic Sitcom). Steve Douglas also spent a good deal of time fending off attractive women who wanted to marry him and take over that loveable ready made family. The 'woman' in their lives was Bub O'Casey, Steve's maternal father in law, who did all the cooking, cleaning and chores. Other regulars in the early years were Peter Brooks as Robbie's best friend Hank Ferguson, and Ricky Allen as Sudsy Pfeiffer, Chip's best friend. The first of the show's format changes began at the start of the 1963-64 season. Meredith MacRae (1944-2000) was introduced as Sally Morrison, the girlfriend to eldest son Mike. They would become engaged and eventually marry. Meanwhile, Chip's new pal Ernie Thompson (co-star Stanley Livingston's real-life brother, Barry) was introduced and he would ultimately become a permanent part of the Douglas household. During the 1964-65 season, Frawley left the show for health reasons and Bub was written out of the show and replaced with his cantankerous younger brother Charley, a retired sailor played by William Demarest (1892-1983), whose crusty disposition masked a soft heart. At the start of the 1965-66 season, when the show moved from ABC to CBS, Mike and Sally got married in the very first Color episode, and moved back East so that Mike could accept a job teaching psychology on the college level. (Actor Tim Considine had at 24, outgrown the role and wanted out of the series to pursue a Directing career, which ultimately never eventuated). To re-establish the 'three sons', Steve subsequently adopted orphan child Ernie, who was not permitted to accompany his foster parents in their move to the orient. Things went along much the same for the next two seasons, although now the sons were Robbie, Chip and Ernie. Mike would never be referred to again after a few episodes. In a dramatic production move, the series, which for the first seven seasons was filmed mainly on Stage 11 at Desilu Studios in Hollywood, had to up anchor and begin filming at the former Republic Studios site, now rechristened the CBS Studio Center in Studio City, California. This necessitated moves behind and in front of the cameras. Lucille Ball, who by 1962 had bought out her ex-husband Desi Arnaz to take total control of Desilu, was, in February, 1967 talked into a deal by chief executive Charles Bludhorn of the giant Gulf and Western conglomerate, into selling Desilu. As G&W now owned Paramount Studios, Desilu was absorbed into this operation. To facilitate the placement of schedules for various TV series that lensed their shows at Desilu, all were forced to find other burgeoning accommodations.
"My Three Sons" complimented the move to the CBS Studio Center (the Columbia Broadcasting System now owning the show) by introducing a new storyline at the start of the 1967-68 season, where Steve Douglas transfers to California, and the family moves to North Hollywood. (Thus, a new house, and new studio facilities). Although the adjustment was not too pleasant – many of the Douglas's new acquaintances were not too friendly at first – there were good sides to the move. Robbie fell in love with college student Kathleen Miller (Tina Cole), and their romance blossomed into marriage. At the beginning of the following season 1968-69, the newly weds discovered that Katie was pregnant, and during the season she gave birth to triplets; three sons of course. Season 1969-70 brought new love to father Steve Douglas in the form of Barbara Harper (Beverly Garland), Ernie's English teacher. They were eventually married and Barbara's five year old daughter Dodie (Dawn Lyn), whom Steve subsequently adopted, also joined the family. Even original youngest son Chip (who was by now 18) got into the act, eloping with fellow college student Pauline ('Polly') Williams (Ronne Troup) in the 1970-71 season. Adopted brother Ernie was the only one of the sons not to get married on the show. As if the sprawling family had not gotten big enough already, the start of the final season (1971-72) saw a four part related episode that was sort of a continuation of a storyline that began in the 1963-64 season. Steve's Scottish nobleman cousin Fergus McBain Douglas (enacted by Fred MacMurray; voiced by Alan Caillou) came to the United States in search of a wife to take back to Scotland.
In its later years, as the size of the Douglas family grew on "My Three Sons" and separated into individual households, episodes could very rarely include the entire group. More and more often, they dealt with the specific problems of a large cast of regulars, with different members taking the spotlight from episode to episode. These multi-story elements were the brainchild of the show's creator and head writer for its twelve seasons, George Tibbles, who penned a massive 95 scripts of the series during this period. 16 of these were as a co-writer, in addition to him overseeing the work of the contributing staff writers during his tenure as Story Editor/Supervisor. "My Three Sons" never changed much in style, only in structure, its format changes having been discussed with the writing staff which increased the show's longevity with natural progressions for each character. For its time and of its type, the show was extremely well written and the writing of the series doesn't get enough credit to this day. As the series only filmed several months out of the year, the same Director was usually employed, which gave the show the behind the scenes continuity it probably needed.
When the show was finally cancelled it had been running for twelve years and in reruns has run many, many more. By today's standards it appears wholesome, tame and perhaps slightly dated, but it's a slice of life that all of us can appreciate and learn from. One thing is certain. For all of its detractors, the series remains a favourite all over the world.
The show's huge catalogue of 380 half hour episodes is a lasting legacy for Fred MacMurray and his TV family that will never be forgotten. While never a top ten hit during its original run, thanks to syndication the show remains extremely popular and continues to win new fans, young and old for its effective way of depicting an all-male family that did all-male things, even in its simplicity and its naiveté. The original Black and White episodes, considered by most fans as the show's best, were held back from syndication until the 1980s and enjoyed a new lease of life on Cable Television until the late 90s. The Color episodes are in constant syndication and are the only ones being distributed across the U.S. as of this writing (Jan. 2002). As long as TV stations are in need of quality programming the series will hopefully be played regularly to a whole new generation of audience.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Fred MacMurray (b. August 30, 1908 in Kankakee, Illinois) died on November 5, 1991 aged 83, of pneumonia as a result of contracting chronic lymphocytic leukemia. MacMurray's off-screen role in the series was purely financial. A deal with Executive Producer Don Fedderson named MacMurray a silent partner, in effect giving him a 50% ownership stake in the series. In his 70s after he had all but retired from the business as one of Hollywood's wealthiest citizens, thanks to shrewd property investment deals among other business ventures, Fred suffered for a while with throat cancer. Sadly missed by all of us. The plaque in his mausoleum crypt at Holy Cross cemetery in Culver City, California says "Forever in the hearts of your family" (indeed!) which was arranged by his second wife, actress June Haver, to whom he was married for 37 years until his death. (June passed away aged 79 in 2005 and is now interred with him). He is survived by four children; two were adopted during his first marriage to the late actress Lillian LaMont, (Robert and Susan), and then in 1956 he and June adopted twin baby girls Katie and Laurie. Known as a devoted husband and father, no one ever talks of Fred as ever being a great actor, but when you think of it he never really gave a bad performance, and for the sheer number of movies and television shows he made, that's a pretty good epitaph for anybody in show business.
William Frawley (b. February 26, 1887 in Burlington, Iowa) died on March 3, 1966 a week after his 79th Birthday from a massive coronary, while strolling down Hollywood Boulevard after seeing a movie. His constant companion, a male nurse, carried him into the nearby Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel but he was pronounced dead on arrival at Hollywood Receiving Hospital. His funeral was held at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Los Angeles and he is buried in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, California. Tracing his show business roots back to vaudeville, he was also a prolific character actor who appeared in more than 150 feature films from as early as 1916 and usually but not always was featured in comedic roles. Bill is best remembered for his long running role on "I Love Lucy" (1951-57) as the irascible Fred Mertz. Perhaps appropriately, his last performance was a cameo on an episode of "The Lucy Show" which aired in late 1965.
William Demarest (b. February 27, 1892 in St. Paul, Minnesota) died on December 27, 1983 aged 91, from a heart attack, after a long battle with prostate cancer. One of the true stalwarts of the entertainment industry, he is one of the few performers who can lay claim to being there from the very beginning; he appeared uncredited alongside Al Jolson in Warner Bros. first ever talking motion picture, "The Jazz Singer" in 1927. He was a welcome face in many vintage movies where he usually played in support of the leads, and was instantly recognizable to audiences even if people didn't know his name. His career started when he was a headliner in vaudeville in the days before World War I and his last appearance was in a 1978 telemovie which capped off a remarkable 73-year career in show business. He was retired and living in Palm Springs, California at the time of his death, and he is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Meredith MacRae (b. May 30, 1944 in Houston, Texas) died on July 14, 2000 aged 56, of complications from surgery for brain cancer. The daughter of the late actor Gordon MacRae, Meredith had her own talk show in the 1980s called "Mid-Morning L.A." and she won an Emmy for her work on the show in 1986. Married three times, her only child Allison was born in 1975 during her second marriage (1969-87) to actor Greg Mullavey. She became a successful producer and garnered many awards during her long career. She did a series of acclaimed lectures to major companies and organizations, taught a class in film and TV production at Chapman University, and recorded over a dozen best-selling books on tape. Former L.A. mayor Tom Bradley called her one of that city's most outstanding businesswomen. As per her wishes and because her hobbies had included water skiing and scuba diving she was cremated and her ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean.
Beverly Garland (b. October 17, 1926 in Santa Cruz, California) died on December 5, 2008 aged 82 after a short illness. Beverly was the widow of land developer Fillmore Crank to whom she was married for 39 years until his death in 1999. She ran with the help of three of four of her grown children, the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn, located in North Hollywood which is a few blocks from Universal Studios. Until her death she was still occasionally active in show business, and was bestowed the honor of of being inducted into the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and celebrated the beginning of her "second" fifty years in show business in 2001. In recent years she had a recurring role on the series "Seventh Heaven". Garland's hotel is also the Los Angeles site of the famed annual celebrity autograph & collector's conventions.
Tim Considine (b. December 31, 1940 in Los Angeles, California): Tim, is now a well known sports photographer and writer involved in auto racing, which takes him all over the country. His most recent book, "American Grand Prix Racing: A Century of Drivers & Cars" - is an award winning definitive account of U.S. drivers in Grand Prix events, and was published in 1997. Divorced from actress Charlotte Stewart, he is now re-married to Willett Hunt and has a 29 year old son named Chris. Now basically retired from acting, Tim isn't afraid to go back to his roots however; he appeared in the reunion movie "The New Adventures Of Spin and Marty" in 2000 reprising the role of the original Spin Evans, the character he portrayed on the old Walt Disney series of shorts from 1955-58, which began as "The Adventures of Spin and Marty", a segment of "The Mickey Mouse Club". Recently as 2003 Tim also appeared as a supporting actor in the family TV movie, "The Monster Makers".
Don Grady (b. June 8, 1944 in San Diego, California): Don began his career in show business and started where so many others have, at Disney. Don was one of the original Mousketeers, before landing his long-running role on "My Three Sons". During the series he was able to parlay his interest in music into a second career and left the show to become a reputable composer of film and television, although it took him almost ten years to finally make a living from it. His most recent credits include music for theme park attractions at Universal Studios as well as productions on the Lifetime and Discovery Channels. Married for the second time to Ginny, he is the father of two children, Joey and Tessa. Born Don Agrati, he is the son of a former talent agent and was the older brother of the late actress Lani O'Grady (1954-2001) who played Mary Bradford on the TV series "Eight Is Enough" (1977-81). In a recent TV Guide interview, Don says he still gets mail from people who remember the show and are thankful for its family values. He also says he has grown extremely proud of the show over the years. Don also has a new web site! Be sure to stop by www.dongrady.com to check out all about Don's musical career. 2008 also marked Don's 50th Anniversary in show business! Stanley Livingston (b. November 24, 1950 in Los Angeles, California): Stan is now the founder and Chief Executive Officer of "Kids In Show Biz, Inc". He has written feature films and directed commercials. Through his production company Premier Entertainment Group, he produced a feature film called "Checkers" in 2000 and the following year directed all 20 Episodes of a new children's TV Series for PBS. He was married to a dancer named Sandra at age 18 and the union which lasted six years, produced a daughter named Samantha, born in 1970. In recent years he has created stained glass artwork for celebrity clients including Tom Hanks and Lorenzo Lamas. He often sells his items through e-bay.
Barry Livingston (b. December 17, 1953 in Los Angeles, California): Barry has had the most active post-series career. Married to Karen, with two children named Hailey and Spencer, Barry continued acting with roles in a host of made for TV movies of the week. This was followed by summer acting workshops and off-Broadway productions in New York. In the 90s, had a semi-recurring role on "Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman". Like his older brother Stanley, Barry has dabbled in directing and writing, but he's mainly a character actor. His most recent credits include guest star appearances on the popular television shows "Ally McBeal", "The West Wing", "Will and Grace", "Boston Public" and "Roswell".
Tina Cole (b. August 4, 1943 in Hollywood, California): Tina, the daughter of Yvonne King and the late Buddy Cole (of "The King Family" singers fame) is divorced from her second husband, Fillmore Crank Jr., stepson of her "My Three Sons" co-star Beverly Garland. In the last decade, she has worked with a "looping group" doing voice-over work for national television series and movies. With a teenaged son and a six month old baby boy (from her first marriage to producer Volney Howard III) Tina moved to Sacramento in 1982, and she has been the resident director of the Junior League of that city's Children's Theater for the last six years. By 1985 two daughters completed her family. Although divorced in 1995, her life still centers around her four children. Now remarried, a mom and a mother-in-law, apart from a recent local morning television talk show in 1999, her latest theatrical credits include the musical "I Do, I Do" and a starring role in the play "Six Women with Brain Death" in 2001.She also teaches acting at a prominent school near where she resides. Still stunningly beautiful, it's hard to believe that Tina is now in her late 60s!
Dawn Lyn (b. January 11, 1963 in Hollywood, California): Dawn found it difficult to make the transition from child star to young adult. While she managed to appear in a few guest star roles during her teens like "Barnaby Jones", "The Streets of San Francisco" and "Wonder Woman", in effect, her career was stymied by her small stature and youthful appearance. The younger sister of former pop idol Leif Garrett, Dawn left the entertainment industry to pursue other interests. She married an architect named Michael Whitby in 1990, but it ended in divorce after nine years. Today, Dawn is happy and living her life out of the spotlight. She has a great time being involved with the local community theater and civic/volunteer activities, is still in contact with her co-stars and loves them like family. Dawn remarried in 2006 to John Reese, and as a result of her husband's career, she has relocated as of September 2007 to Germany to be with him. Like her co-stars, she was deeply saddened to hear that her TV mother Beverly Garland (with whom she had always kept in touch) passed away at the end of 2008.
Ronne Troup (b. c.1945): Ronne, who is now in her mid 60s has kept a low profile with guest appearances but still occasionally acts. The daughter of the late Bobby Troup and stepdaughter of the late Julie London, she had a recurring role on the night-time soap "Knots Landing" in the 80s and has appeared recently on programs like "The Practice", "E.R." and "The West Wing". Ronne is the younger sister of Cynnie, who was a script editor on their father's series "Emergency" in the early 70s. She has been married twice and and now has two grown daughters. The Todd Triplets (Joseph, Michael & Daniel) (b. August 5, 1967): After being contacted by the boys' mother Lynn and their stepfather David, I can let you know that Joe, his wife and two kids are living in Colorado Springs at an army base. Joe has two years left before retiring from active service. He is a 'E7' in the medical unit. Mike is also in the army, and is based in Washington. He too is an 'E7' and will retire in two years. He is now divorced and has two daughters in Hawaii where he spent four years on active duty before going to Washington. Danny is married and lives in Houston. He spent five years in the Army and settled in Houston where he is the owner of a company that installs yard water and lighting systems. The boys have spent many years overseas and all speak several languages. According to their Mom, they are happy and haven't done any TV work since they were 16 years old.
First Telecast: September 29, 1960 on ABC.
Last Telecast: August 24, 1972 on CBS.
Number of Episodes: 380 (x half-hours).
(184 Black and White, 196 Color). A Don Fedderson Production, Distributed Worldwide by CBS Television Distribution International Ltd.
Original Broadcast History:
Sept. 1960-Sept.1963 Thurs. 9:00-9:30pm Sept. 1963-Sept.1965 Thurs. 8:30-9:00pm CBS Sept. 1965-Aug. 1967 Thurs. 8:30-9:00pm Sept. 1967-Sept.1971 Sat. 8:30-9:00pm Sept. 1971-Dec. 1971 Mon. 10:00-10:30pm Jan. 1972-Aug. 1972 Thurs. 8:30-9:00pm… Collapse
- Genre(s): Comedy
- Season 3 premiere date: Sep 20, 1962
- Episode Length: 30
- More Details and Credits »