Fred MacMurray

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AmericanBorn Frederick Martin MacMurray

American actor

Born on August 30, 1908 in Kankakee, Illinois , United States

Died on November 5, 1991 in Santa Monica, California , United States

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Frederick Martin MacMurray (August 30, 1908 – November 5, 1991) was an American actor. He appeared in more than one hundred films and a successful television series in a career that spanned nearly a half-century. His career as a major film leading man began in 1935, but his most renowned role was in Billy Wilder's film noir Double Indemnity. From 1959 to 1973, MacMurray appeared in numerous Disney films, including The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, Follow Me, Boys!, and The Happiest Millionaire. He starred as Steve Douglas in the television series My Three Sons.

...   Frederick Martin MacMurray (August 30, 1908 – November 5, 1991) was an American actor. He appeared in more than one hundred films and a successful television series in a career that spanned nearly a half-century. His career as a major film leading man began in 1935, but his most renowned role was in Billy Wilder's film noir Double Indemnity. From 1959 to 1973, MacMurray appeared in numerous Disney films, including The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, Follow Me, Boys!, and The Happiest Millionaire. He starred as Steve Douglas in the television series My Three Sons.

Early life and education
Frederick Martin MacMurray was born on August 30, 1908, in Kankakee, Illinois, the son of Maleta (née Martin) and concert violinist Frederick Talmadge MacMurray, both natives of Wisconsin. His aunt, Fay Holderness, was a vaudeville performer and actress. When MacMurray was an infant, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where his father taught music. They relocated within the state to Beaver Dam, his mother's birthplace.
MacMurray attended school in Quincy, Illinois, where he played football and baseball, ran on the track team and worked in a local pea cannery. After graduation, he received a full scholarship to Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He played the saxophone in numerous local bands, having picked up the instrument when he was looking to fill his spare time. He continued to play saxophone while attending the Chicago Art Institute in the evenings.


In 1928, MacMurray chauffeured his mother to Los Angeles for her health and to visit family. While there he found work as an extra and continued playing the saxophone with the California Collegians, a vaudeville group that was formed out of the pit orchestra at the Warner Brothers Hollywood Theatre. His extra work was earning him $10 a day. The band was hired to appear on Broadway in Three's a Crowd (1930–31) with Fred Allen, Clifton Webb and Libby Holman, resulting in a move to New York City from California. MacMurray was offered a role in the production, leading to a further casting in the musical Roberta alongside Sydney Greenstreet and Bob Hope (1933–34). MacMurray signed with Paramount Pictures in 1934.

In the 1930s, MacMurray worked with film directors Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges, and actors Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Marlene Dietrich, and in seven films, Claudette Colbert, beginning with The Gilded Lily. He co-starred with Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams, with Joan Crawford in Above Suspicion, and with Carole Lombard in four productions: Hands Across the Table, The Princess Comes Across, Swing High, Swing Low and True Confession. Usually cast in light comedies as a decent, thoughtful character (The Trail of the Lonesome Pine), and in melodramas and musicals, MacMurray became one of the film industry's highest-paid actors of the period. In 1943, his annual salary had reached $420,000, making him the highest-paid actor in Hollywood and the fourth-highest-paid person in the nation.
MacMurray did not serve in the military during the Second World War, instead working to sell war bonds and as an air-raid warden in his Brentwood neighborhood. The movies that he did produce during this period were mostly considered to be "morale-boosters" rather than outright "war pictures" that some of his contemporaries were churning out. In 1944, his earnings increased to $439,000, making him again the highest paid actor.
During the production of the 1947 film The Egg and I, the hens appearing in the movie laid over 300 eggs. MacMurray and costar Claudette Colbert autographed one egg each in fifty cartons. The eggs were sold at a local farmers market and profits were donated to the Braille Institute of America.
Having starred in many episodes of Lux Radio Theatre in the late 1930s and 1940s, MacMurray returned to the medium in 1952. He featured in Bright Star, along with Irene Dunne, in which he portrayed a reporter for a local newspaper.
Despite being typecast as a "nice guy", MacMurray often said his best roles were when he was cast against type, such as under the direction of Billy Wilder and Edward Dmytryk. Perhaps his best known "bad guy" performance was that of Walter Neff, an insurance salesman who plots with a greedy wife to kill her husband in the film noir classic Double Indemnity. MacMurray stated in 1956 that this was his favorite role, and that it "...proved I could do serious acting". In another turn in the "not so nice" category, MacMurray played the cynical, duplicitous Lieutenant Thomas Keefer in Dmytryk's film The Caine Mutiny. Six years later, MacMurray played Jeff Sheldrake, a two-timing corporate executive in Wilder's Oscar-winning film The Apartment. In 1958, he guest-starred in the premiere episode of NBC's Cimarron City Western series, with George Montgomery and John Smith. MacMurray's career continued upward the following year, when he was cast as the father in the Disney film The Shaggy Dog.

My Three Sons
In an interview with Hedda Hopper in 1956, MacMurray noted that he had been asked to take on the role of Perry Mason on television. He turned it down, saying "I want to do as little TV work as possible - it's lots of work. I guess I am just lazy".
From 1960 to 1972, he starred in My Three Sons, a long-running, highly rated TV series. Concurrently with it, MacMurray starred in other films, playing Professor Ned Brainard in The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel Son of Flubber. Using his star-power clout, MacMurray had a provision in his My Three Sons contract that all of his scenes on that series were to be shot in two separate month-long production blocks and filmed first. That condensed performance schedule provided him more free time to pursue his work in films, maintain his ranch in Northern California, and enjoy his favorite leisure activity, golf. Over the years, MacMurray became one of the wealthiest actors in the entertainment industry, primarily from wise real estate investments and from his "notorious frugality".

In the early 1970s, MacMurray appeared in commercials for the Greyhound Lines bus company. In 1979, he appeared in a series of commercials for the Korean chisenbop math calculation program. MacMurray's final film was The Swarm, costarring Michael Caine, Olivia de Havilland and Henry Fonda. The actor, semi-retired at this point, was called back for one last film by director Irwin Allen entitled Fire!, however his diagnosis of cancer of the throat caused him to pull out. Irwin then offered him the small role (for a total of 2 days on set) of a pharmacist in The Swarm. MacMurray told reporters that he didn't "...really miss it. A lot of actors go crazy if they aren't working, but I guess I'm a little lazy." He successfully underwent treatment for his cancer during the production.

Business Ventures
MacMurray was also a prolific businessman, frequently earning over $400,000 a year in the 1940s. In 1941, he purchased land in the Russian River Valley in Northern California and established MacMurray Ranch. At the 1,750-acre ranch he raised prize-winning Aberdeen Angus cattle, cultivated prunes, apples, alfalfa and other crops, and enjoyed watercolor painting, fly fishing, and skeet shooting. MacMurray wanted the property's agricultural heritage preserved, so five years after his death, in 1996, it was sold to Gallo, which planted vineyards on it for wines that bear the MacMurray Ranch label. One of MacMurray's children now lives on the property (in a cabin built by her father), and is "actively engaged in Sonoma's thriving wine community, carrying on her family's legacy and the heritage of MacMurray Ranch".
In 1944, he purchased the Bryson Apartment Hotel in the Westlake, Los Angeles neighborhood for $600,000, using profits from Double Indemnity, and was a co-owner of three other apartment buildings. The actor was cautious with his finances, which went hand-in-hand with his sedate lifestyle. The majority of his earnings were used for investments, (including a knitting mill, co-owner of a golf-and-tennis club and a cold-storage business). MacMurray insisted upon a percentage of gross of the films in which he starred.
In 1945, along with former actor Leslie Fenton, MacMurray formed a production company, entitled "Mutual Pictures". With this production company the pair made one film Pardon My Past, a moderate success.
A 1977 profile dispelled the myth of MacMurray's wealth, reporting that if he "...sold everything I'd be worth maybe $3 million to $4 million. Maybe". He states that the myth of his wealth being in league with Doris Duke and the Aga Khan ($75 to $100 million range) stemmed from his life-long frugality.

Personal life

MacMurray was married twice, first to Lillian "Lily" Lamont (legal name Lilian Wehmhoener MacMurray, born 1908) and after her death, actress June Haver.

Lillian Lamont
Lamont and MacMurray met during the production of Roberta while in New York City while he was performing with the Collegians in 1934, and they quickly became an item. Despite the budding romance he left New York and returned to Hollywood in efforts to continue his career.
It was reported that upon his return he spurned a matchmaking attempt by gossip columnist Louella Parsons. Accounts vary, with some reporting that Parsons was angry over MacMurray's refusal of her efforts, leading Parsons to attempt to derail his career. Other sources indicate that MacMurray turned down a party invitation from William Randolph Hearst (via Parsons), as the publisher had already identified another female as MacMurray's date for the event. Parsons refers in a 1947 column that she and MacMurray made amends, "...we let our hair down about a lot of things...principally a misunderstanding that marred a long friendship, and then and there cleaned up all our grievances", possibly alluding to the columnist's attempts at career sabotage.
In 1934, the couple announced to the news that they were in a "test engagement", stating that they "want to be sure before we make any official announcement" that "...their personalities were the type which could pull in a double harness while they followed their careers". By late spring of 1936, the couple decided to make it official. Late on the night of June 19, 1936, MacMurray, Lamont, MacMurray's mother traveled by plane to Las Vegas to be married. The trip - and marriage - were kept secret from friends and studio officials, who spent the day of the 20th trying to locate the actor. The newlyweds and family returned to Hollywood on a plane that same day.
In 1945, they moved into a 10-room, two-story Colonial house in Brentwood. Neighbors (and friends) included Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda. Joan Crawford described the couple as having "one of the few happy and well-adjusted marriages". While they were known to be homebodies and family-oriented, they were also social within the Hollywood community. They hosted parties, both large and small, for friends. They were close with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, often having Sunday afternoon BBQs with each other. At the larger gatherings, Lombard proved to be the source of entertainment for the assembled guests with her antics and off-color language.
Lamont was often in poor health, including kidney and heart problems. This is reportedly why MacMurray and Lamont adopted two children. In 1940, their daughter Susan joined the family, with formal adoption completed in 1942. Four years later they adopted one-and-a-half year-old Robert. Later in his son's life, the father and son would drift apart, with MacMurray lamenting that Robert went "the hippie route via the South Seas to 'find himself'".
After struggling with physical health issues for most of her life, her condition deteriorated even further in the early 1950s. She eventually succumbed to kidney and heart issues in June 1953, shortly after the couple's 17th wedding anniversary. In a 2006 interview between a MacMurray biographer and Lamont's cousin, the family states that she suffered from bulimia. This may have stemmed from her days as a model and contributed to her other health issues.

June Haver
MacMurray first met actress June Haver when they starred in Where Do We Go From Here in 1945, although they had little interaction. By the early 1950s, Haver was grieving the sudden death of her fiancé Dr. John Duzik in 1949. In part because of her grief, Haver had considered a life as a nun. A life-long devout Catholic, she met with Pope Pius XII in 1951 and decided to follow her faith and join a convent. She realized after eight months that the convent life was not for her. In 1953, at a "Gay Nineties" party thrown by pal John Wayne, Haver and MacMurray met socially. Both had been reluctant to attend the party; however, they left together and quickly became an item. After the socially acceptable amount of time grieving the death of Lamont, the couple decided to make their relationship official, deciding to marry in 1954. Unfortunately, this meant the actress had to renounce her Catholicism due to a previous divorce, having wed musician Jimmy Zito briefly in 1947 before divorcing in 1948.
MacMurray purchased actor Red Skelton's good luck pinky ring as an engagement ring, officially proposing to her after a trip to a drugstore. They publicly announced their wedding date for the first week of August 1954, however they actually wed over a month early on June 28 to the surprise of friends and the press. With the help of friend Ray Cardillo, a travel agency owner, the ceremony was held at the Ojai Valley Inn. They honeymooned in Jackson Hole, Wyoming while MacMurray finished working on The Far Horizons.
MacMurray stated in a 1954 interview that "June had a serious operation after she fell at Fox Studios a couple of years ago...and she's not sure if she will be able to have children". As a result of Haver's inability to conceive, in 1956 they adopted fraternal twins, Laurie Ann and Katie Marie, "right out of the incubator".
Haver curtailed her Hollywood career after marrying MacMurray, with one final appearance on the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour in 1958 as herself. She stated that she had no desire to act further, "I lost it all [desire]. I'm remaining a private citizen and will stay at home and has been supplanted by something better. Now that I have four children in the family I have a lot to keep me busy". MacMurray did not believe that it was his place to keep Haver from acting, stating "...I'd hate to be the one to keep her off the screen...the decision is up to her. I'd rather have her at home, but if she wants to make a picture, it's okay with me".
Much like his marriage to Lamont, this union was by all accounts stable and happy. They remained married until MacMurray's death in 1991.

Like many Hollywood contemporaries, MacMurray was a Republican politically, although he was not particularly outspoken about his beliefs. When speaking with columnist Parsons in 1947 about the Red Scare in Hollywood, the actor noted "I suppose there really are some Reds in Hollywood...but don't you think that actually some of the people...get that reputation because they talk too much about things they don't understand? I don't think an actor has any business to discuss politics unless he is an authority..." He is further quoted "...just because I happen to be an actor I shouldn't get up and say 'vote for this man', knowing as little as I know about him...I'm a family man and that's about it".
He joined a long list of other Hollywood stars as a member of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, which was organized by the Communist Party of the USA in 1936. MacMurray appeared on stage along with other conservative luminaries stumping for Thomas Dewey in the 1944 Presidential election, and he supported Ronald Reagan for Governor of California in 1966.

Illness and death

A lifelong heavy smoker, MacMurray had throat cancer in the late 1970s, and it recurred in 1987. He had a severe stroke in December 1988 that paralyzed his right side and affected his speech. With therapy, he made a 90 percent recovery.
After suffering from leukemia for more than a decade, MacMurray died of pneumonia on November 5, 1991, in Santa Monica, California.

Awards and influence
In 1939, artist C. C. Beck used MacMurray as the initial model for the superhero character who became Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel.
MacMurray was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for The Absent-Minded Professor. He was the first person honored as a Disney Legend in 1987.

The Academy Film Archive houses the Fred MacMurray-June Haver Collection. The film materials are complemented by papers at the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library.



Short subjects



Lux Radio Theatre – Pete Dawes ("The Gilded Lily") (1937), Victor Hallam ("Another Language") (1937), John Horace Mason ("Made for Each Other") (1940), Bill Dunnigan ("The Miracle of the Bells) (1948)
The Screen Guild Theater – The Philadelphia Story (1942)
Screen Directors Playhouse – Take a Letter, Darling (1951)
Bright Star – George Harvey (1952–53)
Lux Summer Theatre – The Lady and the Tumblers (1953)
The Martin and Lewis Show – Himself (1953)


Further reading
Tranberg, Charles (2007). Fred MacMurray: A Biography. Albany, Ga.: BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1593930998. OCLC 154698936.
Arts & Entertainment December 17, 1996 video biography

External links

Fred MacMurray at IMDb
Fred MacMurray at Rotten Tomatoes
MacMurray Ranch timeline (documents MacMurray's involvement with the ranch)
Fred MacMurray, A&E Biography on YouTube

Biography from Wikipedia (see original) under licence CC BY-SA 3.0


Geographical origins

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