Fred MacMurray (1908-1991)
Fred MacMurray was an American actor who had a long and extremely successful career in movies and television. He is best remembered today for his portrayal of wholesome and kind father-figures in smash-hit Disney movies such as 'Son of Flubber' in 1963 but during his movie career MacMurray consistently worked with some of Hollywood's biggest names, such as actors Humphrey Bogart, Claudette Colbert, and Katharine Hepburn and directors Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges. Time and again he proved himself to be a talented and versatile performer.
BiographyFred MacMurray was born on August 30, 1908 in Kankakee, Illinois. His father was a concert violinist, and initially Fred followed in his father's footsteps, playing saxaphone. He sang and played in orchestras to earn his college-tuition fees, and had occasional roles as an extra in movies. He then joined a vocal ensemble, the California Collegians, and went to New York, where, in 1930, he appeared on Broadway in the hit production of "Three's a Crowd" starring Sydney Greenstreet, Clifton Webb and Libby Holman.
After a stint on the vaudeville circuit he worked alongside Bob Hope in 'Roberta' in 1933. The show made Hope a star and it also made MacMurray a Hollywood actor as he was signed up the following year to a seven year contract with Paramount Pictures.
MacMurray married Lillian Lamont on June 20, 1936, and they adopted two children. the marriage ended with her death in 1953.
MacMurray worked steadily and became a well known Hollywood face during the 1930's. Although most of his early movies were very average, he earned a well-deserved reputation as a dependable, talented actor and he did appear in some very successful movies. In 1935 he co-starred with Claudette Colbert in 'The Gilded Lily', the first of seven movies they made together and in the same year he also appeared with Katharine Hepburn in the classic movie, 'Alice Adams' and with Carole Lombard in 'Hands Across the Table'. He developed his clean-cut reputation early and in 1939 artist C.C. Beck used him as the initial model for the superhero character who would become Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel.
His career continued to prosper and he went on to spend almost the rest of his career as a smiling, dimpled-chin 'Mr.Nice Guy', ranging from preppy heirs, as he had been in 'Alice Adams' through to emasculated clods:as a male secretary in 'Take a Letter, Darling' in 1942, and "first Husband" to a female U.S. president in 'Kisses for My President' in 1964. He also did turns as a Disney scientist in 'The Absent-Minded Professor' in 1961 and 'Son of Flubber' in 1963.
He showed his talents best when, unusually, he was cast against type, as the bad guy. In 1944 in Billy Wilder's 'Double Indemnity' he plays Walter Neff, an insurance salesman who plots with a greedy housewife played by Barbara Stanwyck to murder her husband. In 1954 in 'The Caine Mutiny' he plays the role of the duplicitous Lieutenant Thomas Keefer and in the Oscar-winning comedy 'The Apartment' in 1960, again directed by Wilder, he plays a two-timing corporate executive opposite Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon.
In 1941, MacMurray had purchased a sprawling ranch in Northern California and ran it as a working cattle ranch, producing prize winning angus steers. He raised his family on the ranch and it became the home to his second wife, June Haver after their marriage in 1954. He and June went on to adopt two children.
In the 1960's, at the same time as making his successful Disney movies, MacMurray became a television star as the archetypal sitcom father, widower Steve Douglas, with the series 'My Three Sons', which ran from 1964 to 1972, one of the longest running television series. When the series was cancelled in 1972 MacMurray made just two more movies, 'Charley and the Angel' in 1973, and 'The Swarm' in 1978 before retiring to his golf. He was one of Hollywood's finest golfers and often played with his friends Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
Fred MacMurray died of pneumonia in Santa Monica, on November 5, 1991. He was eighty-three. He was buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.