Fred MacMurray

Frederick Martin MacMurray (August 30, 1908 – November 5, 1991) was an American actor and singer who appeared in over 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 through the 1960s, MacMurray appeared in numerous Disney films, including The Absent-Minded Professor, The Happiest Millionaire and The Shaggy Dog. In 1960, he turned to television as Steve Douglas, the widowed father on My Three Sons, which ran on ABC from 1960 to 1965 and CBS from 1965 to 1972.

Fred MacMurray
MacMurray in the 1930s
Born(1908-08-30)August 30, 1908
Kankakee, Illinois, U.S.
DiedNovember 5, 1991(1991-11-05) (aged 83)
Years active1929–1978
Height6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
    Lillian Lamont
    (m. 1936; died 1953)
      June Haver
      (m. 1954)
      Children4 (all adoptive)

      Early life

      MacMurray was born in Kankakee, Illinois, the son of Maleta (née Martin) and concert violinist Frederick Talmadge MacMurray, both natives of Wisconsin.[1] His aunt, Fay Holderness, was a vaudeville performer and actress. Before MacMurray was two years old, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where his father taught music.[1] They then relocated within the state to Beaver Dam, where his mother had been born.[2] He later attended school in Quincy, Illinois before earning a full scholarship to Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. At Carroll, MacMurray played the saxophone in numerous local bands. He did not graduate from college.


      MacMurray, as a featured vocalist, recorded in 1930 with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra on "All I Want Is Just One Girl" on the Victor label.[3] and with George Olsen on "I'm In The Market For You" and "After a Million Dreams". Before signing with Paramount Pictures in 1934, he appeared on Broadway in Three's a Crowd (1930–31) and alongside Sydney Greenstreet and Bob Hope in Roberta (1933–34).[4] In his early career, MacMurray played clarinet and tenor sax with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra (1930–31).

      Later 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 (1935). He co-starred with Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams (1935), with Joan Crawford in Above Suspicion (1943), and with Carole Lombard in four productions: Hands Across the Table (1935), The Princess Comes Across (1936), Swing High, Swing Low (1937), and True Confession (1937).

      With Carole Lombard in Swing High, Swing Low (1937)

      Usually cast in light comedies as a decent, thoughtful character (The Trail of the Lonesome Pine 1936) and in melodramas (Above Suspicion 1943) and musicals (Where Do We Go from Here? 1945), MacMurray became one of the movie industry's highest-paid actors of the period. By 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.[5]

      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 (Barbara Stanwyck) to kill her husband in the film noir classic Double Indemnity (1944). In another turn in the "not so nice" category, MacMurray played the cynical, duplicitous Lieutenant Thomas Keefer in Dmytryk's film The Caine Mutiny.[6] Six years later, MacMurray played Jeff Sheldrake, a two-timing corporate executive in Wilder's Oscar-winning film The Apartment, with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.

      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 Studios comedy, The Shaggy Dog.[6] Then, from 1960 to 1972, he starred on television in My Three Sons, a long-running, highly rated series. Concurrent with My Three Sons, MacMurray stayed busy in films, starring as Professor Ned Brainard in Disney's The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and in the sequel Son of Flubber (1963). 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.[7]

      Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6421 Hollywood Boulevard

      Over the years, MacMurray became one of the wealthiest actors in the entertainment business, primarily from wise real estate investments and from his "notorious frugality".[7] After the cancellation of My Three Sons in 1972, MacMurray made only a few more film appearances before his retirement.

      In the 1970s, MacMurray appeared in commercials for the Greyhound Lines bus company. Towards the end of the decade, he was also featured in a series of commercials for the Korean chisenbop math calculation program.

      Personal life

      MacMurray was married twice. He married Lillian Lamont (legal name Lilian Wehmhoener MacMurray, born 1908) on June 20, 1936, and the couple adopted two children, Susan (born 1940) and Robert (born 1946). After Lamont died of cancer on June 22, 1953, he married actress June Haver the following year. The couple subsequently adopted two more children—twins born in 1956—Katherine and Laurie. MacMurray and Haver's marriage lasted 37 years, until Fred's death.

      MacMurray was a businessman who, at one time, was the fourth highest paid citizen in the United States. [8] 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.[9][10] 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.[11] Kate MacMurray, daughter of Haver and MacMurray, 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."[12][13] In 1944, he purchased the iconic Bryson Apartment Hotel in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles and remained its owner for about thirty years. Later in his acting career he demanded that he receive a percentage of gross of the films he starred in.[14]

      He was a staunch supporter of the Republican Party. He joined Bob Hope and James Stewart to campaign for Richard Nixon in 1968. In 1980, he campaigned alongside Charlton Heston and Dean Martin for Ronald Reagan.

      Illness and death

      MacMurray and June Haver's grave at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California

      A lifelong heavy smoker, MacMurray had throat cancer in the late 1970s, and it reappeared in 1987. He had suffered a severe stroke in December 1988 and his right side was paralyzed and his speech affected, although with therapy he made a ninety percent recovery.[15] After suffering from leukemia for more than a decade, MacMurray died of pneumonia on November 5, 1991 at his home in Santa Monica, California.[5] His body was entombed alongside June Haver in Holy Cross Cemetery.

      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.[16]

      MacMurray was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for The Absent-Minded Professor (1961).

      MacMurray was the first person honored as a Disney Legend, in 1987.[17]


      The Academy Film Archive houses the Fred MacMurray-June Haver Collection. The film material at the Academy Film Archive is complemented by material in the Fred MacMurray and June Haver papers at the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library.[18]


      • Girls Gone Wild (1929) as Extra (uncredited)
      • Why Leave Home? (1929) (uncredited)
      • Tiger Rose (1929) as Rancher (uncredited)
      • Grand Old Girl (1935) as Sandy
      • The Gilded Lily (1935) as Peter Dawes
      • Car 99 (1935) as Trooper Ross Martin
      • Men Without Names (1935) as Richard Hood / Richard 'Dick' Grant
      • Alice Adams (1935) as Arthur Russell
      • Hands Across the Table (1935) as Theodore Drew III
      • The Bride Comes Home (1935) as Cyrus Anderson
      • The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936) as Jack Hale
      • Thirteen Hours by Air (1936) as Jack Gordon
      • The Princess Comes Across (1936) as King Mantell
      • The Texas Rangers (1936) as Jim Hawkins
      • Champagne Waltz (1937) as Buzzy Bellew
      • Maid of Salem (1937) as Roger Coverman of Virginia
      • Swing High, Swing Low (1937) as Skid Johnson
      • Exclusive (1937) as Ralph Houston
      • True Confession (1937) as Kenneth Bartlett
      • Cocoanut Grove (1938) as Johnny Prentice
      • Men with Wings (1938) as Pat Falconer
      • Sing You Sinners (1938) as David Beebe
      • Cafe Society (1939) as Crick O'Bannon
      • Invitation to Happiness (1939) as Albert 'King' Cole
      • Honeymoon in Bali (1939) as Bill 'Willie' Burnett
      • Remember the Night (1940) as John Sargent
      • Little Old New York (1940) as Charles Brownne
      • Too Many Husbands (1940) as Bill Cardew
      • Rangers of Fortune (1940) as Gil Farra
      • Virginia (1941) as Stonewall Elliott
      • One Night in Lisbon (1941) as Dwight Houston
      • Dive Bomber (1941) as Joe Blake
      • New York Town (1941) as Victor Ballard
      • The Lady Is Willing (1942) as Dr. Corey T. McBain
      • Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) as Frank in Card-Playing Skit
      • Take a Letter, Darling (1942) as Tom Verney
      • The Forest Rangers (1942) as Don Stuart
      • No Time for Love (1943) as Jim Ryan
      • Flight for Freedom (1943) as Randy Britton
      • Above Suspicion (1943) as Richard Myles
      • Standing Room Only (1944) as Lee Stevens
      • And the Angels Sing (1944) as Happy Morgan
      • Double Indemnity (1944) as Walter Neff
      • Practically Yours (1944) as Daniel Bellamy
      • Where Do We Go from Here? (1945) as Bill Morgan
      • Captain Eddie (1945) as Capt. Edward Rickenbacker
      • Murder, He Says (1945) as Pete Marshall
      • Pardon My Past (1945) as Eddie York / Francis Pemberton
      • Smoky (1946) as Clint Barkley
      • Suddenly, It's Spring (1947) as Peter Morely
      • The Egg and I (1947) as Bob MacDonald
      • Singapore (1947) as Matt Gordon
      • On Our Merry Way (1948) as Al
      • The Miracle of the Bells (1948) as Bill Dunnigan
      • An Innocent Affair (1948) as Vincent Doane
      • Family Honeymoon (1949) as Grant Jordan
      • Father Was a Fullback (1949) as George Cooper
      • Borderline (1950) as Johnny McEvoy – aka Johnny Macklin
      • Never a Dull Moment (1950) as Chris
      • A Millionaire for Christy (1951) as Peter Ulysses Lockwood
      • Callaway Went Thataway (1951) as Mike Frye
      • Fair Wind to Java (1953) as Capt. Boll
      • The Moonlighter (1953) as Wes Anderson
      • The Caine Mutiny (1954) as Lt. Tom Keefer
      • Pushover (1954) as Paul Sheridan
      • Woman's World (1954) as Sid Burns
      • The Far Horizons (1955) as Captain Meriwether Lewis
      • There's Always Tomorrow (1955) as Clifford Groves
      • The Rains of Ranchipur (1955) as Thomas "Tom" Ransome
      • At Gunpoint (1955) as Jack Wright
      • Gun for a Coward (1957) as Will Keough
      • Quantez (1957) as Gentry / John Coventry
      • Day of the Badman (1958) as Judge Jim Scott
      • Good Day for a Hanging (1959) as Marshal Ben Cutler
      • The Shaggy Dog (1959) as Wilson Daniels
      • Face of a Fugitive (1959) as Jim Larsen aka Ray Kincaid
      • The Oregon Trail (1959) as Neal Harris
      • The Apartment (1960) as Jeff D. Sheldrake
      • The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) as Professor Ned Brainard
      • Bon Voyage! (1962) as Harry Willard
      • Son of Flubber (1963) as Prof. Ned Brainard
      • Kisses for My President (1964) as Thad McCloud
      • Follow Me, Boys! (1966) as Lemuel Siddons
      • The Happiest Millionaire (1967) as Father
      • Charley and the Angel (1973) as Charley Appleby
      • Beyond The Bermuda Triangle (1975) as Harry Ballinger
      • The Swarm (1978) as Mayor Clarence Tuttle (final film role)


      • Three's a Crowd (1930–31)
      • Roberta (1933–34)

      Short subjects

      • Screen Snapshots: Art and Artists (1940) as Himself
      • Hedda Hopper's Hollywood No. 1 (1941) as Himself (uncredited)
      • Popular Science (1941) as Himself (uncredited)
      • Show Business at War (1943) as Himself (uncredited)
      • The Last Will and Testament of Tom Smith (1943) as Narrator (uncredited)
      • Screen Snapshots: Motion Picture Mothers, Inc. (1949) as Himself


      • Lux Radio Theater – 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)[19]
      • The Screen Guild TheaterThe Philadelphia Story (1942)
      • Screen Directors PlayhouseTake a Letter, Darling (1951)[20]
      • Bright Star – George Harvey (1952–53)
      • Lux Summer TheatreThe Lady and the Tumblers (1953)[21]
      • The Martin and Lewis Show – Himself (1953)


      • The Jack Benny Program 1 episode (Fred in The Jam Session Show) (1954)
      • General Electric Theater 2 episodes (Richard Elgin in The Bachelor's Bride) (1955) (Harry Wingate in One Is a Wanderer) (1958)
      • Screen Directors Playhouse 1 episode (Peter Terrance in It's a Most Unusual Day) (1956)
      • The 20th Century-Fox Hour 1 episode (Peterson in False Witness) (1957)
      • Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour 1 episode (Himself in Lucy Hunts Uranium) (1958)
      • Cimarron City 1 episode (Laird Garner in I, the People) (1958)
      • The United States Steel Hour 1 episode (The American Cowboy) (1960)
      • My Three Sons 380 episodes (Steve Douglas) (1960–1972)
      • Summer Playhouse 1 episode (Himself in The Apartment House) (1964)
      • The Chadwick Family (TV movie) (Ned Chadwick) (1974)
      • Beyond the Bermuda Triangle (TV movie) (Harry Ballinger) (1975)

      Further reading

      • Tranberg, Charles (2007). Fred MacMurray: A Biography. Albany, Ga.: BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-099-8. OCLC 154698936.
      • Arts & Entertainment December 17, 1996 video biography [22]


      1. "Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910", Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin; enumeration page dated April 18, 1910. Bureau of the Census, United States Department of Commerce and Labor, Washington, D.C. Digital image of original enumeration page available at FamilySearch, a free online genealogical database provided as a public service by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
      2. "MacMurray Family Lived in Gladstone, Fred's Folks Friends of Mrs. S. Goldstein". The Escanaba Daily Press. September 26, 1935. p. 7. Retrieved December 19, 2014 via
      3. "All I Want is One", Fred MacMurray with Gus Arnheim's Coconut Grove Orchestra, YouTube. Retrieved February 23, 2013.
      4. The Broadway League. "IBDb". IBDb. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
      5. Flint, Peter B. (November 6, 1991). "Fred MacMurray Is Dead at 83; Versatile Film and Television Star". The New York Times.
      6. "TCM Movie Database". Retrieved August 24, 2012.
      7. Gaita, Paul. "Fred MacMurray", biographical profile, Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Retrieved June 2, 2017.
      8. ""How My Three Sons star Fred MacMurray became one of the wealthiest actors in the biz"".
      9. Taylor, Dan (2013). "Healdsburg Museum exhibits memorabilia from actor Fred MacMurray's nearby ranch". Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California), May 31, 2013, arts section. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
      10. Murphy, Linda (2003). "Hollywood to vine / A film star's daughter returns home to a Pinot paradise". San Francisco Chronicle, March 6, 2003. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
      11. "Gallo Family to Buy MacMurray Ranch". San Francisco Chronicle. May 6, 1996. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
      12. "Kate MacMurray". MacMurray Ranch. February 25, 2008. Archived from the original on April 24, 2011. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
      13. Wright, Johnathan L. (July 26, 2017). "Inside the wine ranch once owned by a movie legend". Reno Gezette Journal. Retrieved April 25, 2020. Famed actor Fred MacMurray purchased the property in 1941. Today, his daughter Kate is the winery's guiding spirit.
      14. ""How My Three Sons star Fred MacMurray became one of the wealthiest actors in the biz"".
      15. "Archives: Story". Archived from the original on January 23, 2013. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
      16. "The Marvel Family Web". Retrieved August 24, 2012.
      17. "Fred MacMurray: The First Disney Legend". August 26, 2009. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
      18. "Fred MacMurry-June Haver Collection". Academy Film Archive.
      19. "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 35 (2): 32–39. Spring 2009.
      20. "Radio's Golden Age". Nostalgia Digest. 40 (1): 40–41. Winter 2014.
      21. Kirby, Walter (June 14, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 54. Retrieved July 1, 2015 via
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