Classic Video Showplace

Fred MacMurray

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.
Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

It’s funny how time–and television–can change people’s lasting impressions!

For many generations, Fred MacMurray is known simply as the calm, wise dad who solved most of his constantly growing family’s problems for 12 years on the long-running TV sitcom, My Three Sons.

But MacMurray actually had a very long and successful career as a businessman, a talented musician and singer, in addition to both playing leading men and supporting characters in motion pictures, inhabiting a variety of different personas through his various films…and next week would have been his 114th birthday!

Born Frederick Martin MacMurray on August 30, 1908 in Kankakee, Illinois, Fred came from a family whose father taught music and his aunt was a vaudeville performer. He attended Carroll College in Wisconsin but did not graduate. Instead, he played saxophone in numerous bands in the late 1920s.

MacMurray actually started in show business as a singer, recording several singles in 1930 and 1931.

He also appeared on Broadway with a role in Three’s A Crowd in the early 1930s before signing a movie contract with Paramount Pictures in 1934.

Fred was quickly paired with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, normally playing “nice guys” in musicals, melodramas and light-hearted comedies. Some of his earliest co-stars included Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard, Katherine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert and Barbara Stanwyck. His fellow male acting co-stars included Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, Bob Hope, Van Johnson and Jose Ferrer.

By the turn of the 1940s decade, MacMurray had become one of the highest paid actors in the entertainment industry. In fact, his 1943 annual salary of $430,000 not only made him the HIGHEST paid actor in Hollywood, but he was the fourth highest paid person in the United States.

The fewer roles he got in which he portrayed a “not so nice a guy” brought him even bigger fame and better critical reviews.

After starring in darker films like The Apartment, Borderline, The Caine Mutiny and the film noir classic, Double Indemnity, MacMurray was one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood.

But instead of continuing to star in major motion pictures, he took a different course of action.

He became a businessman.

MacMurray bought large areas of land and invested in cattle ranches and agricultural communities…all sustaining his claim as one of the top four richest men in America for many years.

He remained a popular figure with occasional guest-starring appearances on a few 1950s television shows, including I Love Lucy and Cimarron City.

Those successful appearances paved the way for his own TV show in 1960, but it did not come without MacMurray’s star power ensuring some major benefits for himself.

In order for Fred to concentrate on his business enterprises (and his golf game), his contract insisted that all his scenes for the entire season be shot first and must be completed within a two-month timespan.

While “….Sons” became a perennial favorite for audiences throughout the decade and into the early 1970s, MacMurray did shoot a few more films resonating favorably with audiences, like The Shaggy Dog, The Happiest Millionaire, The Absent Minded Professor and, its sequel, The Son of Flubber.

Fred was diagnosed with throat cancer in the 1970s, which he thought he recovered from, only to have it return in 1987. He also suffered a stroke and battled leukemia for over a decade before he succumbed to pneumonia on November 5, 1991.

Upon his passing, his large agricultural estate was sold to winemaker Gallo, who issued wines marked with the “MacMurray Ranch” label that people can still buy to this day.

Be on the lookout to watch MacMurray’s various television and movie work like the 1950’s flick, Borderline, seen frequently on the Astound TV Network. To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly television listings here.


The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.