6 Things to Know about My Three Sons
Beverly Garland passed away earlier this week, and while some movie-goers remember her as the "Queen of Screams" thanks to her extensive work in B-level horror films, the rest of us (well, me at least) will always recall her as the woman who finally enticed Steve Douglas to the altar on My Three Sons. Even though My Three Sons ran for 12 years, in the grand scheme of classic TV, we really don't hear very much about it. I'm here to rectify that situation in my own little way"¦
1. An Intro to the Intro
To kick things off, if you're not familiar with it, My Three Sons literally had the most toe-tappin' theme song on TV. Check it out!
2. How Fred MacMurray Inspired Sitcom Actors to Work (a lot) Less
Fred MacMurray was an established film star when he was approached by producer Don Fedderson to star in a TV series. Fred agreed with two conditions: one, that he would own a percentage of the show, and two, that he only would be required to work three months of each year. In reality, Fred was a dedicated family man, and after years of being away on movie sets had planned to retire early and spend the majority of his time at home. But the money offered by Fedderson was too tempting to pass up, plus it would ensure his children's future, so he signed on to play the widowed patriarch on My Three Sons. His "three month" stipulation meant that the writers had to have each season's scripts ready in advance so that MacMurray could film all of his scenes in one fell swoop and have them edited into the various episodes of the series after the fact. Years later several other actors twigged onto this concept and agreed to star in a project only if it was filmed in the "MacMurray Method."
3. The Problem with Housework
The premise of My Three Sons was to showcase the trials and tribulations of an aeronautical engineer widower (Steve Douglas) and his three boys (Mike, Robbie and Chip). Since Steve's job required long hours, some household help was obviously required. Enter William Frawley as Bub O'Casey, Steve's father-in-law. Bub served as chief cook and bottle-washer, as well as disciplinarian for the boys when Dad wasn't home. Frawley nabbed this role shortly after his tenure as "Fred Mertz" on I Love Lucy, and was quite pleased to have another steady job. However, after five years his failing health made him uninsurable and he was replaced by the even more curmudgeonly William Demarest, who appeared on the scene as Uncle Charlie, Bub's brother.
4. The Scoop Behind Why Mike Moved Away
The original three sons were Tim Considine, Don Grady and Stanley Livingston (as Mike, Robbie, and Chip). Considine had an extensive resume, having starredÂ childhood in many Disney shorts and feature films. After a few seasons on My Three Sons, he wanted to spread his wings and direct as well as act, but producer Don Fedderson dismissed him. The two had a serious falling-out and Tim left the show, which meant the writers had to marry his character off and have him move away. Now that they were one son short, the producers had to quickly find a replacement, so they turned to Stanley Livingston's younger brother, Barry. Barry became "Ernie," a neighborhood orphan and friend of Chip's whose foster parents were preparing to move out of the country.
5. The Next Generation (aka The Three Son's Three Sons)
When a series runs as long as My Three Sons, producers have to adapt to the maturation of their child stars. Eventually Robbie married Katie (Tina Cole), but the newlyweds stayed in the Douglas house just to add some estrogen to the overall equation. Inevitably, Katie became pregnant, and even though she was carrying triplets she still wore high heels and kicky little dresses. Keeping in mind the possibility of a spin-off, Katie ultimately gave birth to three boys who were named Steve, Robbie and Charlie.
6. Avoiding Cousin Oliver Syndrome
Chip eventually eloped with Polly (played by Ronne Troup, daughter of Emergency! star Bobby Troup) and the couple moved into their own apartment. Ernie was on the cusp of puberty and his voice was cracking, so some young blood was needed for the series. Steadfast bachelor Steve Douglas meets and falls in love with Ernie's widowed English teacher, Barbara Harper (Beverly Garland). As luck would have it, she came equipped with an irrepressibly cute pre-school-aged daughter called Dodie (played by Dawn Lyn, real-life sister of 80s pop idol Leif Garrett.) Surprisingly, the "Cousin Oliver" syndrome didn't apply in this situation, as the show continued on for three years after Barbara and Dodie were added to the mix.