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11 Fun Facts About My Three Sons

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By CBS Television (eBayfrontback) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When My Three Sons premiered in 1960, it wasn’t the first TV series to feature an all-male household—Bachelor Father and Bonanza were both lacking mother figures—but it was the first to show a more realistic version of such a family. The house wasn’t always spotless, the boys were rambunctious and noisy, and chaos was often the order of the day. Here are a few fun facts (or “neat junk,” as Ernie might say) about the Douglas family.

1. THE STAR MANAGED TO NEGOTIATE A SWEET SET OF WORKING HOURS FOR HIS SCHEDULE.

Fred MacMurray was a well-established film star when he was approached by executive producer Don Fedderson about starring in a TV series. MacMurray 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, MacMurray 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 with his wife and four-year-old twin daughters. But the money Fedderson offered him was too tempting to pass up—and would secure his children’s future—so he signed on to play the widowed patriarch on My Three Sons.

MacMurray’s “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 caught on to this concept and agreed to star in a project only if it was filmed in “the MacMurray Method.”

2. WILLIAM FRAWLEY WAS A BELOVED BUT NAUGHTY ROLE MODEL TO THE CHILD ACTORS.

The premise of My Three Sons was to showcase the trials and tribulations of Steven Douglas (MacMurray), an aeronautical engineer and widower, and his three boys—Mike, Robbie, and Chip. Since Steve’s job required long hours, some household help was required. Enter William Frawley (I Love Lucy’s Fred Mertz) as Michael Francis “Bub” O’Casey, Steve’s father-in-law. Bub served as chief cook and bottle-washer, as well as the disciplinarian for the boys when their dad wasn’t home.

Frawley nabbed the role shortly after his tenure on I Love Lucy, and was quite pleased to have another steady job. A long-time bachelor with no children of his own, he became something of a surrogate grandfather to Stanley and Barry Livingston, who played Chip and Ernie, respectively. Years later, Stanley reported—with pride—that Frawley “taught me every four-letter word I know!”

3. THE “SONS” HAD TO BE MACMURRAY-APPROVED BEFORE BEING HIRED.

Stanley Livingston was the first of the “Sons” to be cast. Just nine years old at the time, he was already a show biz veteran, having worked regularly on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet from 1958 to 1960. Stan was hired to play “Chip,” who was the youngest of the Douglas boys when the series premiered.

Ryan O’Neal was a contender for the role of Mike, the eldest son, but MacMurray felt that he wasn’t really suited to comedy. MacMurray instead recommended Tim Considine for the role, having recently worked with him on The Shaggy Dog. Former Mouseketeer Don Grady, who was cast as Robbie, not only passed muster as being well-behaved, he also had a cleft in his chin that resembled MacMurray’s.

4. BILL FRAWLEY CARRIED A GRUDGE … TO GREAT LENGTHS.

That there was no love lost between former I Love Lucy co-stars William Frawley and Vivian Vance was certainly no secret in Hollywood, but Frawley had been willing to set aside any personal differences when Desilu proposed a spin-off series starring Fred and Ethel Mertz. Vivian Vance absolutely refused, however, and Frawley never forgave her for denying him a steady paycheck.

“On the third season of our show, lo and behold, Lucy decided to do The Lucy Show and they were on the next stage over from ours,” Stanley Livingston recalled. “She probably picked that stage knowing Bill and Vivian would have to pass each other. When Bill saw Vivian, he’d yell some sort of obscenity at her. He got me to participate in a couple of his pranks. When she was doing a scene, he’d get us kids on the show to sneak in and knock over a stack of empty film cans or throw them like a Frisbee to make a big racket and ruin her scene so she’d have to do it again.”

5. MACMURRAY WAS ALWAYS LOOKING FOR WAYS TO SAVE A FEW DOLLARS.

In addition to being known as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, MacMurray was also well known for being frugal with the stacks of money he had accumulated during his career. At one time he was the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, yet he brown-bagged his meals every day while filming My Three Sons and kept an eye on all the expenses associated with the show. Actress Beverly Garland, who played Barbara Harper Douglas, was present one afternoon when the wardrobe man told Fred, “I think we’re going to have to buy a dozen new shirts for you this season.” MacMurray asked him, “Buy a dozen shirts? Why don’t you just turn the collars around on my old ones?”

6. CONTINUITY PROVED TO BE A BIG PRODUCTION PROBLEM.

The MacMurray Method was a nightmare in terms of continuity, so production manager John G. Stephens was tasked with keeping everything running smoothly and as if it had been shot in sequence. For example, when Fred was done with a scene (and remember, all of his scenes were shot in bulk; all the kitchen scenes were done one week, the living room shots another, etc.) the other actors would all freeze in place and Stephens would take a set of detailed Polaroid photos of everyone. Three months or so later, when the rest of that kitchen scene was filmed, the actors—wearing the same wardrobe and hairstyles as before—resumed their frozen poses from that last shot before the director called “Action!”

Because the episodes and scenes were filmed out of order, the cast had to be doubly diligent about their appearance for each entire season. Any significant weight gain or radical haircut would completely blow continuity. Some changes were inevitable, such as Barry and Stanley’s growth spurts in their early teens, so the wardrobe department bought some of their clothes in duplicate sets in graduating sizes.

The most obvious continuity glitch occurred during season 10, when Dawn Lyn was added to the cast as five-year-old Dodie, the daughter of the woman Steve Douglas married that season. Dawn was losing her baby teeth at the time, and her front teeth grew in irregularly so there are scenes of her chatting with her new daddy with a gummy grin and then later in the same episode she’s suddenly sporting a jagged pair of incisors while arguing with her brothers.

7. THE ELDEST SON LEFT THE SERIES AFTER A FALLING OUT WITH THE PRODUCER.

Tim Considine had an extensive resume, having starred 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 Fedderson dismissed the idea. The two had a serious falling out and Considine left the series at the end of the fifth season. His last appearance was in season six’s “The First Marriage,” in which Mike married his longtime girlfriend Sally (played by Meredith MacRae) and then moved to California to work as a teacher.

A replacement son was needed after Considine’s departure, so writer/producer George Tibbles came up with a three-part story arc that involved Chip’s friend, an orphan named Ernie Thompson, moving in with the Douglas clan after his foster parents moved out of the country. After overcoming a few legal and emotional hurdles, Steve officially adopted the youngster and My Three Sons was once again a legitimate title. Ernie (played by Stanley Livingston’s younger brother, Barry) was now the youngest child in the family, even though in previous episodes he was the same age and in the same classroom as Chip.

8. THE SERIES CHANGED NETWORKS MIDWAY THROUGH ITS 12-YEAR RUN.

My Three Sons was effectively cancelled by ABC in 1964 because the network was bowing to pressure from rival networks and slowly converting their black-and-white prime time shows to color. All things considered, in their opinion the added expense of filming My Three Sons in color was not worth it, so they axed the show from their schedule. CBS, however, thought the series still had some legs so they picked it up for the fall 1965 season (and continued running it through 1972).

9. BOTH “ROBBIE” AND DON GRADY SERVED IN THE ARMY RESERVE.

Don Grady joined the Army Reserve in 1968. His My Three Sons character was likewise sent off to basic training after also joining the Reserve, and his filming schedule was adjusted accordingly for the six months the actor had to spend on active duty. After Grady finished his basic training, he was eventually assigned to a marching band unit, which was comprised mostly of actors and musicians. For two years all the reservists in that unit were allowed to keep their long hair, as it was considered to be a “requirement” for their civilian occupations, but then a new C.O. was assigned to the post and ordered regulation haircuts for everyone. Grady refused and hired an attorney to stand his ground, but he also admitted in an interview later that he felt sorry for the other 25 guys who “didn’t have the bread to hire a lawyer and fight it.”

10. BEVERLY GARLAND’S PRIVATE LIFE PREPARED HER FOR HER ROLE AS “BARBARA.”

Nothing perks up an aging series like a wedding, so at the beginning of season 10, My Three Sons’s producers had Steve meet (and quickly fall in love with) Ernie’s new teacher, an attractive widow with a five-year-old daughter. Of all the women who were considered for the role of Barbara Harper, B-movie scream queen Beverly Garland had a resume bullet point that gave her an edge: When she met MacMurray, she told him that My Three Sons was really her own story—she’d married a widower with two children, raised them as her own and was now a grandmother. MacMurray’s real-life wife (June Haver) and twin daughters were present for the filming of the wedding of Steve Douglas and Barbara Harper, and Hollywood columnist Dick Kleiner, who was also hanging around the set, reported that once the director called “Cut!” after the final kiss, Fred immediately turned to his wife and apologized, “Just acting, June—you know how it is.”

11. A PROPOSED SPIN-OFF NEVER HAPPENED.

During the 11th season of My Three Sons there was an attempt to spin Robbie, Katie, and their triplets off into their own series. In the episode “After the Honeymoon” (which also served as a backdoor pilot), Robbie was laid off from his job and moved his family to San Francisco to accept a new job. The apartment building that they moved into came equipped with wacky/overbearing landlords.

The proposed spin-off series wasn’t picked up, much to Grady’s relief. He’d been ambivalent about the project from the get-go, having decided that he’d had enough of playing “Robbie” and acting in general. His true passion was music, and he longed to compose and perform his own songs. He left the series at the end of season 11, but Tina Cole returned; her husband’s absence was explained by having him transferred to Peru to oversee a construction job.

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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