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Fred MacMurray: The Guy Next Door (1996)



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17 December 1996 (USA)  »

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Frederick Martin "Fred" MacMurray from Abandoned Child to Family Patriarch
19 July 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Peter Graves narrates this "Biography" episode featuring the life and career of musician, investor and actor of film and television, Fred MacMurray, from his 1908 birth, in Kankakee, Illinois, through his fifty years in Hollywood, while maintaining his healthy image free of scandal, divorce and tabloid headline fodder.

When he turns five years of age, Fred relocates with his parents (Maleta and Frederick) to Wisconsin, where they had met, while Frederick had been touring as a concert violinist. But the marriage doesn't last, and Frederick and Fred soon lose touch, and so the child who would one day become famous as television's perfect widowed father would, himself, spend his formative years without paternal influence.

Jazz band music becomes the rage of the 1920's, influencing Fred, as the staple of popular entertainment affects many a youth of his day. Fred studies the saxophone and begins to perform in public, with his high school band, and in orchestra during his one year at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

From here, he travels with his group, the California Collegians even though he drops from college, and no one in the group is from California, but he's the only one to read sheet music, which he transliterates to the band through his saxophone sessions.

By 1930, he appears on Broadway, playing in the band in "Three's a Crowd" (1930-31) and "Roberta" (1933–34), in which he also has a speaking line.

In 1934, Fred MacMurray arrives in Hollywood, where he signs at Paramount Pictures, but on loan to RKO-Radio Pictures for his first Hollywood film, "Grand Old Girl" (1935).

When Paramount searches for the handsome, soft-spoken, wisecracking leading man to complement their established star Claudette Colbert in "The Gilded Lily" (1935), they notice his performance in "Grand Old Girl" and cast Fred MacMurray. And the resulting film makes him a star.

Although Fred hasn't taken acting lessons nor pretends to be any more important than "The Guy Next Door," his star continues to rise by serving as leading man to lovely famous A-list actresses as Claudette, Carole Lombard, Marlene Dietrich, Madeleine Carroll, and Paulette Goddard.

But it is Director Billy Wilder who turns Fred MacMurray into an all-around actor (according to this episode), when he offers Fred the male lead in "Double Indemnity" (1944), to which Fred initially objects, as does leading lady Barbara Stanwyck, maintaining that the picture could destroy their images and careers. But Wilder does not take "no" for an answer from Stanwyck nor MacMurray, and afterward Fred reportedly feels that he could handle any acting assignment.

Well, fans sometimes see otherwise, as hordes of adoring fans, who previously would line up for his autograph, begin to see him as his questionable "Indemnity" character, one lady approaching him to smack Fred MacMurray with her purse, causing Fred to re-think his choices of roles, and avoiding accepting delinquent sorts of characters for the most part in the aftermath.

After losing his lovely wife Lillian Lamont at a young age, Fred meets the lovely actress June Haver a year later at a costume party, which she has to be coaxed to attend, but she now explains her appreciation for her long and healthy marriage with Fred, in addition to the children whom they welcome.

This episode continues to explain some of Fred MacMurray's decisions to accept roles in many wonderful films to come, as well as his achieving lasting fame as the widowed patriarch of the Douglas family on television's "My Three Sons," and their years entertaining audiences from 837 Mill Street.

Fred's marriages are with Lillian Lamont (1936–53), with whom he adopts Susan and Robert; and June Haver (whom he marries in 1954), with whom he adopts twin daughters, Kate and Laurie.

Interview Guests for this episode consist of June Haver MacMurray (Wife), Kate MacMurray (Daughter), Laurie MacMurray (Daughter), Nancy Olson (Actress), Beverly Garland (Actress), Jack Lemmon (Actor), Stanley Livingston (Actor), Billy Wilder (Director), Edward Dmytryk (Director), A.C. Lyles (Paramount Executive), and Richard Jewell (Film Historian), with Peter Graves (Host and Narrator).

Still Photographs include Maleta Martin MacMurray (Mother), Frederick MacMurray (Father), Lillian Lamont (Wife), Susan MacMurray (Daughter), Robert MacMurray (Son), Marlene Dietrich, Madeleine Carroll, Paulette Goddard, George Raft, Walt Disney, Paul Douglas, William Frawley, William Demarest, Barry Livingston, Tina Cole, Dawn Lyn and Tramp.

Archive film footage includes Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, Mary Martin, Robert Preston, Errol Flynn, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Van Johnson, Shirley MacLaine, Charlie the Dog, Tim Considine and Don Grady.

Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Fred MacMurray through the years, in scenes from The Gilded Lily (1935), Swing High, Swing Low (1937), Dive Bomber (1941), New York Town (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), The Egg and I (1947), The Caine Mutiny (1954), Quantez (1957), The Apartment (1960), and The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), as well as footage of of Fred's WWII-era Victory Bond drive public service announcements, plus June Haver's Oh, You Beautiful Doll (1949).

Television Clips include scenes from episodes of "My Three Sons" (1960-72).

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