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Fred MacMurray
Fred MacMurray - publicity.JPG
MacMurray in the 1930s
Frederick Martin MacMurray

(1908-08-30)August 30, 1908
Died November 5, 1991(1991-11-05) (aged 83)
Occupation Actor
Years active 1929–1978
Political party Republican
Lillian Lamont
(m. 1936; died 1953)
June Haver
(m. 1954)
Children 4
Relatives Fay Holderness (aunt)

Frederick Martin MacMurray (August 30, 1908 – November 5, 1991) was an American actor. He appeared in more than 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. During 1959–1973, MacMurray appeared in numerous Disney films, including The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, Follow Me, Boys!, and The Happiest Millionaire. He played Steve Douglas in the television series My Three Sons.

Early life and education

Frederick Martin MacMurray was born on August 30, 1908, in Kankakee, Illinois, the son of Maleta (née Martin) and concert violinist Frederick Talmadge MacMurray, both natives of Wisconsin. His aunt, Fay Holderness, was a vaudeville performer and actress. When MacMurray was an infant, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where his father taught music. They relocated within the state to Beaver Dam, his mother's birthplace. MacMurray attended school in Quincy, Illinois, before earning a full scholarship to Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He played the saxophone in numerous local bands. He did not graduate from college.


Fred MacMurray and Carole Lombard in Swing High Swing Low
With Carole Lombard in Swing High, Swing Low (1937)

A featured vocalist, MacMurray recorded with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra on "All I Want Is Just One Girl" on the Victor label in 1930, 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).

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. He co-starred with Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams, with Joan Crawford in Above Suspicion, and with Carole Lombard in four productions: Hands Across the Table, The Princess Comes Across, Swing High, Swing Low and True Confession. Usually cast in light comedies as a decent, thoughtful character (The Trail of the Lonesome Pine), and in melodramas and musicals, MacMurray became one of the film industry's highest-paid actors of the period. In 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.

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 to kill her husband in the film noir classic Double Indemnity. In another turn in the "not so nice" category, MacMurray played the cynical, duplicitous Lieutenant Thomas Keefer in Dmytryk's film The Caine Mutiny. Six years later, MacMurray played Jeff Sheldrake, a two-timing corporate executive in Wilder's Oscar-winning film The Apartment. 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 film The Shaggy Dog.

From 1960 to 1972, he starred in My Three Sons, a long-running, highly rated TV series. Concurrently with it, MacMurray starred in other films, playing Professor Ned Brainard in The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel Son of Flubber. 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. Over the years, MacMurray became one of the wealthiest actors in the entertainment industry, primarily from wise real estate investments and from his "notorious frugality". After his final film The Swarm, MacMurray appeared in commercials for the 1979 Greyhound Lines bus company. Towards the end of the decade, he appeared in a series of commercials for the Korean chisenbop math calculation program.

Personal life

Fred MacMurray Star HWF
Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6421 Hollywood Boulevard

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 and Robert. 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 became the fourth-highest-paid citizen in the United States. 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. 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. 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". In 1944, he purchased the Bryson Apartment Hotel in the Westlake, Los Angeles neighborhood and used it for about thirty years. Later in life, MacMurray insisted upon a percentage of gross of the films in which he starred.

Illness and death

Fred MacMurray and June Haver's grave
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 recurred in 1987. He had a severe stroke in December 1988 that paralyzed his right side and affected his speech. With therapy he made a 90 percent recovery. After suffering from leukemia for more than a decade, MacMurray died of pneumonia on November 5, 1991, in Santa Monica, California.

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. MacMurray was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for The Absent-Minded Professor. He was the first person honored as a Disney Legend in 1987.


The Academy Film Archive houses the Fred MacMurray-June Haver Collection. The film materials are complemented by papers at the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library.



Year Title Role Notes
1929 Why Leave Home? Uncredited
1929 Tiger Rose Rancher Uncredited
1934 Friends of Mr. Sweeney Walk-on part Uncredited
1935 Grand Old Girl Sandy
1935 The Gilded Lily Peter Dawes
1935 Car 99 Trooper Ross Martin
1935 Men Without Names Richard Hood / Richard 'Dick' Grant
1935 Alice Adams Arthur Russell
1935 Hands Across the Table Theodore Drew III
1935 The Bride Comes Home Cyrus Anderson
1936 The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Jack Hale
1936 13 Hours by Air Jack Gordon
1936 The Princess Comes Across Joe King Mantell
1936 The Texas Rangers Jim Hawkins
1937 Champagne Waltz Buzzy Bellew
1937 Maid of Salem Roger Coverman of Virginia
1937 Swing High, Swing Low Skid Johnson
1937 Exclusive Ralph Houston
1937 True Confession Kenneth Bartlett
1938 Cocoanut Grove Johnny Prentice
1938 Men with Wings Pat Falconer
1938 Sing You Sinners David Beebe
1939 Cafe Society Crick O'Bannon
1939 Invitation to Happiness Albert 'King' Cole
1939 Honeymoon in Bali Bill 'Willie' Burnett
1940 Remember the Night John Sargent
1940 Little Old New York Charles Brownne
1940 Too Many Husbands Bill Cardew
1940 Rangers of Fortune Gil Farra
1941 Virginia Stonewall Elliott
1941 One Night in Lisbon Dwight Houston
1941 Dive Bomber Joe Blake
1941 New York Town Victor Ballard
1942 The Lady Is Willing Dr. Corey T. McBain
1942 Star Spangled Rhythm Frank in Card-Playing Skit
1942 Take a Letter, Darling Tom Verney
1942 The Forest Rangers Don Stuart
1943 No Time for Love Jim Ryan
1943 Flight for Freedom Randy Britton
1943 Above Suspicion Richard Myles
1944 Standing Room Only Lee Stevens
1944 And the Angels Sing Happy Morgan
1944 Double Indemnity Walter Neff
1944 Practically Yours Daniel Bellamy
1945 Where Do We Go from Here? Bill Morgan
1945 Captain Eddie Edward Rickenbacker
1945 Murder, He Says Pete Marshall
1945 Pardon My Past Eddie York / Francis Pemberton
1946 Smoky Clint Barkley
1947 Suddenly, It's Spring Peter Morely
1947 The Egg and I Bob MacDonald
1947 Singapore Matt Gordon
1948 On Our Merry Way Al
1948 The Miracle of the Bells Bill Dunnigan
1948 An Innocent Affair Vincent Doane
1949 Family Honeymoon Grant Jordan
1949 Father Was a Fullback George Cooper
1950 Borderline Johnny McEvoy – aka Johnny Macklin
1950 Never a Dull Moment Chris
1951 A Millionaire for Christy Peter Ulysses Lockwood
1951 Callaway Went Thataway Mike Frye
1953 Fair Wind to Java Captain Boll
1953 The Moonlighter Wes Anderson
1954 The Caine Mutiny Tom Keefer
1954 Pushover Paul Sheridan
1954 Woman's World Sid Burns
1955 The Far Horizons Captain Meriwether Lewis
1955 The Rains of Ranchipur Thomas "Tom" Ransome
1955 At Gunpoint Jack Wright
1956 There's Always Tomorrow Clifford Groves
1957 Gun for a Coward Will Keough
1957 Quantez Gentry / John Coventry
1958 Day of the Badman Judge Jim Scott
1959 Good Day for a Hanging Marshal Ben Cutler
1959 The Shaggy Dog Wilson Daniels
1959 Face of a Fugitive Jim Larsen aka Ray Kincaid
1959 The Oregon Trail Neal Harris
1960 The Apartment Jeff D. Sheldrake
1961 The Absent-Minded Professor Professor Ned Brainard
1962 Bon Voyage! Harry Willard
1963 Son of Flubber Ned Brainard
1964 Kisses for My President Thad McCloud
1966 Follow Me, Boys! Lemuel Siddons
1967 The Happiest Millionaire Antony Drexel-Biddle
1973 Charley and the Angel Charley Appleby
1978 The Swarm Mayor Clarence Tuttle Final film role

Short subjects

Year Title Role Notes
1940 Screen Snapshots: Art and Artists Himself
1941 Hedda Hopper's Hollywood No. 1 Himself Uncredited
1941 Popular Science Himself Uncredited
1943 Show Business at War Himself Uncredited
1943 The Last Will and Testament of Tom Smith Narrator Uncredited
1949 Screen Snapshots: Motion Picture Mothers, Inc. Himself


Year Title Role Notes
1954 The Jack Benny Program Himself Episode: "The Jam Session Show"
1955; 1958 General Electric Theater Richard Elgin / Harry Wingate Episodes: "The Bachelor's Bride" and "One Is a Wanderer"
1956 Screen Directors Playhouse Peter Terrance Episode: "It's a Most Unusual Day"
1957 The 20th Century-Fox Hour Peterson Episode: "False Witness"
1958 Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour Himself Episode: "Lucy Hunts Uranium"
1958 Cimarron City Himself Episode: "I, the People"
1960 The United States Steel Hour Himself Episode: "The American Cowboy"
1960–1972 My Three Sons Steve Douglas 380 episodes
1964 Summer Playhouse Himself Episode: "The Apartment House"
1974 The Chadwick Family Ned Chadwick Television film
1975 Beyond the Bermuda Triangle Harry Ballinger Television film


Year Title
1930–31 Three's a Crowd
1933–34 Roberta


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

See also

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