Fred MacMurray was ''semi-retired'' while on My Three Sons

MacMurray was such a low-pressure kind of guy that he even "semi-retired" while still working.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

My Three Sons was a successful family sitcom that originally aired on ABC from 1960 to 1965 before making the move to CBS in 1965. The series was so long-lasting that its leading star, Fred MacMurray, became a bit bored of it by the time its final few seasons premiered. 

MacMurray played the role of Steve Douglas. As a father of three boys, Steve Douglas was kind, patient and understanding — something MacMurray struggled to emulate off-screen or in his personal life.

According to a 1970 interview with Dayton Daily News, MacMurray and his castmates had just entered their 11th year on television. With years of experience and familiarity with each other, My Three Sons became second nature for MacMurray.

After dedicating most of his time and life to the series, by season 11, MacMurray had developed a bit of senioritis. According to the interview, he devoted less than four months a year to the series, shooting all of his scenes out of context with the rest of the cast. 

"I'm semi-retired," MacMurray said. "Every year I think we ought to quit while we're ahead. But at the end of the season when the ratings came out, we stand very high. So we just carry on another year."

Although MacMurray loved working on the series, he was tired. 

Before his time on My Three Sons, MacMurray's first uncredited role dated back to 1929. He could be seen in a variety of films, a few TV series and more than one iconic Disney film. But by the time My Three Sons was in the final season, MacMurray was burnt out.

"In the beginning, I used to make feature films when I'd completed the series for the season. Now I just putter around," MacMurray said. "Maybe I should feel guilty about not becoming a producer, but I'm a low pressure kind of guy."

MacMurray said the transition from film to TV was difficult at first. In fact, MacMurray wouldn't even agree to do the show because it meant spending six months or more of his time to make it work. So, producer Don Fedderson, agreed to MacMurray's truncated schedule.

Even Henry Fonda worked with Fedderson on the "MacMurray Method," in order to leave about eight or nine months open per year for other projects, or just for rest, if you're MacMurray.

"Each year the show becomes easier," MacMurray said. "In the beginning, I'd do all the kitchen scenes in two days, changing wardrobe from script to script. Then I'd do all the exteriors and so on. Now we break it up a little and work runs smoother, and it still leaves plenty of time for me to relax and enjoy myself."

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11 Comments

MadMat2102 19 days ago
All 12 seasons of "My Three Sona" are now streaming on Amazon Prime.
tootsieg 20 days ago
Do whatever you want to do. That is retirement.
Familyaffair 21 days ago
Good for him. He worked a long time. Once you make your money, why stress?
MrsPhilHarris 22 days ago
I felt sick this morning. Steve met Barbara at the high school. This means Dodie will appear and Polly won't be far behind. On the other hand it means the first episodes will be back in a few months. I think
🤔
cinamac MrsPhilHarris 20 days ago
So, you’re okay with Uncle Charlie, Ernie, Katie and the triplets?!?
MrsPhilHarris cinamac 20 days ago
I’m not a big fan of Uncle Charlie but I don’t hate him. I preferred Bub. Ernie and the triplets I neither like nor dislike. Love Katie. When I was a kid I thought she was so beautiful. Barry and Stanley Livingston both said Wm. Frawley was a nice guy and Wm. Demarest was a lot like the Uncle Charlie character. They preferred Frawley. In fact Stanley has said he was very upset when Frawley left the show.
cinamac MrsPhilHarris 20 days ago
Okay, so here’s my story! I’m relatively new to the characters of Bub and Mike, thanks to MeTV(for years, My Three Sons, in syndication, always showed the first episode as Mike’s marriage and the subsequent adoption of Ernie). Now that I’m familiar with the original cast, Uncle Charlie and Ernie pale in comparison to Bub and Mike! As for Katie, yes she’s beautiful, but I always preferred the more natural look of Polly, the quintessential California surfer girl! It has also been revealed that, although Don Grady, eventually, fell in love with Tina Cole, he wanted a Ronne Troup type actress to be cast in the role of his wife, Katie! I didn’t like the triplets, Barbara or Dodie, but, like you, I realize the last season is imminent and we’ll be returning to Bub, Mike, Sudsy and Hank, real soon!!!😂🤣😅
MrsPhilHarris cinamac 20 days ago
The first few seasons with Bub, Mike, Sudsy and Hank are the best. I agree Ronnie Troup was a better fit looks wise, but the character was too clingy for me. I love Katie but she has one weird hairdo! 🤭 I think in about 6 weeks the first season should start again.🥳
daDoctah 22 days ago
It was a standing joke to ask what the heck Steve Douglas did for a living. Just like with Ozzie Nelson.
cperrynaples daDoctah 22 days ago
No, Steve worked for the Air Force and designed rockets!
Runeshaper 22 days ago
Fred MacMurray really lived how he wanted, from the articles I've been reading on MeTV. I say, "Good for him!"
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