Beloved Actors of 'My Three Sons` Sitcom Then and Now

Nov 12, 2020Pedro Marrero

Although many of us might come from a younger generation and have no idea what the show is about, “My Three Sons” was an extremely popular sitcom that was loved by many. It ran from 1960 to 1972, first on ABC and then CBS, telling the story of the Douglas family. The series is an early example of a TV show that transcended the traditional idea of a nuclear family, which is just part of its legacy. As a tribute to its cast, let’s see what became of them since the show aired.

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The show originally featured William Frawley, as the boys' grandfather, William Michael Francis ‘Bub’ O’Casey. Due to an illness, Frawley was replaced by William Demarest. The eldest son, Mike (Tim Considine), was written off the show in 1965, as he got married. To keep the emphasis on “three sons,” Chip’s friend, Ernie, was adopted. The show is considered a cornerstone of the ABC and CBS lineups in the 60s. 380 episodes were produced in total, making it third to ‘The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet’ and ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ as the longest-running live-action sitcom on television.

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The late actor played Steve Douglas, a widowed father of four who does his best to raise and provide for his children with the help of his father-in-law. MacMurray retired from acting in 1978 when he made his last appearance as Mayor Clarence. What a star he was! This was in the horror movie “The Swarm” alongside Michael Caine. In 1986 he became the first person to receive the “Disney Legend” award for his work in six feature films with the company. Sadly, the actor is no longer with us since he passed away in 1991 at the age of 83.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


The 78-year-old actor played Mike Douglas, Steve’s oldest son, until Season 5, when the character got married and was written off the series. After the series, the former child actor grew more and more distant from the entertainment industry. He felt it wasn't the place for him. He made small appearances in series and TV movies occasionally. His last appearance was in 2006’s “Ray of Sunshine.”  The reason for his withdrawal from the screen can be attributed to his age. He opted to spend more time around his family and less time working. 

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The late actor played Robbie Douglas, Steve’s second son, for the entire run of the series. Following the end of the series, Grady made a couple of appearances before quitting acting for good to focus on music, an art form that he had explored before. He was a great singer! He ventured into this field as a member of “The Mickey Mouse Club.” This beautiful dream of singing and dancing was however sadly cut short. Unfortunately, the actor and singer passed away in 2012, at the age of 68, after a long and tough battle with cancer. 

Don Grady. I Image: Getty Images.


The 68-year-old actor played Chip Douglas, Steve’s youngest son, for the entire run of the series. After the series wrapped, Livingston continued acting occasionally until the late seventies. He has been mostly retired from acting since the ‘90s. It wasn't a lifestyle he enjoyed. However, the former actor remained active in the field, albeit behind the scenes. He went into producing and making films and worked as a producer until 2012. In 2011, the actor wrote and directed the documentary series “The Actor’s Journey,” as well as a version for children.

Stanley Livingston and his wife Paula Drake. I Image: Getty Images.


The 65-year-old actor played Ernie Thompson Douglas who joins the family when Steve adopts him on Season 3. Barry is the one from the cast who led the most prolific and successful career in front of the screen, and he remains active to this day. What a legend! He has several projects waiting to be released in 2019. After “My Three Sons,” the actor went on to appear in many TV shows including “Mad Men,” “Angie Tribeca,” and “The Middle,” as well as big-screen productions in the Oscar-winning “Argo” and “The Social Network.”

Barry Livingston. I Image: Getty Images.


The late actor played Uncle Charley O’Casey, the children’s maternal great-uncle, from Season 5 onward. Demarest was 80 by the time the series came to an end. He had led a long and successful career in Hollywood. He retired in 1978 after making a few appearances, mostly on TV, and passed away in 1983, aged 91.

Don Lemon and William Demarest in 1969. I Image: Wikimedia Commons.


The 76-year-old actress played Katie Miller who later marries Robbie. After her work in “My Three Sons,” Cole managed to appear in a few shows till the late seventies. At that time, she took an almost 20-year hiatus from acting. She only returned in 2005. In 2018 she was cast in her latest role, Laura Chadwick, in the film “Reawakened.”

Tina Cole. I Image: Getty Images.


Meredith Lynn MacRae, an American actress and singer who became famous through her roles as Sally Morrison on 'My Three Sons' and Billie Jo Bradley in 'Petticoat Junction.' For three seasons, the actress played Mike's' love interest. She later asked to be written off the series to further explore her career. In 1964, Meredith married Richard Berger. Their union didn't last long and the couple parted ways in 1968. In 1969, MacRae remarried fellow actor Greg Mullavey until their divorce in 1987. The actress's final marriage took place in 1995, to Philip M. Neal. Meredith sadly passed away at the age of 56.

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Born in 1887, William Clement Frawley was an American stage and screen entertainer. Frawley was known for his role as the landlord Fred Mertz, in the American television sitcom 'I Love Lucy.' And, of course, became popular for his role as William Michael Francis Aloysius 'Bub' O'Casey (1960 - 1968), in 'My Three Sons.' William started his career back in 1914 with his wife, Edna Louise Broedt. The couple had their comedy act, called 'Frawley and Louise,' which continued until they divorced in 1927. Frawley continued his acting career, performing on Broadway numerous times, and in 1916, signed with Paramount Studios to act in silent films. 

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Born in 1963, Dawn Lyn Nervik is an American child actress, who began her acting career at an extremely young age. At just 4 years old, Dawn pursued acting alongside her older brother, Leif Garrett. Her first role was in 1967 B-grade western 'Cry Blood, Apache' where she appeared as an American Indian boy. The actress only found out she had played a member of the opposite sex years later. She later became famous thanks to her role in 'My Three Sons' as Dorothy 'Dodie' Harper Douglas during the last three seasons. She was a stellar act and added something very special to the show.

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The actress financially supported both her mother and brother from 1969, until her brother's fame eclipsed hers. Although she played a couple more roles in various shows and movies afterward, her acting career never really took off. It wasn't meant to be for this actress. Dawn's last appearance onscreen was in 1978, in an episode of 'Wonder Woman.' Dawn first married Michael Whitby in 1990, until the couple ultimately divorced in 2001. In 2006, the actress remarried to W. John Reese, with whom she has been together ever since.

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"My Three Sons" was one of the only TV series that was played on two networks. ABC had the show for its first five seasons and then, for an interesting reason, it was shifted to CBS. The issue was about black and white versus color. ABC was hesitant about airing the show in color because of costs. The shaggy on-screen dog, Tramp, had a few popular and well-known friends. The dog belonged to Frank Inn's animal family. Frank Inn was known for training many celebrity animals. Amongst these was Arnold the pig from Green Acres and the chimps on Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp.

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One of the main characters, MacMurray, organized a unique schedule. The actor managed to have long breaks, of up to ten weeks, and that wasn't all. His contract allowed him a limited work period of 65 days of total work per season. It is unclear how he managed to organize these terms. Surprisingly, the highly popular television series didn't rank particularly well. The show was never placed in the top ten of any charts. Its best ranking was during season two of its airing time. The Nielsen charts ranked "My Three Sons" at number 11. The cast was just short of top ten status.

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Amidst these unfavorable rankings, numbers don't lie, and the show was very well received. It garnered a huge audience. From 1964 to 1965, almost 53 million American homes had television sets. Season five of the series attracted 13,438,500 viewers, this means that a quarter of the country was watching "My Three Sons" and that was a lot of audience for that time!

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"My Three Sons" was undoubtedly an iconic TV series. The show had a layer of interesting facts that audiences were unaware of. But one thing that was clear is the high level of entertainment in the show. It set the stage for the countless family sitcoms that would come in the future! Did you grow up watching this popular series? 

Sources: Wikipedia MeTV

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