Kara Kovalchik and Mental_Floss present 11 Fun Facts About My Three Sons. Here are three of my favorites…
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.”
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.”
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).