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Friday, June 29, 2012

"My Three Sons" - In Loving Memory of Don Grady

I would imagine that it would be hard to say goodbye to somebody who you were quite close to.  I know that over the last couple of years, I have had to say a fond farewell to a couple of people who really meant a lot to me. 

I would imagine that this applies to people who starred in one of your favourite television shows as well.  Sure, the chances of you actually meeting a sitcom star that you grew up watching on television are slim to nil (well, unless you happen to live in Hollywood, California or New York City, that is, in which case your odds grow slightly exponentially).  However, when you read about them passing away in the newspaper, online, or over the radio, it makes one still feel quite sad.  It’s almost like you lost an old friend. 

Certainly there have been instances of this over the years.  I imagine a lot of people mourned the loss of Redd Foxx when he died of a heart attack on the set of “The Royal Family” in 1991.  I remember being shocked in 2003, when John Ritter unexpectedly passed away after being rushed to hospital from the set of “8 Simple Rules”. 

And then there was the recent passing of Don Grady, who passed away on June 27, 2012 from cancer just nineteen days after his 68th birthday.

If that name doesn’t quite ring a bell, you’re probably a bit on the young side.  It’s perfectly fine.  Before video sharing sites came along, I was unaware of the impact that Don Grady had in the world of prime time television.  After all, I was born nine years after the show that made him a star went off the air.  But, with today’s blog entry, I hope that I’ll be able to shed some light on who Don Grady was, as well as the show that helped make him famous.

That show, of course, was “My Three Sons”.

“My Three Sons” was a sitcom that ended up having a lot of notoriety attached to it.  First, the show was one of the few sitcoms to survive and thrive after a switch in networks.  In most cases, a show relocating from one network to another will in all likelihood kill the program.  Not “My Three Sons”, however.  The show swapped networks in 1965, moving from ABC to CBS, and ran for another SEVEN years!

You know, come to think of it, that’s another point that I would like to make in regards to “My Three Sons”.  The show debuted on September 29, 1960.  The show wrapped up on August 24, 1972!  If you’ve kept track, that’s twelve seasons that the show aired!  With 380 episodes filmed, it became the second longest running live-action sitcom of all time.  Only “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet surpassed “My Three Sons” with 435 episodes filmed over a fourteen season run.

Anyways, the show was all about a man named Steven Douglas (Fred MacMurray).  Douglas was a widower who worked as an aeronautical engineer who was trying to rear three sons on his own. 

Now, there’s a lot that I could say about the show itself (certainly with almost four hundred episodes of material to work with, I could talk about the characters, episodes, and theme songs for ages.  But, I thought that most people who read this blog might enjoy reading the behind the scenes moments in regards to “My Three Sons” rather than having a huge plot summary.  In my experience, that’s what I’ve noticed.

So for today, I’ll post some nuggets of trivia associated with this program, with a special focus on the late Don Grady.  Are you ready?  Here goes!

1 – The first season of the program contained 36 episodes (a lot when you consider that the average season of a television sitcom runs between 22 and 25 episodes).  All episodes of season one were directed by Peter Tewkesbury.

2 – The first five seasons of the show were filmed in black and white.  Part of the reason why the show swapped networks in 1965 was because of the fact that ABC did not want to commit to broadcasting in colour television.  As a result, when the show moved to CBS, the show aired in colour until the end of the show’s run.

3 – The three sons at the beginning of the program were Mike Douglas (Tim Considine), Robbie Douglas (Don Grady), and Richard “Chip” Douglas (Stanley Livingston).  But after Considine left the show in 1965 following a falling out with executive producer Don Fedderson, another child, Ernie Thompson, moved into the household to be adopted by the Douglas family.

4 – Ernie Thompson was played by Barry Livingston, who happens to be the real-life brother of Stanley Livingston.

5 – William Frawley (who many may also remember as Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy” played the role of “Bub” during the first five seasons.  However, Frawley became ill during the filming of season five and “Bub” was replaced by Uncle Charley, played by William Demarest for the remainder of the show’s run.  Frawley would pass away in March 1966.

6 – Many of the show’s cast members had musical connections.  McMurray began his career playing saxophone during the 1930s, Grady played drums for the band “Yellow Balloon” in the 1960s, Tina Cole (who played Katie Miller Douglas) was born into the musical family “The King Family”, and Dawn Lyn (who played Dodie Harper Douglas) happens to be the younger sister of 1970s heartthrob Leif Garrett.

7 – The only actor to be in every episode of the series was Fred MacMurray.

8 – The show was filmed out of order due to the contract stipulations in MacMurray’s contract.  His contract allowed him to only work 65 days per year, and have a 10-week break in between filming, so that he could work on other projects.

9 – Don Grady was born Don Louis Agrati on June 8, 1944 in San Diego, California.

10 – Grady’s sister was Lani O’Grady, who once worked as a Mouseketeer.  She died of a drug overdose in 2001.

11 – Grady composed the theme song for Donahue.

12 – In 2008, Grady released an album entitled “JazRocPop”.

And, just because I thought it would be nice to see, I’ve included an interview that was done with Grady and the Livingston brothers just three years ago on CBS.

Rest in peace, Don Grady.

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