Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Temple Tuesday: Uncle Charley

William Demarest is best known for playing Uncle Charley in the classic television show “My Three Sons” (1965-1972) which starred Fred MacMurray. He also appeared with Al Jolson in “The Jazz Singer” (1927), famous for being the first “talkie”, and finished his career with a cameo as a studio gatekeeper in “Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood” (1976). To Shirley fans though, he’s known as her scheming stepfather, Harry Kipper, in “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” (1938). After thinking she failed her audition for a radio show, he unceremoniously dumps the kid off at her Aunt Miranda’s (Helen Westley) so that he won’t have to be financially responsible for her anymore. When he later learns that she has made it big on the radio, he returns with an attorney to reclaim her…and her future earnings! What a heel!

Nobody gets the best of “self-reliant” Shirley, though. She out-scams the schemer and ends up free of the no-good dirty swindler.


In “My Three Sons” history, William Frawley originally played the boys' live-in maternal grandfather and housekeeper, William Michael Francis “Bub” O'Casey.

Alcohol abuse and old age caused Frawley to forget his lines, and by the show's fifth season, he was unable to pass the studio's annual health insurance exam and had to be replaced by Demarest, who stepped in as Bub's brother, Uncle Charley, basically fulfilling the same duties as Frawley’s character. Frawley died of a heart attack a year later, five days after his 79th birthday.

Unlike his character in “Rebecca,” Demarest’s Uncle Charley was totally loveable under that gruff exterior!

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.


Darryl said...

And...of course Fred Mertz!

DBenson said...

Demarest was one of those great comic actors who turned up everywhere. In "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" he's the cranky but ultimately sympathetic father of Betty Hutton. In "Charlie Chan at the Opera" he's a short-fused police detective exasperated by the quiet Chan. And he's Henry Fonda's sidekick in "The Lady Eve", a growling voice of common sense who gets the very last word. He even turns up in "That Darn Cat", sparring with Elsa Lancaster as his wife.

Does he get any pratfalls in "Rebecca"? He's more a comic actor than a slapstick comic, but he seems to take more rough tumbles than most. In "The Lady Eve" he seems to be influencing Fonda -- they BOTH take pratfalls at embarrassing moments.

Daveland said...

Yes DBenson - he does get a few pratfalls in “Rebecca”!