I was very sad today when I heard about the death of actor Don Grady, known for his role as Robbie Douglas on My Three Sons. The show aired from 1960-1972 and I don’t recall watching it much back then – after all, I was still in diapers when it started. It was actually my older sister Debbie who had the mad crush on Robbie and plastered pin-ups of him from 16 Magazine on her wall. But since losing my full-time job last June, I admit I have been waxing nostalgic and vintage TV helps me stay lighthearted about my situation. I am grateful to Me-TV for airing these programs since I don’t have cable.
I have been a big fan of TV shows from the 1950s-1960s for many years – The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and more recently – My Three Sons and That Girl. I watched the latter years of That Girl in my youth and adored Marlo Thomas back then. These shows have a certain innocence and melancholy sweetness that make me remember my childhood through rose-colored glasses … and just how much time has passed.
There are many articles about Don Grady that have been published today and I am not going to duplicate those. Part of the charm of watching these programs is hunting down trivia about the stars and guests who appeared. And when I do this, one things leads to another and I experience that “six degrees of separation” phenomena. So in memory of Don Grady and My Three Sons I am going to share some interesting tidbits I dug up while tripping down memory lane.
- Actress Terry Moore appeared in Steve and the Huntress which aired on January 27, 1966. A diminutive 5′ 2″, Fred MacMurray towered over her by more than a foot. Terry’s oddest claim to fame is that she confessed to being the secret wife of millionaire Howard Hughes.
- Don Grady’s sister Lani, known for her role as Mary on Eight is Enough died of a drug overdose in 2001, a week shy of her 47th birthday.
- William Frawley, forever known as Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy was replaced by William Demarest in 1965 after appearing on 165 episodes. Although he had failing health and died the next year, he objected vehemently to being replaced.
- Don Grady lost the part of Andy Sherman on Laramie to Robert Crawford Jr. Ironically, Robert’s last two TV appearances were in two episodes of My Three Sons that aired in 1968: Dear Enemy and Dr. Osborne, M.D. Less than a month apart in age, Robert was born on June 8, 1944 and Don on May 13 of the same year. Both Robert and Don appeared in a few episodes of The Rifleman, starring Robert’s older brother Johnny.
- Johnny Crawford appeared on five episodes of The Mickey Mouse Club along with Mouseketeer Don Grady. Although not a regular, Robert received honorary Mousketeer ears alongside his brother.
- The “MacMurray Method” wreaked havoc on the actors and on guest stars. This nightmarish schedule stipulated that all of MacMurray’s scenes were to be shot in 65 non-consecutive days. Read more about this fascinating challenge here.
- Butch Patrick, famous for playing Eddie Munster, appeared in nine episodes between 1968-1969.
- Jodie Foster appeared in six episodes between 1971-1972.
- Other well-known guest stars: Vera Miles, Joan Blondell, Jaye P. Morgan, Ed Begley, Jr., Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jerry Mathers, Jane Wyman, Rose Marie, and Veronica Cartwright.
You can say that some of these old TV shows were saccharin or corny, but if you really dissect the best of them, the writing was very good and set the groundwork for many of the shows to come. R.I.P Don Grady – and thanks for gracing our lives and reminding us of simpler, gentler times when an adorable guy with dimples named Robbie Douglas lit up the TV and girls’ hearts across America.