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William Demarest
Demarest in a screenshot of The Palm Beach Story trailer in 1942
Born Carl William Demarest
(1892-02-27)27 February 1892
Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
Died 27 December 1983(1983-12-27) (aged 91)
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Cause of death Prostate cancer; pneumonia
Place of burial Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
Occupation Actor
Years active 1920–1978
Spouse(s) Estelle Collette (b. 1886-d.1968)
Lucile Thayer (1939–1983, his death) (1912–2009)

Carl William Demarest (February 27, 1892 – December 27, 1983) was an American character actor, known for playing Uncle Charley in My Three Sons.[1] A veteran of World War I, Demarest became a prolific film and television actor, appearing in over 140 films, beginning in 1926 and ending in the 1970s. He frequently played crusty but good-hearted roles.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Carl William Demarest was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the son of Samuel and Wilhelmina (née Lindgren) Demarest. They moved to New Bridge, a hamlet in Bergen County, New Jersey, during his infancy.

Demarest served in the United States Army during World War I.[2]

Career[edit | edit source]

Demarest started in show business working in vaudeville, appearing with his wife Estelle Collette (real name Esther Zychlin) as "Demarest and Colette", then moved on to Broadway. Demarest worked regularly with director Preston Sturges, becoming part of a "stock" troupe of actors that Sturges repeatedly cast in his films. He appeared in ten films written by Sturges, eight of which were under his direction, including The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

Demarest was such a familiar figure at the Paramount studio that just his name was used in the movie Sunset Boulevard as a potential star for William Holden's unsold baseball screenplay.

Demarest appeared with veteran western film star Roscoe Ates in the 1958 episode "And the Desert Shall Blossom" of CBS's Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In the story line, Ates and Demarest appear as old timers living in the Nevada desert. The local sheriff, played by Ben Johnson, appears with an eviction notice, but he agrees to let the pair stay on their property if they can make a dead rosebush bloom within the next month.

Demarest with Don Grady in My Three Sons (1969)

In 1959, Demarest was named the lead actor of the 18-week sitcom Love and Marriage on NBC in the 1959–1960 season. Demarest played William Harris, the owner of a failing music company who refuses to handle popular rock and roll music, which presumably might save the firm from bankruptcy. Joining Demarest on the series were Jeanne Bal, Murray Hamilton and Stubby Kaye.[3]

Demarest appeared as Police Chief Aloysius of the Santa Rosita Police Department in the film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), as well as on a memorable episode ("What's in the Box") of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone as a hen-pecked husband driven to the murder of his wife.

His most famous television role was in the ABC and then CBS sitcom My Three Sons from 1965 to 1972, playing Uncle Charley O'Casey. He replaced William Frawley, whose failing health had made procuring insurance impossible. Demarest had worked with Fred MacMurray previously in the films Hands Across the Table (1935), Pardon My Past (1945), On Our Merry Way (1948), and The Far Horizons (1955) and was a personal friend of MacMurray. Also, he worked with Irene Dunne in Never a Dull Moment.

Awards[edit | edit source]

Demarest received a single Academy Award nomination, for his supporting role in The Jolson Story (1946), playing Al Jolson's fictional mentor. He had previously shared the screen with the real Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer.

Demarest also received an Emmy nomination for the 1968–1969 season of My Three Sons as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Role.

Demarest has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to motion pictures, bestowed upon him on August 8, 1979 by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.[4][5] In attendance at the ceremony and then later at Musso & Frank Grill for celebrations were his My Three Sons co-stars Fred MacMurray and wife June Haver, Tina Cole, Stanley Livingston, Barry Livingston, and Dawn Lyn.

In 1998, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[6]

Personal life and later years[edit | edit source]

Estelle Collette, Demarest's first wife[7]

Demarest was married twice. His first wife was his vaudeville partner Estelle Collette (October 26, 1886 – November 19, 1968),[8] born Esther Zichlin.[9] Demarest helped raise her daughter from her earlier marriage to poet and novelist Samuel Gordon (September 10, 1871 – January 10, 1927), author Phyllis Gordon Demarest (b. March 31, 1908).[10] His second wife was Lucile Thayer (September 30, 1912 – October 16, 2009),[11] born Lucile Theurer, daughter of Herman Theurer and Lillie Sjoberg,[12][13] who due to her activism on health issues in the motion picture industry in October 1960 was named California Lay-Chairman of the ANA fundraising campaign.[14]

Demarest's favorite recreations were hunting, fishing, golf, and playing the cello.

He died in Palm Springs, California and was interred in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park.[15] At the time of his death, he was suffering from prostate cancer and pneumonia.

Partial filmography[edit | edit source]

Features[edit | edit source]

Short subjects[edit | edit source]

  • A Night at Coffee Dan's (1927) as M.C.
  • Amateur Night (1927) as Theatre Manager
  • The Night Court (1927) as Defense Counsel (uncredited)
  • Seeing Things (1930)
  • The Run Around (1932)

Television[edit | edit source]

  • The Danny Thomas Show in 5 episodes (1957–1958) as Mr. Daly
  • The Rebel in "The Hope Chest (1960) as Ulysses Bowman
  • Love and Marriage (1959–1960) as William Harris
  • Going My Way in "The Slasher" (1963) as Marty
  • Bonanza in the episode "The Hayburner" (1963) as Enos Milford
  • Bonanza in the episode "Old Sheba" (1964) as Angus Tweedy
  • The Twilight Zone in the episode "What's in the Box?" (1964) as Joe Britt
  • My Three Sons (215 episodes, 1965–1972) as Uncle Charley O'Casey
  • McMillan and Wife [Two Dollars on Trouble to Win] S2/Ep07 (1973) as Uncle Cyrus

Radio appearances[edit | edit source]

Year Program Episode/source
1940 Stars over Hollywood The Town Constable[16]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Obituary Variety, January 4, 1984.
  2. Kaufman, Dave (1968). TV 69: Who's Who, What's What in the New TV Season (mass market paperback). New York: Signet. p. 129. 
  3. "The Classic TV Archive: Love and Marriage". Geocities/Television City/Stage. http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Stage/2950/US/Comedy/LoveAndMarriage.htm. Retrieved January 10, 2009. [dead link]
  4. "William Demarest | Hollywood Walk of Fame". http://www.walkoffame.com/william-demarest. 
  5. "William Demarest". http://projects.latimes.com/hollywood/star-walk/william-demarest/. 
  6. Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  7. "Vaudeville News". http://idnc.library.illinois.edu/cgi-bin/illinois?a=d&d=VVN19210930&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-calneh------#. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  8. California Death Index
  9. Jewish Chronicle of London, January 14, 1927 issue and June 14, 1907 issue. Obituary of her first husband Samuel Gordon (b. 10 September 1871 Buk, Bavaria, German Empire, m. 12 June 1907 Miss Esther Zichlin, “a violinist of great promise. There was one child of the marriage, a daughter.”, d. 10 January 1927 in Wandsworth, London, England).
  10. Jewish Chronicle of London, April 3, 1908 issue.
  11. Lucille T. Demarest in the U.S. Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014
  12. Year: 1920; Census Place: Wellsville, Cache, Utah; Roll: T625_1861; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 33; File: 991. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. (NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA. Note: Enumeration Districts 819-839 are on roll 323 (Chicago City).
  13. Lillie Sjoberg marriage record
  14. American Nurse Association 1960 fundraiser announcement
  15. William Demarest at Find a Grave
  16. "Those Were the Days". Winter 2013. pp. 32–41.. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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