Sunday, December 7, 2008

Beverly Garland dies

The actress, who was 82, was perhaps best known for playing Fred MacMurray's wife on "My Three Sons," but if you grew up watching TV in the 1950s and 1960s, she was all over the place, mostly in dramas, especially police dramas, but also on game shows.

According to The Associated Press, her first movie, in 1950, was "D.O.A." -- the one where Edmond O'Brien runs all over the place, trying to find out who poisoned him. (Too bad he couldn't get Ben Gazzara's character from "Run for Your Life" to help him.) Vintage-movie buffs might recall that the movie also featured Pamela Britton, who later played the scatterbrained Mrs. Brown on "My Favorite Martian," but who, as I recall, was rather touching as O'Brien's love interest.

By the time Garland began appearing on "My Three Sons," that show, for me at least, had lost whatever charm it once had. I suppose it was, in one way, ahead of its time in that Steve Douglas and his boys jumped the shark years before Fonzie did -- perhaps several times, especially when one of the boys got married or left, and although I always liked Garland, her addition to the show didn't help. (Then again, I always did have a little crush on the late Meredith MacRae, who married one of the boys. Was it Mike?)

And remember the time Steve's lookalike cousin Fergus visited and they had to hire another actor to dub the voice because MacMurray, despite his name, apparently couldn't do a Scottish accent?

I also enjoyed the show a lot less after I learned that MacMurray filmed all his scenes for the entire season all at once. This seemed to give the show a kind of cut-up feeling.

But I don't mean to knock MacMurray. Just the other night, I went to a showing of "Remember the Night," a 1940 movie he made with Barbara Stanwyck, a few years before they teamed up to kill her husband in "Double Indemnity." His voice was deeper back then, and he knew how to be self-confidently charming without being off-puttingly cocky.

Beverly Garland wasn't cocky, either. But I suspect she was a very gutsy lady, especially considering that she once married a man who went by the name of Fillmore Crank. (What could his parents have been thinking?)

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