10 Things You Should Know About Fred MacMurray

Here are 10 things you should know about Fred MacMurray, born 110 years ago today. We can’t think of another actor as widely underestimated as MacMurray. He is most remembered today for the latter phase of his career—his Disney movies and his television work—but in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, he exhibited a wider range than most My Three Sons fan might ever imagine.

Happy 115th Birthday, George Raft!

Actor George Raft was born George Ranft 115 years ago today in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City. Raft is perhaps as well known today for the movie roles he turned down as those he accepted. Here are 10 GR Did-You-Knows:

  • His parents were of German descent.
  • From his youth, Raft took a great interest in dancing, and his skills as a hoofer would serve him well as he found his way as a performer. In his salad days, he made money performing (and dancing with the lady patrons) at establishments such as Maxim’s, El Fey (with Texas Guinan) and various other night spots.
  • He married Grace Mulrooney, who was several years his senior, when he was 22. They separated early on, but never divorced (perhaps because Raft’s family was Catholic), and he supported her until she died in 1970.
  • Raft was known to run with a pretty rough crowd. He was childhood friends with gangsters Owney Madden and Bugsy Siegel; Siegel stayed at Raft’s home in Los Angeles when the gangster first moved there.
  • Raft reportedly turned down the lead roles in High Sierra (1941), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942) and Double Indemnity (1944). The first three of those roles proved to be great successes for Humphrey Bogart.
  • Raft appeared in Mae West‘s first (Night after Night, 1932) and last (Sextette, 1978) pictures.
  • In James Cagney‘s autobiography, the actor wrote that Raft prevented Cagney from being rubbed out by the mob. Cagney was president of the Screen Actors Guild at the time, and the story goes that he was adamant the Mafia wouldn’t become active in the union’s affairs, which was not a popular stance in certain circles.
  • Raft was a lifelong baseball fan, attending the World Series for 25 years in a row in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.
  • As a teen, Raft was a bat-boy for the New York Highlanders (later the Yankees).
  • In the late 1950s, Raft worked as a celebrity greeter at the Hotel Capri, a Mafia-owned casino in Havana. He was there in 1959 when rebels stormed Havana to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Happy birthday, George Raft, wherever you may be!

George Raft

Fred MacMurray, Man of Many Talents

Fred MacMurray is Turner Classic Movies‘ Star of the Month, and that suits us fine. A total of 32 movies will be shown on Wednesday nights in January, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

We can’t think of another actor as underestimated as MacMurray. He is widely remembered today for the latter phase of his career—his Disney movies and his television work—but in the 1930s, ’40s and even into the ’50s, he exhibited a wider range than any My Three Sons fan might ever imagine.

After all, can you imagine Steve Douglas, widower and pipe-smoking, cardigan-wearing father of three boys, teaming up with Barbara Stanwyck in a blond wig to kill her husband for an insurance payout?

Fred MacMurray

MacMurray pulled off just such a role in the classic film noir Double Indemnity (he starred opposite Ms. Stanwyck four times altogether, the lucky stiff, beginning with the oft-praised-in-this-space 1940 romantic dramady-slash-Christmas movie, Remember the Night).

Fred MacMurray also was adept at romantic and screwball comedies, appearing opposite Carole Lombard (with whom he also worked four times) in such pictures as Hands Across the Table and True Confession.

When you consider that MacMurray also played a mutinous Navy lieutenant in The Caine Mutiny (1954) and a lecherous advertising executive in The Apartment (released, ironically enough, the same year My Three Sons debuted), you start to get the picture.

To top it all off, MacMurray began his career as a saxophonist and singer with such outfits as the Gus Arnheim Orchestra and George Olsen and His Music. MacMurray also appeared on Broadway in Three’s A Crowd (1930–31). He even appeared in a good number of westerns!

So you see, respect must be paid to Mr. MacMurray, who passed in 1991 at age 83. He really could do it all and is well deserving of his Star of the Month designation.

The Oscars, 1945 Style

We enjoy the occasional award show, but Oscar night is our favorite because of the history and tradition associated with it. The Academy Awards debuted way back in 1927; 2015 marks the 87th presentation of these storied statuettes.

As we post this, the chances are pretty good that you are prepping your home prior to the arrival of guests for your Oscar party or perhaps making a batch of guacamole (hopefully, you’re using Boris Karloff’s recipe) to take to a friend’s Academy Awards gathering. If so, we’ve got the perfect hour’s worth of listening to accompany those chores.

Oscar winners Barry Fitzgerald, Ingrid Bergman and Bing Crosby

The 17th Academy Awards ceremony, held on March 15, 1945, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, was the first to be broadcast nationally on the radio (on the Blue Network, the precursor to ABC) and also the first to feature clips from the various nominated pictures. And what pictures they were! Double Indemnity, Going My Way, Lifeboat, Gaslight and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek are just a few of the classic pictures that were nominated for the top awards that year.

Host Bob Hope was in top form that night, and the proceedings came off in a mere 66 minutes. And you, dear reader, can experience that magical evening anew by clicking the link below.

The 17th Academy Awards ceremony; Bob Hope, host (1:06:29)