Jun 19, 2016

Fred MacMurray's Gay Career

I saw Fred MacMurray's career backwards.

When I was very little, he was on My Three Sons (1960-1972).  I paid most attention to the college-age son Robbie Douglas (Don Grady, left), who like boys, but sometimes I noticed that his pipe-smoking, newspaper-reading Dad (Fred MacMurray) was married to a man.

He never had and never mentioned a wife.  Instead Uncle Charlie (William Demerest) did all of the "motherly"  duties, like vacuuming, wearing aprons, and fixing bag lunches.  Naturally I assumed that they were married.

Apparently together a long time (seen here in 1935).

When I got a little older, I saw Fred MacMurray in Kisses for My President (1964), about the first female president of the United States (Polly Bergen).  MacMurray played her husband, Thad McCloud, who is humiliated by becoming the "First Lady," in change of garden clubs and redecorating the White House.  It was almost like being married to a man.

Then in a series of Disney movies: The Shaggy Dog (1959), The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), Bon Voyage (1962), Son of Flubber (1963), playing a scatterbrained professor or bumbling dad.  He always had a wife, but the movie mostly involved bonding with gay actor Tommy Kirk, who played his son or favorite student.

From the 1930s to the 1950s, Fred MacMurray starred in dozens of movies of every conceivable type: Westerns, war, film noir, comedy, family-man drama.  They were mostly of the B variety.  The only one I've seen is Double Indemnity (1944), a noir in which his Walter Neff hatches a murder scheme with unhappily married Phyllis (lesbian actress Barbara Stanwyck,  later of Big Valley), but also has a gay-subtext buddy-bond with his boss, Barton Keyes (played by some famous gangster guy of the 1930s).

Before that Fred MacMurry was an all-round athlete and 1930s heartthrob who posed semi-nude for his fans.

Not a bad gay output for a man who was a conservative Republican and homophobic.  He owned a property called Waller Beach, in the Russian River area, north of San Francisco, and had a "clothing optional" policy for the patrons.  Until he discovered that many of the patrons were gay.  Then he started calling the sheriff and having them arrested for indecent exposure.

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