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William Demarest

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Demarest
Palm Beach Story-Bill Demarest.JPG
Demarest in trailer for The Palm Beach Story (1942)
Carl William Demarest

(1892-02-27)February 27, 1892
DiedDecember 27, 1983(1983-12-27) (aged 91)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
Years active1927–1978
Estelle Collette
(m. 1923; div. 1941)

Lucile Thayer
(m. 1942)

Carl William Demarest (February 27, 1892 – December 27, 1983) was an American character actor, known for playing Uncle Charley in My Three Sons.[1] Demarest became a prolific film and television actor, appearing in over 140 films, beginning in 1927 and ending in the 1970s. He frequently played crusty but good-hearted roles.

Early life

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]


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.

Demarest with Don Grady in My Three Sons (1969)
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.

He played folksy Jeb Gaine, an occasional sidekick to the main character, in the 1961–62 season of the Western series Tales of Wells Fargo.

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.


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.[3][4] 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.[5]

Personal life and later years

Demarest's first wife.[6]
Demarest's first wife.[6]

Demarest was married twice. His first wife was his vaudeville partner Estelle Collette (1886–1968),[7] born Esther Zichlin.[8] Demarest helped raise her daughter, author Phyllis Gordon Demarest (1908–1969), from her earlier marriage, in 1907, to poet and novelist Samuel Gordon (1871–1927), who had divorced Zichlin before his death.[9] Demarest's second wife was Lucile Thayer (1912–2009),[10] born Lucile Theurer, daughter of Herman Theurer and Lillie Sjoberg,[11][12] 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.[13]

According to Hollywood Be Thy Name, the 1993 memoir of Jack Warner, Jr. and Cass Warner Sperling, Demarest claimed that Sam Warner was murdered by his own brothers. This allegation, leveled in 1977, was never corroborated and Demarest's reliability was questioned because of his long dependence on alcohol.

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

He died in Palm Springs, California December 27, 1983, and was interred in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park.[14][15] At the time of his death, he was suffering from prostate cancer and pneumonia.

Partial filmography


Short subjects

  • 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)


Radio appearances

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


  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. ^ "William Demarest". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  4. ^ "William Demarest". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  5. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  6. ^ "New Life Member". Vaudeville News. September 30, 1921. p. 8. Retrieved January 20, 2021 – via Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.
  7. ^ California Death Index
  8. ^ Jewish Chronicle of London, January 14, 1927 issue and June 14, 1907 issue. Obituary of her first husband Samuel Gordon (b. 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. 1927 in Wandsworth, London, England).
  9. ^ Jewish Chronicle of London, April 3, 1908 issue.
  10. ^ Lucille T. Demarest in the U.S. Social Security Death Index, 1935–2014
  11. ^ Year: 1920; Census Place: Wellsville, Cache, Utah; Roll: T625_1861; p. 6A; Enumeration District: 33; Image: 991. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, US: 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).
  12. ^ Lillie Sjoberg marriage record
  13. ^ American Nurse Association 1960 fundraiser announcement
  14. ^ Forever L.A.
  15. ^ William Demarest at Find a Grave
  16. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (1): 32–41. Winter 2013.

External links

This page was last edited on 3 May 2021, at 17:18
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