Actor William Demarest

Carl William Demarest (February 27, 1892 – December 27, 1983) was an American character actor, known for playing Uncle Charley in My Three Sons. 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.


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 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. 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.

Personal life and later years

Demarest was married twice. His first wife was his vaudeville partner Estelle Collette, born Esther Zichlin. Demarest helped raise her daughter, author Phyllis Gordon Demarest, from her earlier marriage, in 1907, to poet and novelist Samuel Gordon, who had divorced Zichlin before his death. Demarest’s second wife was Lucile Thayer, born Lucile Theurer, daughter of Herman Theurer and Lillie Sjoberg, 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.

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. At the time of his death, he was suffering from prostate cancer and pneumonia.

Partial filmography


  • When the Wife’s Away (1926)
  • Finger Prints (1927) as Cuffs Egan
  • Don’t Tell the Wife (1927) as Ray Valerian
  • The Gay Old Bird (1927) as Mr. Fixit
  • Matinee Ladies (1927) as Man-About-Town
  • A Million Bid (1927) as George Lamont
  • Simple Sis (1927) as Oscar
  • The Black Diamond Express (1927) as Fireman
  • What Happened to Father? (1927) as Detective Dibbin
  • The First Auto (1927) as The Village Cut-Up
  • The Bush Leaguer (1927) as John Gilroy
  • A Sailor’s Sweetheart (1927) as Detective
  • The Jazz Singer (1927) as Buster Billings (uncredited)
  • A Reno Divorce (1927) as James, the chauffeur
  • Sharp Shooters (1928) as ‘Hi Jack’ Murdock
  • A Girl in Every Port (1928) as Man in Bombay (uncredited)
  • The Escape (1928) as Trigger Caswell
  • Pay as You Enter (1928) as ‘Terrible Bill’ McGovern
  • Five and Ten Cent Annie (1928) as Briggs
  • The Butter and Egg Man (1928) as Jack McLure
  • The Crash (1928) as Louie
  • Seeing Things (1930)
  • Fog Over Frisco (1934) as Spike Smith
  • Many Happy Returns (1934) as Brinker
  • The Circus Clown (1934) (scenes deleted)
  • Fugitive Lady (1934) as Steve Rogers
  • After Office Hours (1935) as Police Detective (uncredited)
  • The Casino Murder Case (1935) as Auctioneer (uncredited)
  • The Murder Man (1935) as ‘Red’ Maguire
  • Bright Lights (1935) as Detective
  • Diamond Jim (1935) as Harry Hill
  • Hands Across the Table (1935) as Natty (uncredited)
  • White Lies (1935) as Roberts
  • The Great Ziegfeld (1936) as Gene Buck (uncredited)
  • Wedding Present (1936) as ‘Smiles’ Benson
  • Love on the Run (1936) as Editor Lees Berger
  • Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936) as Sgt. Kelly
  • Mind Your Own Business (1936) as Droopy
  • Time Out for Romance (1937) as Willoughby Sproggs
  • Don’t Tell the Wife (1937) as Larry ‘Horace’ Tucker
  • Oh Doctor (1937) as Marty Short
  • The Hit Parade (1937) as Parole Officer
  • The Great Hospital Mystery (1937) as Mr. Beatty
  • The Great Gambini (1937) as Sergeant Kirby
  • Easy Living (1937) as Wallace Whistling
  • Blonde Trouble (1937) as Paul Sears
  • Wake Up and Live (1937) as Radio Station Attendant
  • Big City (1937) as Beecher
  • Rosalie (1937) as Army Coach
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) as Henry Kipper
  • Romance on the Run (1938) as Police Lt. Eckhardt
  • One Wild Night (1938) as Editor Collins
  • Josette (1938) as Joe, Diner Owner
  • Peck’s Bad Boy with the Circus (1938) as Daro
  • While New York Sleeps (1938) as Red Miller
  • The Great Man Votes (1939) as Charles Dale
  • King of the Turf (1939) as Arnold
  • The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939) as Police Sgt. Ernest Heath
  • The Cowboy Quarterback (1939) as Rusty Walker
  • Miracles for Sale (1939) as Quinn
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) as Bill Griffith
  • Laugh It Off (1939) as Barney ‘Gimpy’ Cole
  • Wolf of New York (1940) as Bill Ennis
  • The Farmer’s Daughter (1940) as Victor Walsh
  • The Great McGinty (1940) as Skeeters – The Politician
  • Comin’ Round the Mountain (1940) as Gutsy Mann
  • The Golden Fleecing (1940) as Swallow
  • Christmas in July (1940) as Mr. Bildocker
  • Little Men (1940) as Constable Tom Thorpe
  • The Lady Eve (1941) as Muggsy
  • The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) as First Detective
  • Rookies on Parade (1941) as Mike Brady
  • Ride on Vaquero (1941) as Bartender Barney
  • Country Fair (1941) as Stogie McPhee
  • Dressed to Kill (1941) as Inspector Pierson
  • All Through the Night (1941) as Sunshine
  • Sullivan’s Travels (1941) as Mr. Jones
  • Glamour Boy (1941) as Papa Doran
  • True to the Army (1942) as Sgt. Butts
  • My Favorite Spy (1942) as Flower Pot Policeman
  • Pardon My Sarong (1942) as Detective Kendall
  • The Palm Beach Story (1942) as First Member Ale and Quail Club
  • Behind the Eight Ball (1942) as McKenzie
  • Life Begins at Eight-Thirty (1942) as Police Officer
  • Johnny Doughboy (1942) as Harry Fabian
  • Sullivan’s Travels (1942) as Mr. Jonas
  • Stage Door Canteen (1943) as William Demarest
  • Dangerous Blondes (1943) as Detective Gatling
  • True to Life (1943) as Uncle Jake
  • The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) as Constable Edmund Kockenlocker
  • Nine Girls (1944) as Walter Cummings
  • Once Upon a Time (1944) as Brandt
  • Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) as Sgt. Heffelfinger
  • The Great Moment (1944) as Eben Frost
  • Salty O’Rourke (1945) as Smitty
  • Along Came Jones (1945) as George Fury
  • Duffy’s Tavern (1945) as HImself
  • Pardon My Past (1945) as Chuck Gibson
  • Our Hearts Were Growing Up (1946) as Peanuts Schultz
  • The Jolson Story (1946) as Steve Martin
  • The Perils of Pauline (1947) as George ‘Mac’ McGuire
  • Variety Girl (1947) as Barker
  • On Our Merry Way (1948) as Floyd
  • The Sainted Sisters (1948) as Vern Tewilliger
  • Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) as Lieut. Shawn
  • Whispering Smith (1948) as Bill Dansing
  • Sorrowful Jones (1949) as Regret
  • Jolson Sings Again (1949) as Steve Martin
  • Red, Hot and Blue (1949) as Charlie Baxter, Press Agent
  • When Willie Comes Marching Home (1950) as Herman Kluggs
  • Riding High (1950) as Happy
  • Never a Dull Moment (1950) as Mears
  • He’s a Cockeyed Wonder (1950) as Bob Sears
  • The First Legion (1951) as Monsignor Michael Carey
  • Excuse My Dust (1951) as Harvey Bullitt
  • The Strip (1951) as Fluff
  • Behave Yourself! (1951) as Officer O’Ryan
  • What Price Glory (1952) as Cpl. Kiper
  • The Blazing Forest (1952) as Syd Jessup
  • The Lady Wants Mink (1953) as Harvey Jones
  • Dangerous When Wet (1953) as Pa Higgins
  • Here Come the Girls (1953) as Dennis Logan
  • Escape from Fort Bravo (1953) as Campbell
  • The Yellow Mountain (1954) as Jackpot Wray
  • Jupiter’s Darling (1955) as Mago
  • The Far Horizons (1955) as Sgt. Gass
  • The Private War of Major Benson (1955) as John
  • Lucy Gallant (1955) as Charles Madden
  • Sincerely Yours (1955) as Sam Dunne
  • Hell on Frisco Bay (1956) as Dan Bianco
  • The Rawhide Years (1956) as Brand Comfort
  • The Mountain (1956) as Father Belacchi
  • Pepe (1960) as Movie Studio Gateman
  • The Big Bankroll (1961) as Henry Hecht
  • Twenty Plus Two (1961) as Desmond Slocum
  • Son of Flubber (1963) as Mr. Hummel
  • It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) as Aloysius, Chief of the Santa Rosita Police Department
  • Viva Las Vegas (1964) as Mr. Martin
  • That Darn Cat (1965) as Mr. MacDougall
  • Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (1973) as Mr. Harris
  • The Wild McCullochs (1975) as Father Gurkin
  • Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) as Studio Gatekeeper
  • 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)
  • Television

  • 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
  • Tales of Wells Fargo (1961–1962) as Jeb Gaine
  • 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

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

    External Links

    Actor William Demarest – Wikipedia

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