Most people (over a certain age) know Fred MacMurray (1908-1991) as “Steve Douglas” from the tv show My Three Sons (1960-1972) and a star of silly Disney movies like The Shaggy Dog (1959), The Absent Minded Professor (1961) and Son of Flubber (1963). A lesser number (film buffs) know him as a major star of the classic Hollywood studio era of the 1930s and 1940s, and classic films like Double Indemnity (1944). But I’ll lay dollars to donuts that only a VERY few know that MacMurray got his start in the 1920s in vaudeville as a saxophone player in a jazz band called “The California Collegians”.
From sax player, he graduated to crooner, to Broadway musicals like Three’s a Crowd (1930) and Roberta (1933) with Bob Hope. He’d been an extra in motion pictures since 1929 but started getting starring parts in 1935. His aunt Fay Holderness had also been in vaudeville.
The Wisconsin native enjoyed a long career. I recently enjoyed him (well watched him) in Irwin Allen’s 1978 disaster (I mean disaster movie) The Swarm, his last movie.
To learn more about the history of vaudeville, including musicians (!) like Fred MacMurray, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.