William Demarest

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William Demarest
Palm Beach Story-Bill Demarest.JPG
Demarest in a screenshot of The Palm Beach Story trailer in 1942
Born Carl William Demarest
(1892-02-27)February 27, 1892
Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
Died December 28, 1983(1983-12-28) (aged 91)
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Prostate cancer; pneumonia
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
Occupation Actor
Years active 1926–1978
Spouse(s) Estelle Collette (?–?)
Lucile Thayer (1939–1983, his death) (1912–2009)

Carl William Demarest (February 27, 1892 – December 28, 1983) was an American character actor known for playing Uncle Charley in My Three Sons.[1] A veteran of World War I, Demarest became a prolific film and television actor, working on over 140 films, beginning in 1926 and ending in the 1970s. He frequently played crusty but good-hearted roles.

Early life[edit]

Demarest with Don Grady in My Three Sons (1969)

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, in 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 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 appeared with veteran western film star Roscoe Ates in the 1958 episode "And the Desert Shall Blossom" of CBS's Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In the story line, Ates and Demarest appear as old timers living in the Nevada desert. The local sheriff, played by Ben Johnson, appears with an eviction notice, but he agrees to let the pair stay on their property if they can make a dead rosebush bloom within the next month.

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. Joining Demarest on the series were Jeanne Bal, Murray Hamilton and Stubby Kaye.[3]

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. Also with Irenen Dunn in "Never a Dull Moment"


Demarest received a single Academy Award nomination, for his supporting role in The Jolson Story, 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.

Demerest has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to motion pictures. In 1998, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[4]

Personal life and later years[edit]

Demarest was married twice. His first wife was Estelle Collette (?–?). His second wife was Lucile Thayer.

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

He died in Palm Springs, California, and was interred in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park.[5] At the time of his death he was suffering from prostate cancer and pneumonia.

Partial filmography[edit]


Short subjects[edit]

  • A Night at Coffee Dan's (1927)
  • Amateur Night (1927)
  • The Night Court (1927)
  • Seeing Things (1930)
  • The Run Around (1932)



  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. ^ "The Classic TV Archive: Love and Marriage". Geocities/Television City/Stage. Retrieved January 10, 2009. [dead link]
  4. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  5. ^ William Demarest at Find a Grave

External links[edit]