The Movie Stars Next Door

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I have the great pleasure of living in the Napa Valley where it’s not uncommon to see locals sporting cowboy hats and where pig races still make headlines. Besides all the wine producing vineyards, I’m surrounded by rich farmland and award winning cattle ranches that populate the area as well as nearby Sonoma County. Agriculture is a way of life here and many actors and directors such as Raymond Burr, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Redford and Robin Williams have called the place home. One notable Hollywood couple that put down roots in the wine country was Fred MacMurray and June Haver. The MacMurray’s owned and operated Twin Valley Ranch (renamed the MacMurray Ranch in the ’90s) in Healdsburg California, which is about an hour’s drive from my home. Recently this small and thriving little city put together an exhibit called The Movie Stars Next Door at the Healdsburg Museum to celebrate the MacMurray family as well as their contributions to the community. As a classic film fan I couldn’t resist attending and it was a welcome opportunity to learn more about this unique Hollywood couple.

The Movie Stars Next Door was organized by Fred and June’s daughter, Kate MacMurray, who still lives at the MacMurray Ranch although the property was sold to the Gallo wine family in 1996. It was a small but heartfelt exhibit that included many of the MacMurray’s personal belongings and offered visitors an intimate look at their life on and off the ranch. Fred MacMurray originally purchased the property in 1941 while he was married to his first wife, Lillian Lamont. During WW2 Fred practiced diversified farming there and after the war he began raising prize-winning Aberdeen Angus cattle when he wasn’t busy making movies. After Fred’s first wife passed away he married actress June Haver and the couple spent as much time as possible in Healdsburg with their growing family. Today the MacMurray Ranch produces prize-winning wines and Kate MacMurray is the brand ambassador. The exhibit explained the transformation of the MacMurray Ranch through the years but it also provided some insight into the MacMurray’s personal lives and interests.

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Like many kids who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, my introduction to Fred MacMurray was through the Disney films he appeared in (THE SHAGGY DOG, THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR, Etc.) and his starring role in the popular television show MY THREE SONS, which I caught in reruns. It wasn’t until much later that I started discovering MacMurray’s standout performances in film noirs (DOUBLE INDEMNITY, PUSHOVER, Etc.), comedies (THE APARTMENT, THE EGG AND I, Etc.), westerns (DAY OF THE BADMAN, GOOD DAY FOR A HANGING, Etc.) as well as dramas (THE CAINE MUTINY, THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW, Etc.) and began appreciating the breadth and depth of his acting abilities. But before I attended The Movie Stars Next Door exhibit I didn’t know much about the man outside of the movies he appeared in and I knew even less about June Haver. Haver is probably best remembered today for appearing in a number of musicals such as THE DOLLY SISTERS, I WONDER WHO’S KISSING HER NOW, THE DAUGHTER OF ROSIE O’GRADY and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR before she left Hollywood to become a nun. Throughout Haver’s life she was a devote Catholic but she eventually left the nunnery and married Fred MacMurray in 1954. The two had met on the set of WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? years earlier but Fred was happily married to his first wife at the time. Fred and June’s marriage lasted an impressive 37 years until his death in 1991.

What follows are a bunch of photos I snapped at the exhibit. They paint a warm portrait of a devoted couple who cared deeply about their family and had a wide variety of interests outside of acting. For example, the exhibit highlighted the fact that Fred MacMurray was an accomplished artist who loved to paint, draw and work with wood and leather in his spare time. I also found out that he was extremely fond of fishing and hunting, which are still common pursuits in Sonoma and Napa. The most unusual thing I learned about Fred MacMurray was that he was a skilled barber who cut his own hair and often used his barber abilities to groom his fellow actors as well as the directors he worked with. It’s worth noting that when June Haver retired from acting she seemed to transform from a glamorous Hollywood movie star into a regular mom who enjoyed sewing and was an avid cook. A wealthy Hollywood couple like the MacMurray’s could have easily hired a chef to prepare the family meals at the ranch but the exhibit proudly displayed June’s personal recipes along with her movie programs.

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Top: The MacMurray’s wedding photos & June’s favorite photo of Fred.
Bottom: Some of the MacMurray’s clothing along with movie programs, photos and a poster from WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

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Top: Fred MacMurray’s hat and various items associated with MY THREE SONS.
Bottom: Fred MacMurray’s cowboy hat, spurs and Golden Boot Award.

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Top: Posters for SINGAPORE and DOUBLE INDEMNITY.
Bottom: A lobby card from THE CAINE MUTINY and a telegram from Fred MacMurray’s costar Jose Ferrer that reads: “Dear Fred, Having finally seen THE CAINE MUTINY in New York I just had to wire you and tell you how great I think your performance is. You and Bogart both thrilled me and I hope we can do another one together soon. Rosie joins me in sending you both love. Affectionately, Jose Ferrer.”

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Top: Some of Fred MacMurray’s artwork and wood carving tools.
Bottom: Fred’s barber tools along with a snapshot of the actor cutting director Rudolph Mate’s hair.

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Top: The MacMurray’s in their kitchen at the ranch and June’s recipes.
Bottom: The MacMurray’s along with some of their prize ribbons.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this personal look at the MacMurray family and don’t forget to tune into TCM on August 7th when they’ll be airing a batch of Fred MacMurray movies during Summer Under the Stars.

Recommended Links:
- The MacMurray Ranch
- The Healdsburg Museum

18 Responses The Movie Stars Next Door
Posted By Emgee : August 1, 2013 3:12 pm

“Dear José. I’d love to do another movie with you, as long as there’s no scene in it where you throw wine in my face.
Affectionately, Fred MacMurray.”

Posted By swac44 : August 1, 2013 4:19 pm

I laughed reading the opening paragraph, my uncle Jumpin’ Jack Proud used to hold pig races too, during Old Home Week in Prince Edward Island, Canada. I even got to sit on a float with some of the prize porkers in the Gold Cup & Saucer Parade back in the ’70s. Needless to say, the pigs weren’t too amused by the attention.

Thanks for the virtual visit to the MacMurray’s ranch!

Posted By AL : August 1, 2013 5:32 pm

Little known fact: Fred MacMurray actually modeled/posed for the artist who created CAPTAIN MARVEL…shazzam!

Posted By Qalice : August 1, 2013 5:50 pm

I, too, was first exposed to Fred MacMurray on TV in My Three Sons, so it’s been a revelation to see him in earlier works from his long career. And if you wonder how he came to model for the creator of Captain Marvel, I highly recommend “No Time for Love” with Rosalind Russell. He was a straight-up hunk!

Posted By Patricia Nolan-Hall : August 1, 2013 7:05 pm

I was totally charmed by the exhibits.

Posted By markmayerson : August 1, 2013 10:27 pm

Any mention of MacMurray’s career as a musician?

Posted By Susan Doll : August 1, 2013 10:36 pm

I love Fred MacMurray. This exhibit is right up my alley. Reminds me of the Hopalong Cassidy Museum in Cambridge, Ohio.

Posted By Doug : August 1, 2013 11:08 pm

Kimberly, I’m a bit older than you and I watched “My Three Sons” when it was in first-runs. Years later I saw Mac Murray in “Alice Adams” opposite Hepburn, surprised by how young they both looked.
He was as much a good “re-actor” as he was an actor-he had no problem playing the straight man,letting his co-stars shine.
I still have to see “The Apartment”.
“The Egg and I” was one of my Mother’s favorites because of Claudette Colbert, Mac Murray and, of course, Ma and Pa Kettle.
Thank you, Kimberly for letting us look in on ‘your neighbors’.
Being a guy, I was totally charmed by June Haver in “the Daughter of Rosie O’Grady. A great musical.

Posted By Mike D : August 2, 2013 5:32 pm

Thanks for the wonderful story on Fred MacMurray. Between going to the movies with my dad to see his Disney movies and doing homework in front of My Three Sons, he brought a lot of happiness to my already very happy childhood. Makes me feel good to see he was very happy in his home life also.

Posted By Richard Brandt : August 3, 2013 6:54 pm

Great to learn these unusual facts about Fred MacMurray! I always admired him for his range and reluctantly agreeing to let Billy Wilder exploit his dark side in “Double Indemnity” and “The Apartment” – although negative reaction from some of his fans to the latter apparently inspired his decision to stick to family-friendly fare from then on!

Posted By Heidi : August 5, 2013 12:45 pm

Great post about a favourite actor. While I have always appreciated him as an actor, I really knew nothing about his personal life. This is a great introduction. The Egg and I was always my grandmothers favorite, I think because of Ma and Pa Kettle. I have always loved it too, but I think that Double Indemnity is my fav. He is just wonderful in it. thanks for this post!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 5, 2013 6:18 pm

I’m currently recovering from my vacation but I wanted to swing by the blog & let you all know that I appreciate the comments. Even though the exhibit was rather small, I enjoyed learning more about the MacMurray family and I hope you did too.

Posted By jenniferlynne01 : August 6, 2013 8:04 pm

Because I am in my 30′s all of Fred MacMurray’s work was done either before I was born or before I was old enough to know what was what. My Three Sons ended in 1972, over a year before my birth. So I never had his My Three Sons or Disney movies to go by. I don’t know what movie actually introduced me to Fred as I have loved classic movies for many years now, but it was probably one of the movies that he co-starred with Carole Lombard, as she is my favorite actress. I don’t know that I paid much attention to him until I saw Double Indemnity several years ago. I was amazed at that movie, it is still one of my favorites! Funny enough, I never saw even one episode of My Three Sons until last month. And now I am hooked! Fred MacMurray is like a warm cozy blanket in that sitcom. To those who had a good childhood, he is like a second dad. For the rest of us, we wish he was our dad. I would have LOVED to have had Fred MacMurray/Steve Douglas be my dad!

Posted By Doug : August 6, 2013 10:07 pm

Jennifer, a while back I saw an interview with one of the ‘three sons’ who said that because Fred was doing the Disney films, they would record all of his scenes first for the season. So actors in scenes with Fred might start a line in April and finish
saying it in August.

Posted By Laura : August 7, 2013 1:28 pm

Kimberly, I absolutely loved this and appreciate so much that you took the time to photograph everything and share the photos. I love both MacMurray and Haver and this was a wonderful insight into their lives. How I wish I could see this exhibit!

I recently had the privilege of visiting Joel McCrea and Frances Dee’s ranch home and I see a lot in common between the McCreas and the MacMurrays — they all had professions they loved and excelled at but they had many other interests, loved the outdoors, and lived a down-to-earth lifestyle. I came home with a casserole recipe by Frances. Was delighted to get a close-up look at June Haver’s French Bread recipe above!

Thank you again for a fantastic post!

Best wishes,
Laura

Posted By jennifromrollamo : August 10, 2013 5:49 pm

Thoroughly enjoyed this post. Emailing it to my folks, especially for my mom, who enjoyed MacMurray’s work in films and on tv.

Posted By robbushblog : August 14, 2013 10:08 am

I grew up watching My Three Sons in reruns. I’m only 38, but they were on for years when I was a kid. Wearing glasses at such a young age, I related to Ernie, but Steve Douglas was always like a second dad away from home. He is the image of the father I always thought I might be, sitting in my library with my leather-elbow patched cardigan and my pipe. I found out years later that he had been making movies since the 30′s. Once I saw Double Indemnity and The Apartment, my mind was blown.

Thanks for sharing this information about his life at home. He appears to have been a great guy outside of TV, just as he was on it.

Posted By IrisA : August 20, 2013 3:51 pm

Thank you so much for sharing some of these great stories about Fred McMurray and June Haver!! How delightful to read about what there life was like away from Hollywood. My fav movie is “The Egg and I” and The Absent-Minded Professor. I also enjoyed June Haver’s movies. Glad to know these two people found each other and had a happy personal life!!!

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