Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on August 1, 2013
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.
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.
Top: The MacMurray’s wedding photos & June’s favorite photo of Fred.
Top: Fred MacMurray’s hat and various items associated with MY THREE SONS.
Top: Posters for SINGAPORE and DOUBLE INDEMNITY.
Top: Some of Fred MacMurray’s artwork and wood carving tools.
Top: The MacMurray’s in their kitchen at the ranch and June’s recipes.
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.
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