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William Demarest

Demarest with Cheryl Walker in the film
Stage Door Canteen (1943)
Born February 27, 1892(1892-02-27)
St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
Died December 28, 1983 (aged 91)
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1926—1978
Spouse(s) Estelle Collette (?-?)
Lucile Thayer (1939-1983) (his death)

William Demarest (February 27, 1892 – December 28, 1983) was an American character actor who frequently played crusty but good-hearted roles.


Early life and career

He was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and moved to New Bridge, a hamlet in Bergen County, New Jersey in infancy.[1] He was a prolific film and television actor, having worked on over 140 films. He started in show business working in vaudeville, then moved on to Broadway. His film career began in 1926 and spanned the decades up to the 1970s. 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. His most famous TV role was in the ABC and then CBS sitcom My Three Sons from 1965 to 1972, playing Uncle Charley. He replaced William Frawley, whose failing health had made procuring insurance impossible. William Demarest had worked with Fred MacMurray previously in the 1935 film Hands Across the Table, the 1945 film "Pardon My Past" and the 1955 film The Far Horizons.

Prior to My Three Sons, 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 to bloom within the next month. In 1959, Demarest was named the lead actor of the 18-week Love and Marriage sitcom 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.[2]

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

Partial filmography


Short subjects

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


  1. ^ Kaufman, Dave (1968) (mass market paperback). TV 69: Who's Who, What's What in the New TV Season. New York: Signet. p. 129. 
  2. ^ "The Classic TV Archive: Love and Marriage". Geocities/Television City/Stage. Retrieved January 10, 2009. 

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