William Demarest
Demarest in The Palm Beach Story (1942)
Carl William Demarest

(1892-02-27)February 27, 1892
DiedDecember 28, 1983(1983-12-28) (aged 91)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
Years active1906–1978
Estelle Collette
(m. 1923; div. 1941)
Lucille Thayer
(m. 1942)

Carl William Demarest (February 27, 1892 – December 28, 1983) was an American actor, known especially for his roles in screwball comedies by Preston Sturges and as Uncle Charley in the sitcom My Three Sons from 1965-72.[1] Demarest, who frequently played crusty but good-hearted roles, was a prolific film and television actor, appearing in over 140 films, beginning in 1926 and ending in the late 1970s. Before his career in movies, he performed in vaudeville for two decades.[2]

Early life

Carl William Demarest was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the youngest of three sons of Wilhelmina (née Lindgren) and Samuel Demarest.[3] During William's infancy, the family moved to New Bridge, a hamlet in Bergen County, New Jersey.[citation needed]

Demarest served in the U.S. Army during World War I.[4]


Demarest started in show business working in vaudeville, performing initially in his youth with his two older brothers and later with his wife Estelle Collette (real name Esther Zichlin) as "Demarest and Colette".[2] He then moved to work on Broadway. Demarest, by 1926 also began working in films, often in productions directed by Preston Sturges and as a member of a troupe of actors whom Sturges repeatedly cast in his screen projects. He appeared in 10 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 was such a familiar figure at the Paramount studio that just his name was used in the movie Sunset Boulevard as a potential star for William Holden's unsold baseball screenplay.

Demarest with Don Grady in My Three Sons (1969)

He played folksy Jeb Gaine, an occasional sidekick to the main character, in the 1961–62 season of the Western series Tales of Wells Fargo.

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 in a memorable episode ("What's in the Box") of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone, portraying a hen-pecked husband who murders his wife.

His most famous television role was in the sitcom My Three Sons from 1965 to 1972, playing Uncle Charley O'Casey. He replaced William Frawley, who was in failing health. 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.


Demarest received a single Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in The Jolson Story (1946), playing Al Jolson's fictional mentor. He 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.

Demarest has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to motion pictures, bestowed upon him on August 8, 1979 by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.[5][6] In attendance at the ceremony and then later at Musso & Frank Grill for celebrations were his My Three Sons co-stars Fred MacMurray and his wife June Haver, Tina Cole, Stanley Livingston, Barry Livingston, and Dawn Lyn.

In 1998, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[7]

Personal life and later years

Demarest's first wife.[8]

Demarest was married twice. His first wife was his vaudeville partner Estelle Collette, born Esther Zichlin.[9][10] Demarest helped raise her daughter, author Phyllis Gordon Demarest, from her earlier marriage, in 1907, to English poet and novelist Samuel Gordon, who had divorced Zichlin before his death.[11] Demarest's second wife was Lucille Thayer, born Lucille Theurer, whom he married in Prescott, Arizona on August 31, 1942.[12] Thayer, who later became an activist on health issues in the motion picture industry, was, in October 1960, appointed California's lay-chairman of the American Nurses Association.[13]


Demarest died at his home in Palm Springs, California on December 28, 1983,[2] and his body was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[14]

Partial filmography


Short subjects


Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1940 Stars over Hollywood The Town Constable[15]


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, January 4, 1984
  2. ^ a b c Pareles, Jon (December 29, 1983). "William Demarest, 91, Actor, Known for Roles in Comedies (obituary)". The New York Times. p. D19. Archived from the original on May 24, 2015. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  3. ^ "Minnesota, Birth and Death Records, 1866-1916," database, Carl William Demorest [sic], February 28, 1892; FHL microfilm 1,309,044, Public Health Center records, Saint Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota. Retrieved via FamilySearch archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  4. ^ Kaufman, Dave (1968). TV 69: Who's Who, What's What in the New TV Season (mass market paperback). New York: Signet. p. 129.
  5. ^ "William Demarest". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  6. ^ "William Demarest". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  7. ^ "Palm Springs Walk of Stars listed by date dedicated" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 10, 2016. Retrieved August 27, 2022.
  8. ^ "New Life Member". Vaudeville News. September 30, 1921. p. 8. Retrieved January 20, 2021 – via University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign University Library Digital Collections.
  9. ^ "New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1938", subscribed online database, Carl William Demarest and Esther (née Zichlin) Gordon, February 5, 1923; records of Manhattan, New York accessed via FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 29, 2022.
  10. ^ Jewish Chronicle of London, January 14, 1927, issue and June 14, 1907, issue. Obituary of her first husband Samuel Gordon (b. 1871 Buk, Bavaria, German Empire, m. June 12, 1907, Miss Esther Zichlin, "a violinist of great promise. There was one child of the marriage, a daughter.", d. 1927 in Wandsworth, London, England).
  11. ^ Jewish Chronicle of London, April 3, 1908, issue.
  12. ^ "Arizona, County Marriages, 1871-1964," database with images, Carl William Demarest and Lucille Theurer, 31 August 1942 in Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona; FHL microfilm record 004251853 in Arizona Department of Libraries, Archives, and Public Records, Phoenix. Original marriage documents accessed via FamilySearch, August 29, 2022.
  13. ^ "Ancestry® | Family Tree, Genealogy & Family History Records". www.ancestry.com.
  14. ^ "Forever L.A." Gibbs Smith. August 27, 2010 – via Internet Archive.
  15. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (1): 32–41. Winter 2013.