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He was born Carl William Demarest in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of Samuel and Wilhelmina (née Lindgren) Demarest. He moved to New Bridge, a hamlet in Bergen County, New Jersey, in infancy.
In My Three Sons.
He started in show business working in vaudeville, appearing with his wife as "Demarest and Colette", 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 O'Casey. He replaced William Frawley, whose failing health had made procuring insurance impossible. Demarest had worked with Fred MacMurray previously in the 1935 film Hands Across the Table, the 1945 film Pardon My Past, the 1948 film On Our Merry Way and the 1955 film The Far Horizons and was a personal friend of MacMurray.
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.
Make Room for Daddy as Mr. Daly in 5 episodes (1957–1958)
Love and Marriage as William Harris (1959–1960)
Bonanza as Enos Milford in the episode "The Hayburner" 1963
Bonanza as Angus Tweedy in the episode "Old Sheba" (1964)
The Twilight Zone as Joe Britt in the episode "What's in the Box?" (1964)
My Three Sons as Uncle Charley (1965–1972)
Demarest appeared as Aloysius, Chief of the Santa Rosita Police Department, in the 1963 Movie "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" starring Spencer Tracy.
One of the most memorable movies William starred in was The Jolson Story and Jolson Sings Again
Here he is pictured with Larry Parks (Jolson)
He also appeared on a memorable episode (What's in the Box) of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone co-starring as a hen-pecked husband driven to the murder of his wife.
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. His favorite recreations were hunting, fishing, golf and playing the cello.
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.
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.
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