In the let's-pretend land of '60s sitcoms, few shows dodged the real-life turmoil of their times more expertly than My Three Sons. Short on controversy and long on family values, the series—which ran from 1960 to 1972—featured Fred MacMurray as widower Steve Douglas, with Tim Considine, Don Grady and true-life brothers Stanley and Barry Livingston as his combed and clean-cut brood. (When Considine left the show in 1965, Barry joined the cast as his replacement.) "Everybody was hitchhiking around the country, growing their hair long and smoking pot, and we were this bastion of wholesomeness," says Barry, now 38.
In the 20 years since the show's finale, the sons have grown up and gone on—in a wholesome sort of way, of course. With the Family Channel preparing to rerun 120 Sons episodes this fall, we checked in on the TV brothers, who have stayed in touch and occasionally make appearances together, for a look at their lives today.
AS OLDEST SON MIKE DOUGLAS, Tim Considine never did anything racier than sneak out in Dad's car for a spin. Offscreen, however, Considine fancied faster tracks, often violating the no-risky-sports clause in his contract to secretly race go-carts. (Caught in the act once at the Go-Kart Nationals by Wild World of Sports, he says he had to plead with ABC execs to shelve their tapes and save his job.)
Born to showbiz parents—his father, John, was a movie producer (Boys Town), his mother, Carmen, a member of the Pantages theater-chain family—Considine had started acting at 12, appeared in several 1950s films and starred in the Mickey Mouse Club's Spin and Marty serial before Sons began. (His brother, actor-writer John Considine, appeared in Robert Altman's 1978 film, A Wedding.) Eventually given the chance to direct a few Sons episodes, he discovered a love for cameras and photography that led him, soon after, into a new career.
Leaving the series in 1965 ("I got tired of playing clean-cut, boy-next-door types"), Considine, now 51, talked his way into becoming the official photographer for Pele, the Brazilian soccer star, and a few years later produced his first book, The Photographic Dictionary of Soccer. The Language of Sport, a dictionary of sports terminology and slang, followed in 1983. Always the racing enthusiast, he has since shifted his focus back to the track and recently has traveled widely as a contributing writer and photographer to racing magazines in the U.S.
Off the road, he lives with his second wife, movie producer Willie Hunt, 50 (Lover Boy), and their son, Christopher, 12, in a Spanish-style home above the UCLA campus. "Life is like the surf," he says cheerily. "You wait for the wave to come in and you try to catch it. I've been dealt some great waves, and I've done OK."
Like other TV teens in the late 1960s, Robbie Douglas had his own rock band in the series. But when the cameras stopped, actor Don Grady kept playing. A multi-instrument musician, he often teamed up on drums, playing "Guy Lombardo, '40s kind of stuff" with castmates William Demarest (who in 1964 replaced William Frawley as the Douglases' live-in relative) on cello and MacMurray on sax.
Grady, the son of a Layfayette, Calif., salami maker and his wife, had begun acting at 12 as a TV Mouseketeer. Leaving the Sons cast a year before the show's demise ("I needed to start to learn to grow up"), he recorded a jazz album under his real name. Don Agrati, and hit the college circuit with his own trio. Later he made a brief acting comeback—in a national tour of Pippin and a string of off-Broadway musicals—but finally, he says, "I had to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to make my living as a composer."
Now 48, Grady today works in a converted garage behind the Studio City home he shares with second wife Ginny, 34, a choreographer, and their son, Joey, 2. Among his film and TV music credits: the theme for The Phil Donahue Show and the movies Skin Deep and Switch. "Now it seems like I work a lot harder for less money," he says, "but I'm doing what I really want to do."
The sons of an L.A. appliance store owner and his homemaker wife, Stanley and Barry Livingston (Chip and Ernie Douglas, respectively) were discovered by an agent at a Hollywood swim club in the 1950s and appeared together as neighborhood children on Ozzie and Harriet. Stanley, the only Sons sibling to stick with the show all 12 years, found himself typecast when the series ended. To keep working, he tried writing TV scripts, collaborated on a stage musical and even directed crime-prevention and music-exercise videos. After forming his own production company in 1987, he is now trying to get financing for a feature film titled Johnny No-Face that he has written and hopes to direct.
Livingston's real love, however, is his art. At 41, he spends much of his time in an in-home studio at his Laurel Canyon bungalow creating acrylic-on-glass commissioned portraits (that sell for $750 to $1,000) and '30s-style deco lamps. "Everybody knows me in the Canyon," says Stanley, who lives with Judy Swartz, 36, a TV costume designer. (A daughter, 22, from an early, six-year marriage lives in Georgia.)
Among his customers: Tom Hanks (who bought a Three Stooges portrait) and Delta Burke (who commissioned a portrait of herself).
Brother Barry, meanwhile, followed his eight-year stint on Sons with more acting. Cast as a buck-toothed nerd on the show, he reappeared on TV in the 1974 CBS series Sons and Daughters and later played on Broadway in The Skin of Our Teeth. Now a sometime sitcom guest actor (most recently on Doogie Howser, M.D.), he will also turn up later this year in a USA Network special, The Elf That Saved Christmas.
Off-camera, Livingston lives in a cozy, two-bedroom Toluca Lake, Calif, home with his wife, Karen, 32, a physical therapist, and their children, Spencer, 3, and Hailey, 10 weeks. Like his Sons siblings, he credits TV dad Fred MacMurray (who died last November) for helping the young east avoid troubles that befell other child stars. "I always felt he was very concerned about what we were doing with our lives," says Barry. "He was really a very shy man and so uncomfortable with being a celebrity. He was probably a good role model for all of us."
NANCY MATSUMOTO in Los Angeles
- Nancy Matsumoto.