There's one less plate at the dinner table tonight because Robbie Douglas has left home.
On June 28, the Associated Press reported that actor Don Grady passed away at the age of 68. For 12 years, Grady played Robbie, one of the siblings on the long-running sitcom "My Three Sons." Barry Livingston, who played youngest brother Ernie, confirmed that the actor had been suffering from cancer.
Tim Considine and Don Grady trade "The Mickey Mouse Club" for suburbia.
Don Grady served as a role model for young men across the country throughout the 1960s and even longer in syndication. As Robbie Douglas, he became the cool, older brother that most of us wished we had while we were fighting with our own siblings.
Because I first discovered "My Three Sons" in syndication, I never saw Grady playing the awkward middle brother on the show. The first episode I watched had oldest brother Mike (Tim Considine) driving away with new wife Sally (Meredith MacRae), setting the stage for the Robbie/Chip/Ernie triumvirate of brothers.
Yet, when the show became available on Nick at Night and TV Land, Robbie's younger, fumbling years were shown in all their black-and-white glory. ABC had been the home for the first five seasons of "My Three Sons," which explains why they originally weren't packaged with the later color episodes. These seasons also showed William Frawley of "I Love Lucy" fame as Bub, the predecessor to William Demarest's Uncle Charlie.
When digging through the pop culture sections at the library, it was interesting to discover that Grady and Considine each had been connected with "The Mickey Mouse Club," moving from the mouse to suburbia.
Watching these two young actors in the black-and-white years gives an insight into Grady's growth as an actor. In the episode entitled "Mike's Brother," Robbie is frustrated when he receives criticism from his father while Mike is treated like the favorite son. Later on, Chip (Stanley Livingston) moved into the middle slot as Grady found Robbie's inner cool.
Grady also worked around what the Mental Floss website calls the "MacMurray Method." Series star Fred MacMurray requested that all scripts be prepared in advance, allowing him to film all his scenes within the span of three months. This meant shooting shows out-of-order as Grady and the rest of cast shot the other scenes at a later time.
Things I learned from Don Grady and Robbie Douglas
- Good guys get girls: Robbie is a nice boy, but he did keep company with some gorgeous ladies, including a chorus girl.
- It is okay to date a co-worker: On a 1977 Thanksgiving TV reunion show, Tina Cole, the actress who played Robbie's wife Katie, said that she and Grady nearly got married in real-life.
- Have an uncle who bakes: When Robbie started a birthday party business, Uncle Charlie was drafted into service, making dozens of cakes at the expense of dinner.
- Never give your dad dating advice: Robbie, at times, tries to counsel his dad on how to meet women. Where do you think you learned your moves, Robbie? That's like Luke Skywalker trying to teach Obi-Wan Kenobi how to be a Jedi.