Actor. Born in Kankakee, Illinois, his family moved to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin by the time he started school, and he graduated from Beaver Dam High School where he had made a mark in football, baseball, and basketball earning numerous varsity letters. He earned a full scholarship to Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, but left school before earning a degree. In 1930, with musical aspirations, he played saxophone in the Gus Arnheim Coconut Grove Orchestra, recording 'All I Want Is Just One Girl.' He then appeared on Broadway in the 1930 production of 'Three's a Crowd.' He followed with roles in productions of 'The Third Little Show' and 'Roberta.' By 1934, he had signed a contract with Paramount Studios and made a splash in 'The Gilded Lily' (1935). Suddenly in demand, he co-starred with Katherine Hepburn in 'Alice Adams' (1935), with Claudette Colbert in 'The Bride Comes Home' (1935), Carole Lombard in 'Hands Across the Table' (1935), 'The Princess Comes Across' (1936), and 'Swing High Swing Low' (1937) among others, completing more than twenty films before the end of the decade. Often typecast as the "nice guy" or the "best friend," in 1939 he also became artist C.C. Beck's initial model for the superhero character Captain Marvel. He would become the highest-paid actor of the early 1940s. He enjoyed playing against type, however, and some of his critically acclaimed roles were Walter Neff in 'Double Indemnity' (1944) and Lieutenant Thomas Keefer in 'The Caine Mutiny' (1954). Movie roles thinned in the 1950s but included 'Never a Dull Moment' (1950), 'Pushover' (1954), 'The Rains of Ranchipur' (1955), 'Gun for a Coward' (1957) and the initial foray with Disney Studios, 'The Shaggy Dog' (1959). He also branched out into television, appearing on 'The Jack Benny Program,' 'Screen Directors Playhouse,' and 'General Electric Theatre.' He was cast against type in 'The Apartment' (1960) in another critically acclaimed role. Disney Studios then cast him in 'The Absent Minded Professor' (1961) and its sequel, 'Son of Flubber' (1963). Meanwhile, his iconic 'Steve Douglas' character debuted in 'My Three Sons,' in 1960 on network television. The sitcom remained on the air for 12 seasons and his hard-won contract required him to work only 65 days per season. When the series was canceled in 1972, he saw little need to throw himself back into work, and appeared only in an advertising campaign, two television movies, and two feature films; 'Charley and the Angel' (1973) and 'The Swarm' (1978), before retiring. In 1987, he was the first person to be named a Disney Legend. His health deteriorated in his final years and he battled leukemia, throat cancer, and suffered a stroke in 1988. At the age of 83, he succumbed to pneumonia. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6421 Hollywood Boulevard.
Bio by: Iola
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