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Fred Macmurray: The Guy Next Door

Airs Friday, April 19, 2013 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Actor Fred MacMurray

Courtesy of Janson Media

Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in "Double Indemnity."

Courtesy of Janson Media

Actor Fred MacMurray in "The Absent-Minded Professor."

Courtesy of Janson Media

Actor Fred MacMurray and dog.

Amiable and unassuming, Fred MacMurray went from small-town boy to one of Hollywood and television's most enduring stars. MacMurray signed his first contract with Paramount Studios in 1934, and quickly rose to play romantic lead roles opposite such major stars as Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, Katharine Hepburn, Paulette Goddard and Marlene Deitrich.

However, his true talents were revealed when he went against type and appeared as a murderer opposite Barbara Stanwyck in Billy Wilder's film-noir classic "Double Indemnity" (1944).

Other roles, including the cowardly naval lieutenant in "The Caine Mutiny" (1954) and the cynical executive in "The Apartment" (1960), helped define MacMurray as a major acting talent.

A series of Disney films in which he portrayed a good-natured father figure included "The Shaggy Dog" (1959), "The Absent-Minded Professor" (1961) and "Son of Flubber" (1963).

Renowned for his true-life stability and contented role as father to four adopted children, in his later years MacMurray's flagging career was revived when he became television's best-loved father in the long-running series, "My Three Sons" (1960-1971).

The program includes clips from some of MacMurray's most notable films, such as "The Gilded Lily," "Double Indemnity," "The Caine Mutiny," "The Apartment," "The Absent Minded Professor," "Swing High, Swing Low" and the TV series, "My Three Sons."

"Fred MacMurray: The Guy Next Door" also includes interviews with Fred MacMurray's wife, June Haver MacMurray, and daughters, Kate MacMurray and Laurie MacMurray, actors Nancy Olson, Beverly Garland and Jack Lemmon, and directors Billy Wilder and Edward Dmytryk.