from my sketchbook: meredith macrae

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Lotsa curves, you bet, and even more when you get to the Junction
Meredith MacRae was born with show business in her blood. She was the eldest daughter of actor-singer Gordon MacRae, the star of movie musicals Oklahoma and Carousel and his wife, actress Sheila MacRae, best remembered as succeeding Audrey Meadows in the role of “Alice Kramden” in The Honeymooners, as performed in sketches on  Jackie Gleason’s variety show. Despite her parents popularity and subsequent wealth, they kept Meredith and her siblings grounded. They shunned the pretentious life of Beverly Hills, opting instead for a home in the modest San Fernando Valley. The children were expected to perform household chores and work for the things they wanted. It made for a very caring (and realistic) foundation.

In the early 60s, Meredith played “Sally Morrison,” fiancée of oldest son Mike (played by Disney protégé Tim Considine) on the popular family sitcom My Three Sons. She kept the role for three seasons until Considine’s character was written out of the show as the result of a production disagreement. During her time on My Three Sons, Meredith released the pop ballad, “Image of a Boy.” It did not chart. She also appeared in two installments of the Frankie and Annette “beach movie” series, playing Annette’s pal “Animal.”

After My Three Sons, Meredith became the third actress to take the role of blond daughter Billie Jo on the TV comedy Petticoat Junction. She played a slightly different version of the character than her predecessors, portraying Billie Jo with strong independence and aspirations of a singing career. Meredith stayed with the show until its cancellation in 1970.

Throughout the 60s and 70s, Meredith was a frequent guest star on episodic television, like Fantasy Island and Love American Style. She was also a staple on a number of game shows, often appearing with her second husband, actor Greg Mullavey on Tattletales.

In the 80s, she embarked on a new career as anchor of a local Los Angeles talk show, for which she was awarded an Emmy. That show was the springboard for hosting duties on a PBS program called Born Famous, in which she interviewed children of celebrities (like herself).

As the 90s began, Meredith experienced crippling headaches and bouts of vertigo. After several misdiagnoses over a period of years, it was determined that Meredith had a Stage 4 brain tumor. She was subjected to surgeries, chemotherapy and even an experimental drug, but finally lost her battle in 2000 at the age of 56.



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