Let’s hear it for the opening of the Fred MacMurray Museum in the Heritage Village Mall in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. It’s opening partly to commemorate the fact that MacMurray, a Beaver Dam resident in his youth, was born 100 years ago. And because he was famous and well-liked for his quick smile, amiable nature and sure touch with comedies. But MacMurray’s rep would be nothing if he hadn’t played a couple of weak, selfish and gone-astray insurance guys in a pair of first-rate Billy Wilder films.
It was MacMurray’s portrayal of Walter Neff, the insurance salesman who couldn’t keep his mind off Phyllis Dietrichson‘s anklets, in Double Indemnity that rescued him from the amiable good-guy thing. He was saved again when he played Jeff Sheldrake, the selfish and manipulative chief of a New York insurance company in The Apartment. Without these two, news of the MacMurray Museum would be limited to local Wisconsin papers and T stations because people like me wouldn’t care that much.
All MacMurray had on his resume otherwise was…okay, Keefer in The Caine Mutiny, but that film belong to Van Johnson and Jose Ferrer. But otherwise his resume was one light and amiable deal after another — My Three Sons, the ’60s TV series, and Bon Voyage, Follow Me, Boys!, The Absent-Minded Professor, The Egg and I, Trail of the Lonesome Pine, etc. Gimme a break.