8 things you never knew about Meredith MacRae of My Three Sons and Petticoat Junction

She helped an NFL icon act and became an award-winning interviewer.

Image: The Everett Collection

Meredith MacRae was far more than the adorable blonde on two Sixties sitcoms. You know her best as Sally Morrison, Mike's love interest on My Three Sons, and as the final Billie Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction. On the latter show, she turned the character from a blonde stereotype into a strong-willed, singing woman. 

MacRae had a big name to live up to. Not only were her parents stars, they were still rather famous as she was beginning her career.

Like her mom and dad, she proved to a multitalented performer — and even transitioned to journalism. Let's take a closer look.

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1. She once made 31 game show appearances in about one month.

Outside of her sitcoms, viewers were most likely to spot MacRae on dozens of game shows, from The Match Game and The Hollywood Squares in the late 1960s to Card Sharks and The $10,000 Pyramid in the 1980s. She likely lost count, but someone was keeping score. A 1970 TV Guide article noted, "Meredith's What's My Line? segment was just one of 31 game show appearances she made in little more than a month."

Image: The Everett Collection

2. She studied English Lit in college for a decade while working on TV.

A 1983 profile in Orange Coast Magazine explained, "[B]etween acting assignments and her duties as a wife and mother, she attended night classes at UCLA for ten years, receiving a degree in English Literature."

Images: The Everett Collection

3. Her mom was a pop star who appeared on 'I Love Lucy.'

Born in London, her mother, Sheila MacRae (then billed Sheila Stephens), burst onto the scene in 1950 with breakout roles in both the dark postwar noir film Backfire and women's prison flick Caged. Married to her Backfire costar Gordon MacRae, Sheila soared to greater levels of fame on Broadway and on TV in the Sixties, just as her daughter was making a name for herself. (More on that in a bit.) You can also spot her playing herself in the I Love Lucy episode "The Fashion Show."

4. Her dad was a major movie star, as well.

A couple of Rogers and Hammerstein musicals turned Gordon MacRae into a household name, as he belted show tunes alongside Shirley Jones in Oklahoma! (1955) and Carousel (1956). Yep, her pop was Curly, the cowboy singing the immortal songs "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" and "Oklahoma."

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Her mom was also Alice Kramden in the 1960s.

Sheila MacRae replaced Audrey Meadows as the significant other in The Honeymooners revival sketches on The Jackie Gleason Show beginning in 1966. If Sheila was nervous about filling the shoes of another actress, she had her daughter to consult. That same 1966-67 season, Meredith took over the role of Billie Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction. Furthermore, both shows aired on CBS. Meredith and mom would get the chance to work together in 1971 on The Sheila MacRae Show.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. Meredith recorded pop singles of her own.

Gordon and Sheila MacRae recorded an album together for Capitol Records in 1960 titled Our Love Story. Considering her genes, it's no wonder that Meredith turned to a musical career herself. In 1964, shortly after assuming the role of Sally Ann Morrison on My Three Sons, MacRae cut a single called "Image of a Boy," a gender-swapped cover of the 1960 hit "Image of a Girl" by the Safaris. Candy Johnson's Exciters served as MacRae's backing band. Both Candy and Meredith appeared together that year in the beach movie Bikini Beach. After MacRae joined Petticoat Junction, the trio of Bradley daughters became a "real" musical act, releasing singles under the banner The Girls From Petticoat Junction.

7. She was Joe Namath's first leading lady.

After winning Super Bowl III as the game's MVP in 1969, Jets quarterback Joe Namath bloomed into a true pop-culture sensation. He was popping up on The Brady Bunch — and he landed his own movie in 1970. It was no sports story. Namath's character was a Vietnam vet aspiring to be a country singing sensation. MacRae confessed to a columnist, "[Namath] kept saying, 'Oh, I'm really terrible, aren't it?' But I thought he did just beautifully in that scene where he had a live chick in his car and had to put it in the trunk and close the trunk and hand me the key."

Image: AP Photo

8. She was an award-winning interviewer.

In the Eighties, MacRae transitioned to live TV, working on the program Mid-Morning L.A. A diligent researcher, MacRae "did her homework" every night preparing for the interviews. "Meredith takes great pride in her interviewing skills," wrote Orange Coast Magazine in 1983, going on to explain how a notable religious leader chose an appearance on her smaller-audience show over a more popular program. He simply respected her as a journalist. "Even though I don't agree with you, I love to be interviewed by you," he told her. She worked on Mid-Morning L.A. for eight years — and won a local Emmy for her work in 1986.

Image: The Everett Collection

 
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moax429 13 days ago
Meredith MacRae was also a semi-regular - as a correspondent - on the early 80's game/variety show "Fantasy," which starred Peter Marshall and Leslie Uggams.
JewelsChuck 14 days ago
Great story and I love her the most as Billie Jo Bradley. She was great as Mike Douglass’ girlfriend.
MrBill JewelsChuck 14 days ago
She became Mike Douglas's wife on the last episode the two characters appeared in on My Three Sons.
TheDavBow3 JewelsChuck 14 days ago
Yep, she is THE Billie Jo. Along with Lori Saunders as THE Bobbie Jo. And of course Linda Kaye Henning, the main stay sis.
JewelsChuck TheDavBow3 14 days ago
They did great together and it’s when I enjoyed the show most.
ncadams27 15 days ago
If Steve Douglas moved to Hooterville and married Kate Bradley, Mike would have married his sister.
Corey ncadams27 14 days ago
They did this plot on One Day At A Time when Barbara's mom Ann Romano married her husband Mark's dad.
15inchBlackandWhite 15 days ago
She was a beautiful girl. Left us too soon. I was always partial to brunettes though. Lori Saunders always made me go a bit wobbly in the knees.
You can say that again!!
JHP 15inchBlackandWhite 14 days ago
pat woodell - gave me un-wobbly knees:)
Meredith died of the same type of brain cancer that my sister did -glioblastoma multiforme. Their is currently no cure, only long-term survivorship which means that you survive several years instead of 13 months. Today is Glioblastoma Awareness Day so this article is very well timed. Doctors are making strides in the treatment, but there is still far to go. RIP, Meredith!
sese1018 CarolKelley 14 days ago
RIP to your sister also. And, I hope they can find a cure for Glioblastoma, all cancers, & so many other diseases. I pray every day for advances in medicine, science & technology. Until then, may we all...be careful, stay well, be safe!
WordsmithWorks 15 days ago
On I Love Lucy, Sheila appeared as "Mrs. Gordon McCrae."
BrittReid 15 days ago
Always liked Meredith, she was wonderful at everything she did!
stephaniestavr5 15 days ago
Meredith has a connection with a certain singing sitcom family. What's that connection? {Before anyone mentions it, I am not confusing her with Meredith Baxter.} It's not a direct connection, but it is a connection.
UTZAAKE 15 days ago
4. Always got her father confused with this guy.
TheDavBow3 15 days ago
Yes, she was very talented. She was great in My 3 Sons and Petticoat Junction.
Diz 15 days ago
Just saw her on the game show Tattletales from the 70's. Yes, she was great. I'll watch her in anything.
stephaniestavr5 Diz 15 days ago
She was married to her 2nd husband, actor Greg Mullavey at the time. They were married 18 years, 1969-1987. She was married 3 times.
stephaniestavr5 15 days ago
She was an extremely talented woman. It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since her passing. {July 14, 2000 was the date.} Perhaps that's why METV decided to "showcase" her.
KMT6600 15 days ago
I love that girl ! Too me .she was good at anything that she did !
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