Beverly Garland: Queen of the Bs

If you are a fan of B-movies from the ’50s, or ’60s TV shows like My Three Sons, you had to be a fan of Beverly Garland. The blond-haired actress passed away Friday at 82. Read her obit in the L.A. Times here.
Garland was one of those throaty, no-nonsense babes who kicked ass in Roger Corman films and dozens of ’50s TV series. Not Of This Earth and It Conquered The World are two of her better known titles. She was a TV police woman years before Angie Dickinson, headlining the syndicated series Decoy in 1957-59. Besides playing wife to Bing Crosby (the mid-’60s Bing Crosby Show) and Fred MacMurray (My Three Sons), she latter appeared as a mom in dozens of TV shows, including Scarecrow and Mrs. King and as Teri Hatcher’s mom in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Even more recently, she appeared on 7th Heaven and Port Charles.
Her male co-stars, especially the men’s men, speak of her in hushed tones. Mannix star Mike Connors is quoted in the Times piece as saying not only was Garland “a terrific actress, she was one of those special gals who was fun to work with.”
In her later years, she was more famous as an L.A. Inn keeper. She married real estate developer Fillmore Crank in 1960, and among their joint efforts was The Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in North Hollywood. For years this was the home base for the Hollywood Collectors and Celebrities Show, a semi-annual nostalgia fest where dozens of former TV and film stars gather to meet and greet with autograph seekers. (The next show is in February in Burbank, CA.) Guest who checked into the hotel saw dozens of her film stills on a wall in the lobby. When you checked into your room and turned on the TV, there she was to guide you through the amenities.
I last saw Garland when I sat next to her and former NBC promotional legend Gene Walsh at the 2006 Television Critics Association Awards in Beverly Hills. She still had that sass and snap.
The first time I met her was ten years earlier on a visit to one of the Hollywood collectors shows, where she was both hostess and part of the assembled talent. Dawn Wells (Mary Ann) from Gilligan’s Island, Frank Bank (Lumpy Rutherford) and Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell) from Leave it to Beaver and the surviving cast members of F-Troop were all in the house, as was the guy who played the robot from Lost in Space.
Garland (photographed above at that show by my friend, the late, great Gene Trindl) spoke about her three year stint on My Three Sons, where she was brought in to play widower Steve Douglas’ (MacMurray) second wife. It was a softer role than her usual rough-and-tumble B-movie parts. “I went on an audition with about 500 other girls to get the part,” she said. “Bought myself a pretty little cotton dress that was very sweet.”
The dress worked although Garland hardly ever saw MacMurray, who, along with another film star, Family Affair‘s Brian Keith, had one of the sweetest deal in television. He only worked three months of the year, “so the rest of us had to shoot our scenes around him,” she said. “He was doubled by this tall woman, Katie Barrett. So when Fred asked me to marry him on the show, I said yes to Katie Barrett.”

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