Meredith Lynn MacRae (May 30, 1944 – July 14, 2000) was an American actress and singer, known for her roles as Sally Ann on My Three Sons (1963–1965) and as Billie Jo on Petticoat Junction (1966–1970).
Life and career
My Three Sons
Among her many roles, MacRae made her breakthrough appearance as Sally Ann Morrison Douglas on the ABC (later CBS) Fred MacMurray/William Frawley sitcom, My Three Sons. She played the role for the hit show's third through fifth seasons (1963–1965), before being written off the show to further explore with her career.
In 1966, MacRae signed a contract with CBS to play Billie Jo Bradley on the sitcom, Petticoat Junction, starring Bea Benaderet as her television mother and Edgar Buchanan as her television uncle. Her television sisters were Betty Jo, played by Linda Kaye, and Bobbie Jo, played by Lori Saunders.
MacRae was the sitcom's third actress to portray Billie Jo. Jeannine Riley played the part in the show's first two years (1963–1965) and Gunilla Hutton in the third year (1965–1966). Both of these actresses played the role as a typical boy crazy dumb blonde. By MacRae's debut on the series, however, Billie Jo's persona was that of a strong independent woman who focused more on a singing career, a dream she later accomplishes. In several episodes she along with her television sisters would sing trios. She remained with the sitcom until its sudden end in 1970.
She also took over the role of "Animal" from Valora Noland in Bikini Beach (1964), the third Beach Party film produced by American International Pictures.
She made guest appearances on such shows as The Donald O'Connor Show (1968 version), The F.B.I. (TV series), The Rockford Files, Fantasy Island, Webster (TV series), CHiPS, Love American Style, and Magnum, P.I.. Her game show appearances included: Funny You Should Ask, Match Game, What's My Line?, I've Got a Secret, Tattletales (with then-husband Greg Mullavey), Hollywood Squares, To Tell the Truth, Password (ABC version), $10,000 Pyramid, Mantrap, Break the Bank (1976 game show), Celebrity Whew!, Beat the Clock, Card Sharks, and Family Feud.
In the 1980s, she hosted Mid-Morning Los Angeles and was awarded a local Emmy for her interviewing skills. Later, she created and hosted Born Famous, a PBS series on which she interviewed other children of celebrities (she was the daughter of actor/singers Sheila MacRae and Gordon MacRae).
In summer stock, in her teens, she appeared with Dan Dailey in Take Me Along, with Andy Williams in Bye Bye Birdie (musical) and also in Annie Get Your Gun (musical).
MacRae worked to raise funds for such causes as the Children's Burn Foundation, the American Cancer Society and United Cerebral Palsy. She was also honorary chairperson for the National Council on Alcoholism and spoke to groups all across the country.
She was the daughter of show business parents Gordon and Sheila MacRae, the sister of Gar and Heather MacRae. Her only child is daughter Allison Mullavey by her second marriage to actor Greg Mullavey. Her first marriage was to MGM executive Richard Berger. Her third and final marriage was to Fortune 500 CEO Philip Neal.
She credited her parents with instilling a proper work ethic in her and for keeping her feet on the ground. She said, “We lived in a modest home in the San Fernando Valley instead of the fashionable Beverly Hills which the family could have afforded. Mom and Dad didn’t want us to feel superior to the other kids. I had to earn the things I wanted all the way from dolls to party gowns by doing chores around the house and taking care of my younger sister and brothers. “Lots of kids in my circle automatically got a car when they were 16. Not me. Dad said he would get me a car when I got straight A's two years in a row in school. I slaved away and finally made it. I got the car with the warning that if I didn’t continue with straight A's, it would be taken away.”
In the late 1990s after experiencing vertigo and headaches, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She endured surgery and chemotherapy, even volunteering to test a new cancer drug.
On July 14, 2000, she died from complications of brain cancer. As per her wishes, her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. At the time of her death MacRae was married to Philip Neal, CEO of the Avery Dennison Corporation.
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