Beverly Garland, versatile actress in film and TV, dies at 82
Beverly Garland, whose long and varied acting career ranged from B-movie cult stardom in the 1950s portraying gutsy characters in movies such as “Not of This Earth” and “It Conquered the World” to playing Fred MacMurray’s wife on the sitcom “My Three Sons,” has died. She was 82.
Garland, who also was an involved owner of her namesake hotel in North Hollywood, died Friday after a long illness at her Hollywood Hills home, said son-in-law Packy Smith.
In a career that spanned more than 50 years and began with a supporting role in the 1950 film noir classic “D.O.A.,” Garland appeared in about 40 films and scores of television shows.
“Not only was she a terrific actress, she was one of those special gals who was fun to work with,” said Mike Connors, who appeared with Garland in director Roger Corman’s low-budget 1955 film “Swamp Women” and later worked with her when she made guest appearances on his TV detective series “Mannix.”
“She had a great sense of humor, she was very thoughtful and had a great laugh,” Connors said. “You couldn’t help but laugh with her when she laughed.”
Despite her reputation for doing heavy drama -- including being nominated for an Emmy in 1955 for her performance as a leukemia patient in the pilot of the medical drama “Medic” -- Garland was best known to many for her comedy turn in “My Three Sons.” She played the second wife of MacMurray’s character, widower Steve Douglas, during the last three seasons of the popular series, which aired from 1960 to 1972.
“The only thing that bothers me is that everybody loves this character so much,” Garland told The Times in 1969. “I don’t remember anybody loving me all that much.”
Garland also played her fair share of mothers in TV series. She was Stephanie Zimbalist’s in “Remington Steele” and Kate Jackson’s in “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” in the 1980s, and Teri Hatcher’s in “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” in the ‘90s.
She also had recurring roles in the TV shows “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” “7th Heaven” and the ABC soap opera “Port Charles.”
Early in her career, Garland played undercover New York police officer Casey Jones in the 1957-59 syndicated series “Decoy,” said to be the first American TV police series built around a female protagonist.
Garland’s big-screen credits included roles in films such as “The Joker Is Wild” (1957), “Pretty Poison” (1968), “Where the Red Fern Grows” (1974) and “Airport 1975” (1974).
But her starring roles in low-budget exploitation films in the ‘50s such as “The Alligator People” gave her an enduring cult status.
For Corman, she starred in five films in the 1950s: “Gunslinger,” “It Conquered the World,” “Naked Paradise,” “Not of This Earth” and “Swamp Women.”
“Part of what made her a favorite of B-movie fans was that she was seldom a shrinking violet in her movies,” Tom Weaver, a science-fiction and fantasy film expert, told The Times. “In fact, she was just the opposite.”
In “It Conquered the World,” “she grabs a rifle and goes gunning for the monster in its own lair. In ‘The Alligator People,’ she chases an alligator man into the swamp, and so on,” he said.
“She didn’t play the demure, reserved heroines very well,” Weaver said.
She was born Beverly Fessenden, on Oct. 17, 1926, in Santa Cruz and grew up in Glendale, where she studied acting in high school and began working in little theater, which she continued after the family moved to Phoenix.
She became Beverly Garland when she married actor Richard Garland; they were divorced in 1953 after less than four years. An earlier, brief marriage to Bob Campbell when she was 18 also ended in divorce.
In 1960, she married real estate developer Fillmore Crank, a widower with two children, Cathleen and Fillmore Jr. They had two more children, Carrington Goodman and James Crank. In 1972, the couple built their mission-style hotel in North Hollywood, now called Beverly Garland’s Holiday Inn, which she remained involved in running. They also built a hotel in Sacramento that bore Garland’s name in the ‘80s but later sold it.
Her husband died in 1999. Garland is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Plans for a memorial service are pending.
McLellan is a Times staff writer.
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