12 fascinating facts about 'Family Affair'
When it comes to sitcoms, few formulas work better than cute kids, British butlers and beautiful New York City apartments. In 1966, long before Diff'rent Strokes and Mr. Belvedere, Family Affair set the mold, combining all three.
The series centered around three adorable, orphaned children from Terre Haute, Indiana, who move to Manhattan to live with their Uncle Bill and his well-mannered gentleman, Giles French. The new family dwells in a jaw-dropping Fifth Avenue pad that seems to be in the same building as Don Draper.
Family Affair ran for five seasons, and remained a hit until meeting its end in 1971, when networks purged their lineups of family content to make way for edgier fare. The child stars were a big draw, yet the most popular character from the show just might have been a doll.
Here are a dozen things you might not know about Family Affair.
Mr. French had a different name in France.
It makes sense that the English Mr. French would have a different name in France, and indeed his character was renamed "Mr. Felix." Likewise, Cissy, Buffy and Jody became Cecile, Fanfan and Jacky on Cher oncle Bill, as it was called in that country. Oh, and the Mrs. Beasley doll was named "Mademoiselle Pétronille."
It's set in the same fictional universe as 'My Three Sons' and 'To Rome with Love.'
Producer-creator Don Fedderson was responsible for a handful of the most successful sitcoms of the era, including Family Affair, My Three Sons and To Rome with Love. The characters Jody and Buffy appeared on To Rome with Love, two episodes before a few characters from My Three Sons show up. Fedderson considered them all living in the same world.
Mattell sold three dolls based on 'Family Affair.'
Mrs. Beasley, the constant companion and conversation pal of Buffy, proved to be so popular that Mattel put the doll on the market in the late 1960s. It sold well enough that the company also launched two Buffy dolls, including a "Talking Buffy" that came with a miniature Mrs. Beasley!
Image: Wish Book Web
Mrs. Beasley did not have glasses in the first episode.
Part of Mrs. Beasley's appeal were her black spectacles. However, as you can see, the doll did not wear glasses in the premiere episode. They show up on the doll in episode two, however.
Sebastian Cabot was temporarily replaced due to illness.
Not long into production, Cabot took leave of the show due to illness. Beginning with episode 18, veteran British actor John Williams stepped in to play his character's brother, Niles, who stuck around for nine episodes as Cabot recuperated.
Brian Keith had a pretty sweet work schedule.
Fedderson was uncommonly generous when it came to the careers of his leading men. Fred MacMurray only worked 65 days a season on My Three Sons, with a ten week break. Similarly, Brian Keith filmed his scenes as Uncle Bill in 30-day blocks, allowing him to take more film roles. In both cases, the rest of the cast would shoot around their TV dads' schedules.
Cathy Garver was 20 years old when she started on the series.
Garver was in her third year at UCLA when cast in the role of teenager Cissy. A natural brunette, the actress spray-painted her hair blonde with the "Streaks and Tips" hair product and raced to the audition. This anecdote serves as the opening to Garver's recent memoir, Surviving Cissy.
Anissa Jones auditioned for the lead role in 'The Exorcist.'
Buffy was a hit with viewers, which led to the typecasting of Anissa Jones. When the actress tried out for The Exorcist, director William Friedkin worried that audiences would not buy button-cute Buffy as a demonically possessed hell child.
Producer Don Fedderson wanted to hide Jones' aging.
Lisa Simpson may never age, but it's a little more difficult when you're dealing with actual adolescent humans. Nevertheless, Fedderson tried to keep Jones perpetually six years old, binding her chest as she matured and keeping Mrs. Beasley by her side.
When Jones broke her leg in real life, the accident was written into the show.
Buffy breaks her right leg in the season four episode "What's Funny About a Broken Leg?" However, the cast and crutches were no props. Jones had broken her leg in a playground accident off set, and the injury was worked into the storylines.
A Canadian punk band wrote a song about the sad fate of Anissa Jones.
Jones tragically passed away in 1976 at the age of 18 from drugs. A year later, the Toronto band the Diodes released their Ramones-y song "Child Star," which chronicled her sad end and featured the chorus, "Uncle Bill, Uncle Bill, I took some pills."
Brian Keith and Cathy Garver worked together three decades later on 'Spider-Man.'
"Uncle Bill" would go on to voice "Uncle Ben" in the 1994 Spider-Man cartoon series. Garver chipped in on the animated series, too, as she portrayed Madeline Joyce, a.k.a. the superhero Miss America.