Tim Considine, young star of 'My Three Sons,' dies at 81

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Tim Considine, young star of 'My Three Sons,' dies at 81
He played the oldest son, Mike, after gaining fame in the “Spin and Marty” serial on Disney’s “The Mickey Mouse Club.” But after his 1960s heyday, he faded as an actor.

by Anita Gates

NEW YORK, NY.- Tim Considine, who was a television star at the age of 14 in Disney’s “Spin and Marty” and went on to wider fame in the family series “My Three Sons,” died Thursday at his home in the Mar Vista section of Los Angeles. He was 81.

The Walt Disney Archives website announced his death.

“Spin and Marty” was an 11-minute serial shown on “The Mickey Mouse Club” from 1955 to 1958 — and in reruns through 2002. The young Considine was originally cast in what was supposed to be the lead — as Marty Markham, a snobbish rich kid spending the summer at the Triple R dude ranch. But he told his agent that he didn’t want the part — that he’d rather play Spin Evans, the more athletic and more popular character, the city boy with the cool flattop haircut, he said.

The agent passed along the request, Spin’s role was beefed up and the series ended up being a partnership of adolescent equals — rivals who eventually became friends, riding, roping, boxing, sleeping in a bunkhouse and sitting around the campfire together. Considine became the first screen heartthrob for many preteen girls. David Stollery played Marty.

Considine’s Disney career was busy. In “The Hardy Boys” serials (1956 and 1957), which were also shown on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” he and Tommy Kirk played the sons of a private detective, boys who investigated neighborhood mysteries. He was also in the “Annette” serial, starring Annette Funicello.

At 18, he had a role in Disney’s “The Shaggy Dog” (1959) — which also starred Kirk and Funicello — as a duplicitous teenage boy whose best friend turns into a Bratislavian sheepdog and breaks up a spy ring. Considine’s part consisted mostly of expressing superiority over Kirk’s character and flirting with Funicello’s and Roberta Shore’s.

“I’ve always thought that was one of the worst performances I ever gave,” Disney has quoted him as saying. “It was a very critical time as a teenager, and I was more interested in being a cool guy than being an actor.”

The film’s adult lead, Fred MacMurray, went on to star in “My Three Sons,” a half-hour sitcom about a widower and his all-male household, with Considine as his eldest son, Mike. The second son, Robbie, was played by Don Grady, and the youngest, Chip, by Stanley Livingston.

The show had its premiere on ABC in 1960 and ran, moving to CBS, until 1972. But Considine bowed out in 1965; his character married his girlfriend, played by Meredith MacRae, and moved away. (To fill his shoes, more or less, the family adopted a neighborhood boy, Ernie Thompson, played by Barry Livingston, Stanley Livingston’s real-life younger brother.)

Timothy Daniel Considine was born Dec. 31, 1940, in Los Angeles. His father, John W. Considine Jr., was a producer whose films included “Broadway Melody of 1936,” “Boys Town” (1938) and “Young Tom Edison” (1940). His mother, Carmen (Pantages) Considine, was the daughter of Alexander Pantages, founder of a vaudeville and movie theater chain.

His paternal grandfather, John Considine Sr., was Pantages’ biggest rival. His uncle was columnist and author Bob Considine.

As Timmie Considine, he made his film debut at 12 in “The Clown” (1953), Red Skelton’s revisiting of the sentimental 1930s drama “The Champ,” which had starred Wallace Beery and 9-year-old Jackie Cooper. The New York Times review called Timmie “properly wistful, serious and manly” in the role of a washed-up alcoholic comic’s son.

He followed that with TV guest spots, from “The Ford Television Theater” to “Rin Tin Tin,” and four films. Then Disney came along and brought him a decade of success and popularity, which included playing a Revolutionary War hero’s nephew on the series “The Swamp Fox” (1957-60), with Leslie Nielsen, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s teenage son in the movie “Sunrise at Campobello” (1960), with Ralph Bellamy.

Leaving “My Three Sons,” Considine did six television guest appearances in five years and had a memorable scene — playing a character credited as Soldier Who Gets Slapped — with George C. Scott in the film “Patton” (1970).

He did even less acting over the next 50 years, turning up on screen once or twice a decade and playing his last role as a judge with a gray beard in the thriller “Ray of Sunshine” (2006).

Having written two episodes of “My Three Sons” and directed another, Considine planned to work in those fields but racked up only one film credit. He and his brother John Considine were two of the four writers of “Tarzan’s Deadly Silence” (1970), which was really two TV episodes released as a feature; they had done the second episode.

Instead he made a career as a sports and automobile photographer, writer and author. His books included “The Language of Sport” (1982) and “American Grand Prix Racing” (1997).

Considine even substituted a couple of times for William Safire, writing the “On Language” column for The New York Times Magazine. He explained how “the first Olympic Games, in 776 B.C., in which a line scratched in the dirt served as the starting point” for some events, led to the expression “start from scratch.”

His first wife was Charlotte Stewart, an actor who appeared in “Little House on the Prairie.” They married in 1965 and divorced in 1969. He married Willett Hunt in 1979, and they had a son, Christopher.

Considine is survived by his wife and son as well as his brother, John; a sister, Erin; and two grandchildren, the Disney website said.

Considine was relatively blasé in his early teens. “I had retired” at 14 when the audition for “Spin and Marty” came along, he recalled in a 2019 video interview. “It was never a career for me. It was just something I did for fun, and when it wasn’t fun anymore, that was it. I’m out of here.”

Most of the time, though, working for Disney was considerable fun. In the same interview, Considine expressed gratitude for what he saw as the undeserved richness of his career: “Thank God there’s no justice in this world.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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