‘My Three Sons’: Ernie Thomson Actor Barry Livingston Had Fierce Sibling Rivalry on the Show with Brother Stanley

by John Jamison

Those of us with siblings know how competitive things can get at times. The Livingston brothers weren’t just trying to win a game of Scrabble during family game night, though. They were competing for roles on hit television shows like “My Three Sons.”

Barry Livingston, three years younger than brother Stanley, eventually earned the role of the adopted son, Ernie, on “My Three Sons.” Before he appeared on the show, however, his older brother had the spotlight all to himself.

“You know, there’s a sibling rivalry. I love my brother. Loved him then, love him now,” Barry told the Archive of American Television. “But if you’re a younger sibling and you see your older brother being the object of everybody’s affection … at the swimming pool, the girls were all, “Ooh, it’s Chip!’ And even if you go to a family dinner, the aunts and uncles, ‘Ah, he’s so cute!’”

Stanley Livingston played Chip on “My Three Sons.” Chip was originally the youngest son. But his eldest brother, Mike, got married and was written off the show a few years in. And what would “My Three Sons” really be if there weren’t three sons in the family.

That’s where Ernie came in. He was a neighborhood kid and friend of Chip, who eventually moved into the Douglas house and joined the family. Conveniently for the show, Barry Livingston was finally old enough and proved himself capable of playing the adopted son.

Barry’s Casting on “My Three Sons” Eased Rivalry Between Brothers

Three years after Stanley’s stardom, Barry finally found some vindication by being cast on the very same show as his brother.

In his interview with the Archive of American Television, Barry said it was a “… nice way to equalize our relationship, that I got on the same hit TV show that he was on.”

And they loved all the time they got to spend together.

“It was great. We shared a dressing room, we shared a schoolroom, we’d go home at night, we’d share a bedroom,” Barry said.

Good to see that the original rivalry didn’t create any sort of resentment between the two brothers.