If The Donna Reed Show was a proto-feminist television program because it was the first to focus primarily on the woman of the house rather than the man, as argued by academic Joanne Morreale in her monograph on the show for Wayne State University Press, then what are we to make of Shirley Booth's portrayal of maid Hazel Burke in the 1961 breakout comedy Hazel? If anything, Hazel, based on a series of cartoons Ted Key drew for the Saturday Evening Post, was a ground-breaking series for multiple demographics that made a strong argument for equality regardless of sex, age, weight, or social standing, unlike anything else on the air at the time.
Whereas Donna Reed was an Academy-Award winning former beauty queen playing an idealized version of the suburban housewife, Shirley Booth was a veteran character actor of the New York theater playing a middle-aged service industry professional (Hazel archly calls herself a "domestic engineer") who takes a back seat to nobody. Yes, Booth had her Academy Award, too, but she did not enjoy making films and had only 5 feature film credits in her lifetime, hardly an ensconced celebrity of the Hollywood elite. Even during the height of her Hazel popularity, she maintained a residence in New York to keep a foot in the door in case she ever decided to chuck Hollywood and return to the theater. And very much unlike Reed, Booth was no beauty queen--she was a full-figured, middle-aged widow who had no hang-ups about her body image, as demonstrated with surprising candor in the Season 1 episode "Winter Wonderland" (December 7, 1961). In this episode Hazel competes with ski resort waitress Minna to see who gets to accompany dog-sled racer Johnny Manson in the annual contest at the resort. Because this is a race where weight matters, Hazel and Minna both have to step on a scale in front of Manson to determine who weighs the least and gets to ride with him. What makes the scene surprising is not that Hazel wins the weigh-in--of course she does--but she announces her weight as being 162 pounds, while Minna weighs in at 177. It's hard to imagine even today a Hollywood actress allowing her weight to be represented as 162 pounds, regardless of how much she really weighs. And within the context of the story, this little factoid is tossed off without fanfare, as if it's no big deal. Chalk this up as a win for the less-than-svelte. And Johnny Manson isn't Hazel's only boyfriend--she also has an ongoing dating relationship with mailman Barney Hatfield, showing that a woman who doesn't look like a model can have a healthy and active love life, a message completely contrary to the one broadcast by TV advertising then and now. Ironically, while Hazel seems to have no worries about her own figure, she has a running gag in watching the weight of her boss, George Baxter, a dynamic she uses as leverage in her negotiations with him by skimping on her tempting desserts when she's trying to get him to give in. Again defying convention, on Hazel it's the man who has to watch his figure, not the woman.
The other area where Hazel turns convention on its head is that despite being the servant of the household, she is really in charge and is more capable and competent than any of the other family members. Granted, this is a trope mined to great comic effect by P.G. Wodehouse in the Jeeves stories, but Hazel gives the theme a working-class flavor that even Jeeves would find beneath him. We learn in the very first episode, "Hazel and the Playground" (September 28, 1961), that she is not only an expert on football place-kicking, which she teaches to the Baxters' 8-year-old boy Harold, but she is also a champion bowler, a skill she uses to win the city championship and milks the television exposure therefrom to drum up support for constructing a neighborhood playground for the children. And in "A Matter of Principle" (October 19, 1961) she provides golf-club grip advice to Mr. Sutherland, one of George Baxter's clients, just after Sutherland says to Baxter he needs to find a way to stop slicing his drives. Her athletic expertise is played for laughs because our society believes that men are always superior to women in the world of sports. And certainly one would expect that in a contest between the haves and have-nots that those with financial advantages would be the better athletes, but not in the world of Hazel where sex, age, and social status do not guarantee anything.
The folly of social pretensions and ambition are embodied in the person of George Baxter's sister Deirdre Thompson, whom we meet in the episode "George's Niece" (November 16, 1961). When the Boston-based Thompsons decide to move to the Baxters' unnamed hometown, Deirdre asks if she and her daughter Nancy can stay with the Baxters while they look for a house. Besides being dismissive of her own daughter for being young and immature, Deirdre disapproves when Hazel introduces Nancy to her nephew Eddy simply because he comes from a less advantaged social class, despite the fact that Eddy makes excellent grades at school and has made enough from an after-school job to buy his own car, showing that he is responsible and has initiative. Given the way Deirdre treats her daughter, it is not surprising that Nancy defies her mother's order to break her date with Eddy and later wants to share all the details of her experience with Hazel rather than her mother. Deirdre upbraids Hazel for causing strife in her relationship with her daughter, but Hazel is unbowed, telling Deirdre that if she wants her daughter to share her life with her she needs to listen rather than reprimand. In this episode Hazel has not only brushed aside the false barriers imposed by social class but also those mandated by generational differences. Hazel earns Nancy's trust because she treats her as an equal, and Deirdre has to finally learn that repairing her relationship with her daughter requires her to do the same.
Demonstrating how out of step with the times Hazel's character was, the 1961 Fall Preview issue of TV Guide describes her as a "blandly insulting, bossy housemaid." It's debatable whether Hazel is insulting and bossy or merely refuses to be bound by other people's categories. She isn't intimidated by tough-talking men like George Baxter's gruff client Harvey Griffin in "Hazel Plays Nurse" (October 12, 1961), who insists that he and George work on his real estate deal even though they are both sick. Hazel brushes aside his bluster, just as she did with George earlier that morning, and has both men in bed, where Griffin has to admit with a smirk that Hazel treats him just like his mother did. And she out-negotiates George, who makes his living as a lawyer, in "What'll We Watch Tonight?" (November 2, 1961) by getting him to agree to pay $189.50 for a new TV for her room, which she uses as a deposit on a more expensive color TV, what she really wants, and then pays the balance herself from money she has saved. Some might consider her tactics sneaky; some might call them shrewd. In either case, she doesn't let strict propriety get in the way of pursuing what she wants or what she thinks is best. Many episodes center around her efforts to help others--the children's playground in the first episode, "A Dog for Harold" (November 9, 1961), a new client for Dorothy's interior decorating business in "Dorothy's New Client" (October 26, 1961), and a boyfriend for her friend Laura in "Hazel's Winning Personality" (December 14, 1961). Yes, the show ventures into the era's patented sentimentality at times, but that drawback is more than balanced by its willingness to break new ground in suggesting that everyone, regardless of where they fall on humanity's continuum, deserves equal treatment and respect.
The theme for Hazel was composed by one of the most celebrated songwriters of the American songbook, Jimmy Van Heusen, born Edward Chester Babcock in Syracuse, New York. He began writing songs in high school and adopted his stage name at age 16 in a nod to the famous shirt company. While studying at Syracuse University he befriended Jerry Arlen, younger brother of the great songbook composer Harold Arlen, who helped Van Heusen get his songs into the Cotton Club revue. From there he began working as the staff pianist at various Tin Pan Alley music publishers, providing the music for Jimmy Dorsey's 1938 song "It's the Dreamer in Me." Working with lyricist Eddie De Lange, he wrote "Heaven Can Wait," "Shake Down the Stars," and "Darn That Dream," which became a hit for Benny Goodman and prompted Bing Crosby to bring him to Hollywood to work with his favorite lyricist, Johnny Burke, in 1940. Writing for Crosby they won the Oscar for Best Song in 1944 for "Swinging on a Star" from Going My Way. The duo were nominated for two more songs the following year--"Sleighride in July" and "Aren't You Glad You're You"--and wrote many other songs that became standards: "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," "Imagination," "It Could Happen to You," "But Beautiful," "Here's That Rainy Day," and "Like Someone in Love" to name but a few. But besides being a top-flight songwriter, Van Heusen was also an accomplished pilot, testing fighter planes for Lockheed during World War II. Eventually the Van Heusen-Burke collaboration began to deteriorate, in part due to Burke's health problems, but Frank Sinatra was quick to snap Van Heusen up and pair him with lyricist Sammy Cahn in the mid-1950s. They would garner two Oscars writing for Sinatra for "All the Way" in 1957 and "High Hopes" in 1959, as well as being nominated for "(Love Is) the Tender Trap" in 1955, "To Love and Be Loved" in 1958, and "My Kind of Town" in 1964. They also won the Oscar for Best Song in 1963 for "Call Me Irresponsible" performed by Jackie Gleason in Papa's Delicate Condition and were nominated another 5 times. They provided Sinatra with such hits as "Love and Marriage," "Come Fly With Me," and "Come Dance With Me." Van Heusen became such good friends with Sinatra that the two would sometimes room together, and when Sinatra attempted suicide by slitting his wrists after his break-up with Ava Gardner, it was Van Heusen who rushed him to the hospital. When Van Heusen died from a stroke on February 6, 1990 at the age of 77, Sinatra had him buried in the Sinatra family plot in Cathedral City, California, where his headstone reads "Swinging on a Star."
Cahn also provided the lyrics for the Hazel theme, but the vocal version, performed by the Modernaires during the closing credits, was run for only the first 8 episodes. Thereafter the instrumental version was used both at the beginning and ending of each episode.
All five seasons have been released on DVD by Shout! Factory.
Born Marjory Ford in Brooklyn in 1898, Booth was listed in the 1905 census as Thelma Booth Ford. At age seven her family moved to Philadelphia where her interest in the theater was first roused after seeing a stage performance. The family later relocated to Hartford, Connecticut, where she began appearing in summer stock productions and eventually dropped out of school to move to New York in pursuit of a theatrical career. Because her father objected to her career choice, she took the name Shirley Booth since he forbade her to use the family name. She made her Broadway debut opposite Humphrey Bogart in a 1925 production of Hell's Bells. She played opposite Katherine Hepburn in a 1939 production of The Philadelphia Story, starred in the original 1940 production of My Sister Eileen, and starred with Ralph Bellamy in a 1943 production of Tomorrow the World. In 1929 she married Ed Gardner and starred along with him in the radio comedy he created Duffy's Tavern from 1941-43 but left the program after the couple divorced. She won her first Tony in 1948 for her role in Goodbye, My Fancy and two years later won her second for her leading role in Come Back, Little Sheba. After starring in the 1951 musical A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, she won her third Tony for The Time of the Cuckoo, which opened in 1952. That same year she also starred opposite Burt Lancaster in the film adaptation of Come Back, Little Sheba, for which she won the Oscar for Best Actress. However, she preferred the stage to film and appeared in only 4 more films, the last two released in 1958. While still appearing regularly in theatrical roles, Booth made her television debut in a 1954 episode of The United States Steel Hour. She had two more drama anthology appearances before being cast in the title role of Hazel in the fall of 1961.
Booth won two Primetime Emmys in 1962 and 1963 for her role as Hazel Burke and since she owned the rights to the series, she had a hand in the show's recasting when it moved from NBC to CBS for its fifth and final season. After Hazel closed down, she gave another Emmy-nominated performance in a 1966 CBS Playhouse production of The Glass Menagerie, and appeared the following year in another CBS Playhouse production of Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. After appearing in the 1968 TV movie The Smugglers, Booth was cast in the lead role in the 1973 comedy A Touch of Grace about a recently widowed woman who annoys her daughter and son-in-law and has a grave-digger boyfriend. The series lasted only 13 episodes, after which Booth made one last TV appearance as the voice of Mrs. Claus in the 1974 animated special The Year Without a Santa Claus. Thereafter she retired to North Chatham, Massachusetts and lived alone until her death at age 94 on October 16, 1992.
The son of a railroad engineer and local politician, Donald John DeFore was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he attended Washington High School. After graduation, he matriculated to the University of Iowa, where he studied law and was a 3-sport athlete in basketball, baseball, and track. However, when his interest turned to acting, he left Iowa and decided to study at the Pasadena Community Playhouse for three years and earned a scholarship. He had his film debut in the 1936 feature Reunion, but in 1938 Oscar Hammerstein II gave DeFore the opportunity to act on Broadway when he took the play Where Do We Go From Here that DeFore and four classmates had written and opened it on Broadway with DeFore and his colleagues in the cast. While in New York DeFore also appeared on Broadway in the production of The Male Animal for 1 year and then accompanied the production when it was taken on the road, where he met his wife Marion Holmes, then singing with Art Kassel's orchestra in Chicago. He would also appear in the film version of the same drama in 1942. DeFore was quite active, appearing in 2-3 feature films per year during the 1940s, including Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Romance on the High Seas, My Friend Irma, and Too Late for Tears. In the 1950s, his appearances in feature films declined as he became more involved in television, starting with The Silver Theatre, Hollywood Theatre Time, and The Bigelow Theatre all in 1950 before landing a recurring role as neighbor "Thorny" Thornberry on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet beginning in 1952. DeFore appeared in 108 episodes between 1952 and 1957, eventually replaced by Lyle Talbot as Joe Randolph. During these years, he also served as President of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1954-55 and helped arrange the first TV broadcast of the Emmy awards in 1955. DeFore landed only a few TV guest spots, a pair of TV movies, and a few drama anthology appearances over the next four years before being cast as man of the house George Baxter on Hazel in the fall of 1961. During this time DeFore and his family also ran a Disneyland restaurant called Silver Banjo Barbecue, located in the Frontierland portion of the theme park.
When Hazel was canceled by NBC after four seasons but then picked up by CBS for a fifth and final season, DeFore and co-star Whitney Blake were written out of the series and replaced by Ray Fulmer and Lynne Borden. The year he left Hazel, he co-wrote a book with his daughter Penny about her experiences working in a Korean orphanage. DeFore's acting career on film and TV was sporadic thereafter, not appearing on another television for 3 years, when he appeared in the TV movie A Punt, a Pass, and a Prayer. After racking up appearances on My Three Sons, Mod Squad, Mannix, and The Virginian in 1969-70, he would go another 5 years before landing another guest spot on Marcus Welby, M.D. in 1975. Still, DeFore managed to string together one episode per year, with another 5-year gap in 1978-83, until his final appearance on St. Elsewhere in 1987. A friend of Ronald Reagan, DeFore served as a delegate to the 1980 Republican national convention. He died December 22, 1993 from cardiac arrest at the age of 80.
Nancy Ann Whitney was born in the Eagle Rock section of Los Angeles, but due to her father's work as a Secret Service agent (having once worked for President Woodrow Wilson) the family moved frequently, with Blake attending 16 different schools while growing up. She married her first husband Tom Baxter when she was only 18, and the couple had three children--two boys and a daughter who would become a well-known actor in her own right--Meredith Baxter. Blake attended Pasadena City College and by 1953 was acting in productions at the Pasadena Playhouse, where she was spotted by agent Sid Gold. After divorcing Baxter in 1955, Blake would marry one of Gold's assistants, Jack Fields, two years later. But meanwhile she made her television debut in 1956 on episodes of Medic and Big Town and thereafter had frequent, regular appearances on a number of programs, including playing defendant Evelyn Bagby on the very first episode of Perry Mason in 1957. Her feature film debut came that same year in the B-movie Mike Hammer adaptation My Gun Is Quick. But Blake's future was much more promising on TV, where she continued to appear in 10-12 programs per year until being cast as Dorothy Baxter on Hazel.
Blake's character, like Don DeFore's, was jettisoned after the fourth season of Hazel, but unlike him, she continued to find steady work in TV guest spots, though not quite at the furious pace of before. Still, she appeared on Branded, The Legend of Jesse James, Laredo, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in 1966 alone. She divorced Fields in 1967 and married her third and last husband, Allan Manings, in 1968. However, by the end of the 1960s the roles began to trickle, and work remained steady but sporadic in the 1970s. But she found fame again in another part of the business when she and Manings created the sit-com One Day at a Time, which debuted in 1975 and ran for 9 seasons. Politically, Blake was an activist for civil rights, women's rights, and open housing as well as a frequent speaker for the ACLU. In the 1980s she produced and directed a documentary about an inspirational Daly City teacher who ran a wilderness camp for troubled teenagers. The film, Reno's Kids: 87 Days Plus 11, was honored by the International CINE Council and the Chicago International Film Festival. In 1998 she and Manings created another series Solo en America depicting the life of a Hispanic single mother and her two daughters. However, four years later after contracting esophageal cancer she passed away on September 28, 2002 at the age of 76.
Robert W. Buntrock was born in Denver, Colorado in 1952, but his family relocated to Whittier, California when he was 3 years old. The Buntrocks' neighbors urged Bobby's mother to send his photograph to Hollywood agents, and when she finally did so he drew the attention of agent Marcella Ball, who signed him as a client. He had his television debut in a 1959 episode of Wagon Train alongside Bette Davis, and after an appearance on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1960, he had 3 more guest spots on Mister Ed, Bus Stop, and The Donna Reed Show in 1961 before being cast as Harold Baxter on Hazel that fall.
Unlike Don DeFore and Whitney Blake, Buntrock was retained by the show for its fifth and final season. During the series' 5-year run, he also appeared in guest spots on Burke's Law, The Farmer's Daughter, and The Virginian, on which he appeared two more times in 1967 before retiring from acting. He reportedly served in the National Guard in Rapid City, South Dakota before dying in a fatal car crash on a damaged bridge in Keystone, South Dakota on April 7, 1974. He was only 21 years old at the time.
Maude Merrie Doyle was born in Portland, Oregon in 1914. Though little has been published about her early years, she made her first appearance on film in an uncredited role in the 1938 feature Gold Mine in the Sky. It would be 3 years before her next uncredited appearance in Go West, Young Lady, but that same year, 1941, she married her first husband Charles Fillmore Prickett III, who co-founded and managed the Pasadena Playhouse. Prickett continued to get small, uncredited roles until finally landing her first two credited parts in a pair of 1947 features Time Out of Mind and Messenger of Peace. But after that it was a return to the small, uncredited roles for the next several years, though she made her television debut in a 1949 episode of Jackson and Jill. By 1952 her TV work began to pick up, appearing in episodes of Hopalong Cassidy, The Doctor, and The Adventures of Superman. Her husband passed away in 1954, the same year she first appeared as Jack Benny's secretary Miss Gordon on The Jack Benny Program, but her work in television and films remained prolific and steady until she finally landed her first recurring role as Cassie Murphy on Date With the Angels, which starred Betty White. Though her feature film work declined in volume, given her heavy TV workload, she still appeared in such notable films as North by Northwest and The Absent-Minded Professor. In 1961 she was cast as Hazel's fellow maid Rosie, a role she would appear in 36 times over the course of the series. That same year she began appearing more regularly as Miss Gordon on The Jack Benny Program. She also remarried in 1961 to physician Eakle W. Cartwright, but he died the following year.
After Hazel's cancelation, Prickett remained busy, appearing 4 times as Edna Larch on The Andy Griffith Show, then playing Myrtle on its follow-on series Mayberry R.F.D.. She also appeared 5 times on Bewitched, 3 times on Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., played Maxwell Smart's Aunt Bertha on Get Smart, and appeared in the films The Gnome-Mobile, Sweet Charity, and The Maltese Bippy. She married a third time in 1966 to Cyril Bernard Cooper, who served as the Mayor of Pasadena from 1968-70. Prickett's last acting credits came in 1974 on shows such as Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, Marcus Welby, M.D., and McMillan and Wife. Two years later she died from uremic poisoning at the age of 61 on April 14, 1976.
Born Pearl Walker in Manchester, UK, Leonard started in the entertainment field as a cabaret singer with pianist Edward Cooper in late 1920s London. She and Cooper starred in Charles B. Cochran's 1931 Revue, which featured music, lyrics, and sketches by Noel Coward. In 1933 she was chosen by Andre Charlot for his revue How Do You Do?, which he then took to Paris for radio performance. She would become a regular performer in Charlot's future revues as well as his regular radio program, and she appeared in Cole Porter's musical comedy Nymph Errant. Her film career began with an appearance in the 1931 short Who Killed Doc Robin? and by 1937 she had regular feature film work in addition to television work on BBC-TV. She moved to Hollywood in 1939, though she would return to native England regularly during the rest of her life, and made her first American film appearance in the 1941 feature Ladies in Retirement with Ida Lupino and Elsa Lanchester. Her work in Hollywood remained steady and frequent thereafter. Amongst the highlights were The Lodger, the Agatha Christie mystery And Then There Were None, Life With Father, and Lorna Doone. Her American TV debut came in a 1949 episode of The Life of Riley, but perhaps more significant was her first Disney voicework in Alice in Wonderland in 1951, in which she voiced a sassy flower. In the 1950s she began getting a bit more television work in addition to her continuing feature film work, usually playing minor characters such as maids and housekeepers. In 1961 she provided the voice of Princess in the animated Disney feature 101 Dalmatians, the same year she began her stint as Hazel's fellow maid Mert, which she would play 9 times between 1961-65. Toward the end of the show's run, in 1964, she would appear, uncredited, as a bank customer in Mary Poppins and as a cockney bystander in My Fair Lady.
But by the time her work on Hazel concluded, Leonard was 60 years old and made only a few more appearances on film--one episode each of Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie and a couple more uncredited feature film roles in Doctor Doolittle and Star! By this point she had divorced her second husband, the actor Tom Conway, and she spent her later years living alone but traveling to England annually. During her 1995 trip she placed her handprints and signature on the honorary wall at Covent Garden's Theatre Museum. She died from natural causes on January 17, 2002 at the age of 96.
Born in London the daughter of a retired sea captain, Norma Varden Shackleton was a child prodigy on the piano, studying in Paris, before she decided to take up acting and attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Unusually tall for her age, she was cast as Mrs. Darling in her debut performance in Peter Pan despite being younger than the actors who played her children. Her first appearance in the West End theatre district was in a 1920 production of The Wandering Jew, and she eventually become ensconced as a comic foil in farces at the Aldrych Theatre from 1929-33. When the Aldrych farces moved to feature films, Varden came along as well, getting her first credited part in the 1933 comedy Turkey Time. She found steady work in British film throughout the duration of the 1930s, usually in farcical comedies but also getting an occasional dramatic role, such as in The Iron Duke. She and her mother visited California some time around 1940 and decided to move there permanently. Her first Hollywood role came in the 1940 feature The Earl of Chicago, and as in England she was soon in great demand for minor character parts, appearing in scores of films, most notably The Major and the Minor, National Velvet, Forever Amber, Strangers on a Train, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She got her start in television on a 1952 episode of Mr. and Mrs. North and played the Ricardos' neighbor in a 1953 episode of I Love Lucy. By the late 1950s she was finding more work on TV than in feature films, though she had a significant role in Witness for the Prosecution in 1957. Her role as the Baxters' clueless neighbor Harriet Johnson on Hazel was her only recurring TV role, in which she appeared 13 times from 1961-64.
After her stint on Hazel was finished, she played housekeeper Frau Schmidt in The Sound of Music and Lady Fetherington in Doctor Doolittle in addition to occasional TV work on programs such as Batman, Bewitched, and The Beverly Hillbillies. Her mother passed away in 1969, and Varden, who was 71 herself at the time, retired from acting, though she remained active by lobbying the Screen Actors Guild for better medical benefits for older actors. Twenty years after her last credit, Varden passed away from heart failure on January 19, 1989 at the age of 90.
Howard Irving Smith was born in Attleboro, MA and originally hoped for a career as an opera singer but was advised during his military service in World War I by none other than Enrico Caruso to pursue a career in vaudeville, which he did until 1928. During this period he made his feature film debut in the 1918 silent melodrama Young America. With vaudeville's popularity waning in the late 1920s, Smith moved into radio, beginning with The Collier Hour and later appeared on Crime Doctor, The March of Time, Cavalcade of America, The Adventures of Ellery Queen, and The Aldrich Family, on which he played the father of Henry's friend Homer Brown, a role he carried over to the television adaptation in 1949. In the 1930s he became a member of Orson Welles' acting company, appearing on the radio programs The Mercury Theatre on the Air and The Campbell Playhouse as well as Welles' famous 1938 The War of the Worlds broadcast and in the once-lost 1938 silent comedy Too Much Johnson which was intended to be integrated into a live theater performance. Smith's feature film career began in earnest with the 1946 noir drama Her Kind of Man, followed by Kiss of Death, Call Northside 777, The Street With No Name, and Cry Murder. On Broadway, he created the role of Charley in the original production of Death of a Salesman, a role he also played in the 1951 feature film version. At this time he also began getting work in supporting roles on television, including series such as The Web, Treasury Men in Action, Lights Out, and Studio One in Hollywood. In the late 1950s he had supporting roles in the features A Face in the Crowd, Don't Go Near the Water, and No Time for Sergeants, allowing him to show his flair for comedy. While he continued to land dramatic roles in features such as Murder, Inc. and TV programs like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone in 1960, his first recurring role was playing Horace Gibney on the single-season sit-com Peter Loves Mary. This was followed by his being cast as George Baxter's gruff client Harvey Griffin during the first season of Hazel, a role he would play a total of 27 times during the first 4 seasons.
After his stint on Hazel, Smith would have only a few more guest appearances on The John Forsythe Show, Green Acres, and Bewitched before succumbing to a heart attack on January 10, 1968 at the age of 74.
Born in Spokane, Washington, Lewis reportedly first moved to Chicago and appeared on The First Nighter Program before relocating to Los Angeles where she was a singer on bandleader Kay Kyser's radio program. She also began acting in productions at the Pasadena Playhouse before being signed to a movie contract by MGM in 1940. Her roles in the early 1940s were often uncredited and sometimes unseen, providing the voice for Froggie's mother in Our Gang films. In 1943 she met and married radio actor/writer/director Elliott Lewis and together they created and appeared on the radio series On Stage and Suspense. In 1947 she was cast as the sensible best friend Jane Stacy of scatterbrained Irma Peterson on the radio comedy My Friend Irma and continued the role when the program was adapted to television in 1952. After 15 years of marriage, she and Elliott Lewis divorced in 1958, but she found another starring TV role the next year playing the lead in the adaptation of the radio comedy Fibber McGee & Molly, which lasted only a single season. This freed her to accept the role of George Baxter's snooty sister Deirdre Thompson on Hazel, a role she would play 17 times during the course of the series.
Like Howard Smith, she would have only a few more TV credits after Hazel's demise, appearing on F Troop, Occasional Wife, and The Medicine Men before she died from breast cancer on November 20, 1968 at the age of 51.
Notable Guest Stars
Season 1, Episode 1, "Hazel and the Playground": Francis de Sales (Lt. Bill Weigand on Mr. & Mrs. North, Ralph Dobson on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Sheriff Maddox on Two Faces West, and Rusty Lincoln on Days of Our Lives) plays parks official Osborn Bailey. Hal Smith (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1961 post on The Andy Griffith Show) plays a bowling contest TV announcer. Lurene Tuttle (appeared in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Ma Barker's Killer Brood, Psycho, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, and The Fortune Cookie and played Doris Dunston on Father of the Bride and Hannah Yarby on Julia) plays the wife of George's client Mrs. Pruett.
Season 1, Episode 2, "Hazel Makes a Will": Wright King (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Wanted: Dead or Alive) plays Hazel's nephew Leroy.
Season 1, Episode 3, "Hazel Plays Nurse": Norman Leavitt (Ralph on Trackdown) plays bus driver Joe.
Season 1, Episode 4, "A Matter of Principle": Vinton Hayworth (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1961 post on Lawman) plays George's client Mr. Sutherland. Laurence Haddon (Mr. Brady on Dennis the Menace, Ed McCullough on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, the foreign editor on Lou Grant, Dr. Mitch Ackerman on Knots Landing, Franklin Horner on Dallas, and Charles Williams on The Bold and the Beautiful) plays the city prosecutor. John Lasell (Dr. Peter Guthrie on Dark Shadows) plays Police Officer Dietrich.
Season 1, Episode 5, "Dorothy's New Client": Mary Jackson (shown on the left, played Emily Baldwin on The Waltons, Sarah Wicks on Hardcastle and McCormick, and Great Grandma Greenwell on Parenthood) plays new neighbor Flora Duncan. Alice Backes (Vickie on Bachelor Father) plays her maid Della. Joan Banks (Sylvia Platt on Private Secretary and Helen Hadley on National Velvet) plays rival interior decorator Francesca Edwards.
Season 1, Episode 6, "What'll We Watch Tonight?": Walter Kinsella (Happy McMann on Martin Kane) plays TV salesman Thornton. John Graham (Walter Edison Days of Our Lives) plays neighbor Jerry Burns.
Season 1, Episode 8, "George's Niece": Davey Davison (shown on the right, played Virginia Lewis on Days of Our Lives and Nurse Esther on General Hospital) plays George's niece Nancy Thompson. Johnny Washbrook (Ken McLaughlin on My Friend Flicka) plays Hazel's nephew Eddy Burke. Larry J. Blake (the unnamed jailer on Yancy Derringer and Tom Parnell on Saints and Sinners) plays garage mechanic Tom Forbes.
Season 1, Episode 9, "Everybody's Thankful But Us Turkeys": Harriet E. MacGibbon (shown on the left, played Margaret Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays George's mother Mrs. Baxter. Beverly Tyler (starred in The Fireball, The Cimarron Kid, and Voodoo Island) plays George's sister Phyllis Burkett. Charles Cooper (starred in The Wrong Man and played the sheriff on Father Murphy and Judge Robert Boucher on The Practice) plays her husband Bob.
Season 1, Episode 10, "Winter Wonderland": Bill Zuckert (Arthur Bradwell on Mr. Novak and Chief Segal on Captain Nice) plays dog-sled racer Johnny Manson. Florence Sundstrom (Belle Dudley on The Life of Riley) plays ski resort waitress Minna. Sally Mansfield (Vena Ray on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger) plays ski instructor Pat Bergstrom.
Season 1, Episode 11, "Hazel's Winning Personality": George Mitchell (Cal Bristol on Stoney Burke) plays gardener Zeke. Dee J. Thompson (Agnes on Grindl) plays Hazel's friend Laura.
Season 1, Episode 12, "Hazel's Christmas Shopping": Dan Tobin (Terrance Clay on Perry Mason) plays department store floorwalker Mr. Brubaker. Byron Foulger (Mr. Nash on Captain Nice and Wendell Gibbs on Petticoat Junction) plays shoplifter Larry. Eleanor Audley (shown on the right, played Mother Eunice Douglas on Green Acres and Mrs. Vincent on My Three Sons) plays a glove counter customer.
Season 1, Episode 13, "Dorothy's Obsession": Frances Helm (appeared in The Story of Mr. Hobbs, A Little Sex, and Electric Moon and played Nancy Pollock Karr on The Edge of Night) plays Dorothy's client Peggy Baldwin. Lauren Gilbert (Harry Lane on The Edge of Night and later played Harry Noll on Hazel) plays her husband Phil. Roy Wright (Callahan on The Islanders) plays mover Pete. Donnelly Rhodes (appeared in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and played Dutch Leitner on Soap, Charlie on Report to Murphy, Art Foster on Double Trouble, Dr. Grant Roberts on Danger Bay, Harry Abramowitz on The Heights, R.J. Williams on Street Legal, Det. Leo Shannon on Da Vinci's Inquest, and Dr. Sherman Cottle on Battlestar Gallactica) plays mover Joe.