Already have an account?
Get back to the
Entertainment

See Where the Cast of ‘Hazel’ Went After the Sitcom Ended

Catch up with an Oscar winner, and a TV mom who created great TV moms on-screen and off

Tags:

Before Alice (The Brady Bunch) and Florence (The Jeffersons) and Tony (Who’s the Boss?) kept their TV families in clean laundry, yummy dinners and, most importantly, copious amounts of save-the-day advice, there was Hazel.

Played to Emmy-winning perfection by Shirley Booth, Hazel was a smart, friendly, woman of all trades who made sure the household and the lives of the Baxter family ran smoothly. Booth starred in the cast of Hazel from 1961 to 1966 in the NBC and CBS sitcom.

Whether she was impressing lawyer dad George’s snooty clients with her delicious home cooking, helping interior designer mom Dorothy drum up new business, or convincing the community to build a new playground for kids like her beloved charge, Baxter son Harold,

Hazel was always at the ready to make life the best it could be for the Baxters (who, given this was a 1960s family sitcom, wasn’t too tough a life, to be fair). Still, Hazel was the best, an endearing woman with a big heart and the best of intentions for those around her (and the will to make sure everyone understood she was always the one really running the Baxter household).

MUST-READ: The 1960s: Your Guide to 60 Classic (and Not So Classic) TV Sitcoms and Where to Stream Them

Man and woman smiling at each other
Shirley Booth and E.G. Marshall with Emmy Awards (1962) Bettmann / Contributor / Getty

The show was a ratings hit, and an Emmy nominee, for its first season, and immediately a fan favorite. But that began to slip as the seasons wore on, and a tumble out of the top 10, and eventually out of the top 30, led to Hazel getting canceled and moving to a new network, and then losing two of its stars and permanent cancelation after season five. 

But it was a delightful run, and still worthy of a sweet look back at midcentury TV comedy. And below, we look back at the then and now of the show’s interesting cast, including all-star Booth and a co-star who was the mom of one of TV’s all-time favorite TV moms …

Shirley Booth as Hazel: Cast of Hazel

Shirley Booth
1953/1965 Bettmann / Contributor / Getty // Camerique / Contributor / Getty

If the Grammy Awards had been around for more of Booth’s career, she almost certainly would have been an EGOT winner (the Grammys were not awarded until 1959, when Booth was past the most musical years as a performer).

But she certainly did take home her share of Hollywood accolades, winning three Tony Awards, an Oscar, and for her work as the titular housekeeper, two Emmys. Among her pre-Hazel highlights, she won Tonys for Goodbye, My FancyCome Back, Little Sheba, and The Time of the Cuckoo, and had made her Broadway debut with co-star Humphrey Bogart in the 1925 production of Hell’s Bells.

She also starred in the Broadway adaptation of the novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and her performance as Aunt Sissy was so beloved that her character was made the focus of the musical.

Meanwhile, she also starred in another adaptation—the film version of her own hit stage production of Come Back, Little Sheba—in which Burt Lancaster played her husband, and Booth won a Best Actress Oscar and Golden Globe.

Booth was also a star in several radio dramas, and a gave critically performances in the movies About Mrs. LeslieHot Spell, and The Matchmaker, and then turned her attention to television, and the starring role as Hazel Burke.

MUST-READ: Donna Reed: 16 Revealing Facts About the Sitcom and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Star

Hazel, based on the comic character of the same name by Ted Key and featured in The Saturday Evening Post, was the live-in housekeeper of the Baxter family: attorney dad George; interior decorator mom Dorothy; son Harold; and dog Smiley.

cast of hazel
Cast of “Hazel” (1965)Bettmann / Contributor / Getty

Down to earth Hazel is warm, friendly, and completely devoted to the care of the Baxters and their home, a wonderful cook and caretaker, but what some might call a know it all. George certainly thought she was, but the thing was, she usually did know it all!

Hazel could fix any issue, solve any problem, make any situation better, all in a sitcom-friendly half hour (minus commercials, of course). She made her final Broadway appearance in a 1970 revival of the Noel 

 After the final season of Hazel, Booth combined her love of performing on the stage and TV with multiple episode of CBS Playhouse, earning an Emmy nomination for her performance in The Glass Menagerie. She made her final Broadway appearance in a 1970 revival of the Noël Coward comedy Hay Fever, and her final TV role was voicing Mrs. Claus in the 1974 made-for-TV Rankin/Bass stop motion animated classic The Year Without a Santa Claus, with the Heat Miser and Snow Miser and Mickey Rooney voicing Santa.

Booth, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was inducted in the American Theater Hall of Fame, died in 1992 at the age of 94 at her home Massachusetts.

Don DeFore as George Baxter

Don DeFore
1940/1990 John Springer Collection / Contributor / Getty // Vinnie Zuffante / Stringer / Getty

Before he was the big papa on Hazel, Don DeFore was best known for playing Thorny, the Nelsons’ neighbor on the classic ABC comedy The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, for which he was nominated in 1955 for a supporting actor Emmy.

Coincidentally, DeFore was also the president, at the time, of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, i.e. the Emmy organization. DeFore was largely responsible for the first Emmys ceremony to be broadcast on national television, in 1955. He was also on the board of the Screen Actors Guild. Then came Hazel, the role for which he became best known.

DeFore, who had studied to be an attorney before turning his attention to acting, actually took over the role after the Hazel pilot, in which a character named Edward Andrews played George. When NBC greenlit the show to series, DeFore took over, playing the foil to Booth’s ever charming housekeeper. George was a big shot at work, but he rarely won a war of wills with Hazel, who affectionately referred to him as Mr. B. The two actors had infectious chemistry, as did DeFore and TV wife Whitney Blake.

MUST-READ: 1950s TV Sitcoms: 40 Classic (and Not So Classic) Shows, and Where to Stream Them!

Cast of Hazel
Cast of “Hazel” (1961) Bettmann / Contributor / Getty

After his time in the cast of Hazel ended after the show’s fourth season, DeFore, who had also worked in radio and movies, became a frequent TV guest star, including in episodes of My Three SonsMod SquadMannixThe Love BoatVega$Matt HoustonMurder, She Wrote, and St. Elsewhere. DeFore’s last movie was the 1984 drama Rare Breed, which was directed by David Nelson, DeFore’s fellow Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet star as the titular star’s son.

DeFore, who also once owned a restaurant—Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo Barbecue—inside Frontierland at Disneyland, was married to his wife, singer Marion Holmes, for 51 years (Judy Garland was the matron of honor at their wedding), and had five children. One of DeFore’s sons, Ron, wrote a book, Growing Up in Disneyland, that was part autobiography and part biography of his father, who died in 1993 in Santa Monica at age 80.

Whitney Blake as Dorothy Baxter: Cast of Hazel

Whitney Blake: Cast of Hazel
1966 Moviestillsdb.com/ScreenGems

Whitney Blake, whose father was a Secret Service agent who guarded President Woodrow Wilson and his family, guest starred in the first episode of the 1957 Perry Mason series, playing a waitress Perry Mason (Raymond Burr) defended against charges she has murdered a con man. She followed that with a line-up of more TV guest roles on MaverickRawhideGunsmoke, and Bonanza, which led to her role in the cast of Hazel.

Her Dorothy was much more in tune with Hazel, not only because she respected Hazel’s common sense point of view on things, but also because she had a deep affection for Hazel, who had been the housekeeper for Dorothy’s family after Dorothy’s mom died when she was 14. Hazel referred to Dorothy as “Missy.”

MUST-READ: ‘Family Ties’ Cast Then and Now — You Won’t Believe How Much They’ve Changed!

Blake, whose real-life first husband was also named Baxter (Tom Baxter), saw on-screen roles winding down after she and DeFore were let go of Hazel when NBC canceled the series after its fourth season, and CBS picked it up for a fifth and final season. She returned to TV guest appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E.BatmanThe Andy Griffith ShowLove, American StyleCannonMedical Story, and Ironside.

But Blake, who had married third husband Allan Manings in 1968, together with Manings and Norman Lear, created and wrote the CBS sitcom One Day at a Day. Blake had used her experience as a single mom as inspiration for stories on One Day at a Time.

Blake was also a single parent to two sons and a daughter, Meredith, who went on to become Emmy-nominated Meredith Baxter. She played mom Elyse on the classic NBC comedy Family Ties, which also launched the career of Michael J. Fox. Guest star Whitney and Meredith worked together on an episode of the 1976-1980 ABC family drama Family, which was the breakout project for both Meredith and Kristy McNichol.

MUST-READ: Meredith Baxter of ‘Family Ties’ Took the Long Road, But Came Out on Top

Blake died in 2002, at age 76, at her home in Massachusetts.

Ray Fulmer as Steve Baxter

Man and woman
Lynn Borden and Ray Fulmer (1961) IMDB

Ray Fulmer had done mostly stage work and the occasional TV guest role after he got out of the Army, and moved to New York City when he developed an interest in acting. He was working in a play with Bing Crosby’s wife, Kathryn Grant, when Bing saw him perform and encouraged him to move to Hollywood. He landed the role on Hazel shortly thereafter.  

Fulmer joined the series for its final season, when its new network, CBS, fired Don DeFore and Whitney Blake, and revamped the storyline by sending George and Dorothy off to work in the Middle East, leaving son Harold and Hazel behind and having them move in with Steve Baxter, George’s younger brother, Steve’s wife Barbara, and their daughter Susie. Harold was left behind so he didn’t interrupt his education, and Hazel was sent to Steve and Barbara’s house to provide them with the same care she had given to the older Baxter brother and his family.

Steve, a real estate agent, had a receptionist named Millie, who was played by then 23-year-old Ann Jillian, who would then go on to star in her own series, the ABC comedy It’s a Living, and earn Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for playing herself in The Ann Jillian Story, a TV movie about Jillian’s real-life experience with breast cancer.

As for Fulmer, Hazel’s ratings, which had seen the once top 10 series fall out of the top 30 for its fourth season, continued to drop, and at the end of his one season on the show, Fulmore had a recurring role in the NBC daytime soap opera Somerset, and a three-year role on the CBS soap opera Guiding Light, in which his wealthy widower, Lee Gentry, killed his wife, and then died himself when he fell out of an attic window during a fight. His final TV role was in a 1992 episode of The New WKRP in Cincinnati.

Fulmer died in 2013, at the age of 79, in Newport Beach, California.

Lynn Borden as Barbara Baxter: Cast of Hazel

Woman smiling: Cast of Hazel
Lynn Borden (1973) moviestillsdb.com/CBSProductions

Active in theater when she was a student at the University of Arizona, Lynn Borden was also Miss Arizona in 1957. Before landing the role of Barbara in 1965, Baxter had appeared on TV in General HospitalThe FugitiveThe New Phil Silvers ShowThe Carpetbaggers, and The Dick Van Dyke Show, and in the Elvis Presley movie Roustabout. Though the new Baxters failed to win over Hazel viewers, Borden clearly made an impression on casting agents, as she continued a prolific career after Hazel was canceled at the end of the fifth season.

Borden guested on TV series Family AffairStarsky and HutchCHiPsCSI: NY, and Heartland. Her movies include Bob & Carol & Ted & AliceFrogsWalking Tall, and the crime drama Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, co-starring Peter Fonda.

Borden, who was also a painter and singer, died in 2015, at age 77, in Encino, California.

Bobby Buntrock as Harold

Bobby Buntrock: Cast of Hazel
1960s Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty

Bobby Buntrock began his career at age seven, guest starring on an episode of TV Western Wagon Train, followed by appearances on Mister EdThe Donna Reed ShowBurke’s LawMany Happy Returns and The Farmer’s Daughter. He played young Harold Baxter for all five season of Hazel (and was usually the only child on set), with Hazel fondly referring to him as Sport.

After Hazel ended, Buntrock appeared on three episodes of the TV Western The Virginian, and then retired to enjoy the rest of his life outside Hollywood.

Tragically, he died in a car crash at age 21, in 1974, in South Dakota.

Julia Benjamin as Susie: Cast of Hazel

Benjamin was cast in the role of Susie Baxter when she was eight-years-old, spending just one season in her first TV role.

Benjamin has just five roles post-Hazel, but they’re stretched across almost 20 years: guest spots on My Three SonsThe Rockford Files, and Riptide, and roles in TV movies Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones and The Jordan Chance

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.