Q: I have been watching reruns of "Hazel." What a great show — but I don't remember hearing much about it. Was it popular? I know Whitney Blake was the real-life mother of Meredith Baxter, but what can you tell me about Shirley Booth and Don DeFore?
A: "Hazel" was popular for the first part of its 1961-66 run, first on NBC and then on CBS for a final season. Based on the print cartoons by Ted Key, it starred Booth as the bossy maid Hazel in the household of the Baxter family, with adults played by Blake and DeFore (who were replaced for the CBS season).
Booth had been a success in theater, radio and a handful of movies. She won a best actress Oscar for her work in "Come Back, Little Sheba," and had won a Tony for the same role on Broadway. She won two Emmys for her work on "Hazel" and was later nominated for her lead role in a TV production of "The Glass Menagerie." In the '70s she had another TV series, "A Touch of Grace," but it did not last long. She was 94 when she died in 1992.
DeFore had a steady if unspectacular career in movies and later in TV; he had played Ozzie Nelson's friend Thorny on TV's "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" for several years before "Hazel," but most of his TV work was in guest-starring roles. When he died in 1993 at the age of 80, the New York Times called "Hazel's" Baxter "his most popular role."
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