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Old 01-01-2003, 11:13 PM   #1
jon123
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Default Why did Don De Fore and Whitney Blake leave the show?

Does anyone know why Don DeFore and Whitney Blake left the show? Was it over money? Apparently NBC cancelled it when they left and it seems strange that CBS would pick it up with Hazel and Harold now living with Mr. B's never before mentioned brother and his family.
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Old 01-03-2003, 11:11 AM   #2
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Don DeFore and Whitney Blake didn't quit -- they were dropped from the show to save money (as you guessed). It wasn't uncommon for successful shows to drop cast members back in the 50s and 60s in order to cut the budget (for example, "Mr. Ed", "The Lucy Show", "77 Sunset Strip"). Don DeFore was interviewed for the book "Written Out of Television" and stated that he got a letter from the studio telling him his option was not picked up for the fifth year.

Hazel's ratings were on the decline at that point, and CBS probably didn't object to any efforts to freshen up the show. With the network switch, the producers decided to use that opportunity to revamp the show and save money. They ended up ruining it, though.
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Old 01-04-2003, 06:54 PM   #3
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Default From the Actress' Mouth

Both of you are in the ballpark as to why the format was revised on Hazel and essentially correct. I can provide some more detail for you.

For several years now, Lynn Borden, who played Barbara Baxter in the revised-format 1965-6 season, has been a friend of mine (long story--a couple of years of exchanged letters and another year of exchanged telephone calls, before finally getting together several times, whenever I was on the West Coast).

During our second conversation, I finally asked her why Hazel changed formats, allowing her to step into the regular rôle of Barbara Baxter (which was the first rôle in which I ever saw her).

As she explained: at the end of the 1964-5 season, NBC had cancelled the show--thus, Don DeFore's comment about his option not being picked up--and all of the actors were left at ends to find other work. When CBS expressed interest in picking up the show, Shirley Booth agreed to provide the financial backing herself to put the show back into production By the time the deal with CBS was finalised, former regular cast members DeFore and Whitney Blake had moved on to other commitments. (Left unsaid by Lynn, but budget considerations was probably also a factor--as TV Guy pointed out--the salaries for new actors as the new Baxter family were undoubtly lower than those for DeFore and Miss Blake would have been.)

A thematic change also instituted by Miss Booth was that her realtionship with Steve Baxter would be less adversarial than that with George Baxter.

Contrary to some misconceptions, Hazel was not cancelled by CBS at the end of that 1965-6 season. The show's ratings were acceptable. However, Miss Booth was slowly succumbing to illness. She required a nurse present on the set; and if one will notice, by the middle of that last season, more scenes are devoted to semi-regulars Ann Jillian and Mala Powers and their characters' interactions with the Baxter family, thus reducing the amount of screen time for Miss Booth. At the conclusion of the season, Miss Booth was unable to continue and folded the show.

Incidentally, Lynn Borden is one of the sweetest, warmest people I have ever known, in or out of Hollywood. I don't know many women who would stop directing of the renovation of her home, leaving it a virtual disaster area--as she did, just to spend the afternoon with me when I made a spur-of-the-moment trip to Los Angeles. She's a class act!


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Old 01-06-2003, 12:41 AM   #4
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I'm not familar w/ the later Hazels.
If they kept Harold how did they explain the absence of his parents?
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Old 01-06-2003, 01:47 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by ricardo/mertz

If they kept Harold how did they explain the absence of his parents?


As established in the first episode of the new format (the 1965-6 season), George Baxter accepted a job in the Middle East and his wife, Dorothy, accompanied him. However, they sent Harold to live with George's younger brother, Steve, and his wife so that the boy would not be uprooted from his school.

The first scene with Ray Fulmer as Steve Baxter showed him confidently predicting that Hazel would not upend his life the way she had his brother George's.


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Old 01-06-2003, 10:28 PM   #6
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Thanks so much Commander!
I will be missing Hazel. She's out of the daily tv land lineup for me.
So sad but, I did get Donna Reed back. I guess you can't have everything!
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Old 01-06-2003, 11:16 PM   #7
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Thank you Commander!

Just one comment-why couldn't they have had a transition episode where George & Dorothy left or at least have them return for guest appearances (or have Hazel and the new Baxters visit them in Saudi Arabia!). This was done so many times in shows from the 60's where important characters left (also Mike and Sally from My Three Sons) and the actors never even returned for a guest appearance. The only reason I could think of not returning would be perhaps bad blood or sour grapes over no longer being a regular.

I am glad to hear that Lynn Borden is such a nice person and is doing well. I just puchased a VHS of the horror movie "Frogs" from 1972 that she was in - playing a much different type of role and she was great!
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Old 01-08-2003, 09:29 PM   #8
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Default Re: From the Actress' Mouth

Quote:
Originally posted by Commander Benson

As she explained: at the end of the 1964-5 season, NBC had cancelled the show--thus, Don DeFore's comment about his option not being picked up--and all of the actors were left at ends to find other work. When CBS expressed interest in picking up the show, Shirley Booth agreed to provide the financial backing herself to put the show back into production By the time the deal with CBS was finalised, former regular cast members DeFore and Whitney Blake had moved on to other commitments.

Don DeFore gave a slightly different version of events in his "Written Out of Television" interview . He said that he received a call from his attorney telling him his option was not being picked up after the move to CBS was announced. After he was told that the show did not want him back, he decided to go to New York to find other work. If Lynn Borden was told that DeFore and Blake had left voluntarily to do other things, it sounds like studio spin (check out IMDB -- DeFore and Blake have no credits for several years after they were dropped from the show). The "left to pursue other opportunities" reason is used all the time when someone is let go, and in this case, it was probably used because it sounded better than "We dropped Don and Whitney because we're trying to cut the budget, and you and Ray Fulmer are cheaper".
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Old 01-31-2003, 09:01 PM   #9
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Commander benson, are you related to the folks in the first episode of Hazel where Hazel kicks a football in your chimney? Wasn't the elderly couple named Benson.
Getting back to the last season,I general thought it wasn;t much. The actors did fine but it wasn't the same. I do get a kick out seeing young Ann Jillian.
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Old 01-31-2003, 09:15 PM   #10
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After reading other posts I am wrong commander. the couple next door were the Johnsons. I guess I'm thinking of the character in I love Lucy where Lucy moves into a bigger apt and she talks with a crying Mrs benson. I think the actress is the same who played mrs j and mrs b.
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Old 08-31-2003, 09:56 PM   #11
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Default Norma Varden

That actress was Norma Varden, she appeared in a lot of 50s and 60s shows. I think she was in the Sound of Music movie as well.
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Old 04-05-2006, 08:47 PM   #12
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Default Shirley Booth had a five-year contract...

...to appear as "HAZEL". But, as previously mentioned, her health was in somewhat of a decline, and she decided to not renew it after the fifth (and final) season wrapped up production. It was just as well.
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Old 06-18-2006, 10:36 PM   #13
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something tells me commander benson is not married!!
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Old 06-18-2006, 11:20 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eddie146
something tells me commander benson is not married!!
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Old 09-28-2008, 07:57 PM   #15
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Well, you all are somewhat in the ballpark as to why my Dad did not continue with the Hazel series. Real answer: he was holding out for more money because he believed that his value was greater than his compensation. Let history be the judge...and when I have time I'll tell you why my Dad had his hand bandaged in several episodes. Hint: It wasn't the dog that bit him :-)
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