Monday, January 13, 2014

The Art of Being Mr. B

Aside from Gale Gordon's Mr. Mooney (The Lucy Show), he may be classic TV's most frustrated boss. But Don DeFore (1913-1993) told a reporter in 1965 that he loved playing beleaguered George Baxter (a/k/a "Mr. B") on Hazel.

"I'd like to write a book about what Hazel has done for me," DeFore said. "For the first time the show gave me comedy with a follow through. She's perfect for me because I'm always on the hook of exasperation, and that's the kind of comedy I like." It also gave him a chance to work closely with one of America's finest actresses, Tony and Oscar winner Shirley Booth. DeFore admired the versatility she brought to her sitcom role: "I keep wondering how we can play another scene in that dining room that's different and every time she comes up with something new."

After a lengthy and successful film career, DeFore was used to public recognition, but Hazel took it to a new level. "It's such a different public. You meet strangers and because you come into their homes, they act as if they know you personally. I'm Mr. B, not Don DeFore, and it's a nice, warm feeling."

Although he didn't know it at the time of the interview, DeFore's work as Mr. B was near its end. After the show's fourth season, NBC canceled Hazel. Trying to spruce up the show to sell it to another network, Screen Gems executives introduced a new family for Hazel to serve, meaning that DeFore and co-star Whitney Blake (Dorothy) lost their jobs. The show did win a fifth season, moving to CBS, but many fans still prefer the original cast.

You can read more about this classic sitcom in my book Shirley Booth: A Biography and Career Record, which includes a detailed episode guide. If you appreciate DeFore's work in film and television, you might also visit his fan club page on Facebook.


  1. The love you have for your subject is so evident. This is wonderful. I also have your book and it, like this post, is tremendously well written and very informative. I applaud you for your excellent work.

  2. Thank you, Judy! I'm happy that readers join me in remembering these classic shows and performers.