Don DeFore

Donald John DeFore (August 25, 1913 – December 22, 1993) was an American actor. He is best known for his roles in the sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet from 1952 to 1957 and the sitcom Hazel from 1961 to 1965, the former of which earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination.

Don DeFore
DeFore in 1962
Donald John DeFore

(1913-08-25)August 25, 1913
DiedDecember 22, 1993(1993-12-22) (aged 80)
Resting placePierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary
EducationWashington High School
Alma materUniversity of Iowa
Years active1936–1987
Marion Holmes
(m. 1942; his death 1993)

Early life

DeFore was one of seven children born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Joseph Ervin, a railroad engineer who worked at the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company and was also a local politician, and Albina Sylvia DeFore (née Nezerka).[1] DeFore's mother, who occasionally directed plays at their local church, was of Czechoslovakian descent.[2][3] After graduating from Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, DeFore attended the University of Iowa.[4] He initially studied law while also playing basketball, track, and baseball before becoming interested in acting. Since acting was not a major study at the university, he left and enrolled at the Pasadena Community Playhouse, where he won a scholarship and stayed for three years.[5]



During this time, he and four fellow students wrote a play called Where Do We Go From Here? It was presented in a little theater in Hollywood with DeFore in the cast. As a young man, DeFore toured the country in stock companies for several years before making his Broadway debut in Where Do We Go From Here? in 1938, when Oscar Hammerstein II offered to take it to Broadway, and DeFore and five of the original cast members went along. The show ran for four weeks, and DeFore was soon recognized as a member of legitimate theater. He remained in New York and won a key role in The Male Animal, which ran for almost eight months on Broadway[6] and eight months on the road.

In Hollywood, DeFore's first screen appearance was in a bit part in 1936's Reunion. By the early 1940s, he was appearing regularly in films such as: The Male Animal (1942), A Guy Named Joe (1943), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), You Came Along (1945), Without Reservations (1946), It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947), Romance on the High Seas (1948), My Friend Irma (1949) and Jumping Jacks (1952). In 1946, exhibitors voted him the fourth-most promising "star of tomorrow".[7]

DeFore also worked in radio, performing on such programs as Suspense, Old Gold Comedy Theater, and Lux Radio Theatre, but he is best known for his work in television. Beginning in 1952, DeFore had a recurring role as the Nelsons' friendly neighbor, "Thorny", on the ABC sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,[8] earning a nomination in 1955 for a Best Supporting Actor in a Regular Series Primetime Emmy Award.[9] In time though, the role of Thorny was superseded by Lyle Talbot as Joe Randolph, and Mary Jane Croft as his wife Clara.

From 1954 to 1955, he served as president of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He was instrumental in arranging for the Emmy Awards to be broadcast on national television for the first time on March 7, 1955.[8] He also served on the board of the Screen Actors Guild.[10]

From 1961 to 1965, DeFore was a co-star of the television series Hazel as "Mr. B." (George Baxter), employer of the spirited, domineering housekeeper Hazel Burke, played by Shirley Booth and based on the cartoon character appearing in The Saturday Evening Post.[8] DeFore was not the original actor to portray George Baxter. In the pilot episode, the role was played by character actor Edward Andrews. DeFore took over the role when the series was green-lighted. The series ran on prime time until 1966 when it was canceled by NBC. DeFore and his co-star Whitney Blake were written out of the series when CBS picked up the series for its final season.[11]

In 1970 Defore appeared as Mayor Evans on the TV western “The Men From Shiloh” in the episode titled "Colonial Mackenzie Verses The West." In that role he played a murderer which was a major shift from the comedy roles he was better known for on sitcoms like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Hazel. Men From Shiloh was a rebranded name for The Virginian.

For his contribution to the television industry, Don DeFore has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6804 Hollywood Blvd.[12]


In 1965, DeFore and his daughter Penny wrote With All My Love, a book detailing Penny's experiences working in a Korean orphanage. DeFore later released his memoirs, Hollywood DeFore and After.[13]

Personal life

Marriage and children

DeFore married singer Marion Holmes (January 21, 1918 - November 17, 2011) on February 14, 1942. Judy Garland served as Holmes' matron of honor.[14] Holmes performed with the Henry Busse Orchestra from 1935 to 1939, and later with Art Kassel and his "Castles in the Air" from 1939 until their marriage.[15] They had five children: Penny, David, Dawn, Ron, and Autumn. They remained married until DeFore's death in 1993.[14]

Politics and other activities

DeFore and his family were longtime residents of the Mandeville Canyon section of Brentwood and attended the Village Church of Westwood Lutheran.[16] DeFore served as Brentwood's honorary Mayor and also served as a member of the advisory committee for the California Department of Rehabilitation.[17] DeFore was also a 33rd degree Freemason.[17]

From 1957 to 1962, DeFore and his family operated the Silver Banjo Barbecue, a restaurant located in Frontierland of Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California.[14] In July 1969, DeFore served as the American delegate at the Moscow International Film Festival.[2]

A long-time Republican, DeFore was a delegate at the 1980 Republican National Convention. His friend, former actor and 40th President of the United States Ronald Reagan, appointed him to the Presidential Advisory Council to the Peace Corps.[13]


On December 22, 1993, DeFore died of cardiac arrest at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.[13] He is interred at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.[18]

Partial filmography

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1955 7th Primetime Emmy Awards Best Supporting Actor in a Regular Series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Nominated


  1. Motion Picture, Volumes 69-70. Macfadden-Bartell. 1945. p. 26.
  2. Thomas, Bob (August 22, 1969). "Actor Defore Relates Czechoslovakian Tale". Reading Eagle. p. 12.
  3. "Don DeFore Shatters Myth". Ocala Star-Banner. April 29, 1964. p. 28.
  4. "Don DeFore, Iowan In Hollywood, Still Has Corn-Fed Look". The News and Courier. October 6, 1946. p. 6-D.
  5. "Actor Don De Fore Devoted Family Man". The Montreal Gazette. November 28, 1962. p. 11.
  6. Don DeFore at the Internet Broadway Database
  7. "The Stars of To-morrow". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 10 September 1946. p. 11 Supplement: The Sydney Morning Herald Magazine. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  8. "Actor Don DeFore dies; he was Ozzie's neighbor". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. December 24, 1993. p. 3A.
  9. "Nominees/Winners". Television Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  10. "'Ozzie and Harriet,' 'Hazel' actor Don Defore dies at 80". The Volusian. December 24, 1993. p. 3C.
  11. Pack, Harvey (November 17, 1968). "'Hazel's' Former Lucky Returning as Sports Reporter". The Victoria Advocate. p. 8.
  12. "Hollywood Star Walk: Don DeFore". latimes.
  13. "Jovial actor Don DeFore dies at 80". The Victoria Advocate. December 24, 1993. p. 14A.
  14. Barnes, Mike (November 27, 2011). "Marion Holmes DeFore, who toured with big bands and recorded "I'm a Little Teapot", was 93".
  15. Walker, Leo (1978). The Big Band Almanac (Revised Edition, first paperback printing March 1989). New York: Da Capo Press, a subsidiary of Plenum Publishing Corporation. p. 225. ISBN 0-306-80345-3.
  16. "Movie Players Aid Fund Drive Kickoff". Toledo Blade. August 4, 1951. p. 5.
  17. Oliver, Myrna (December 24, 1993). "Actor Don DeFore Dies; Played Mr. B on 'Hazel'". latimes.
  18. Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 214. ISBN 0-786-40983-5.
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