Don Porter

Donald "Don" Porter (September 24, 1912 February 11, 1997) was an American actor who appeared in a number of films in the 1940s, including Top Sergeant and Eagle Squadron, but is perhaps best known for his television roles as Peter Sands, the boss of Ann Sothern's character on Private Secretary,[1]:857 and as Russell Lawrence, the widowed father of 15-year-old Frances "Gidget" Lawrence (Sally Field), in the 1965 ABC sitcom Gidget.[1]

Don Porter
Porter as Russell Lawrence on the 1965 sitcom Gidget
Donald Porter

(1912-09-24)September 24, 1912
DiedFebruary 11, 1997(1997-02-11) (aged 84)
Years active1939 1988
Peggy Converse (m. 1944)

Life and career

He was born in Miami, Oklahoma,[2][3] Porter's obituary in the Deseret News reported that his career in show business began in Portland, Oregon, after he served in World War II, but lists of his film credit indicate he began in Hollywood in 1939 and acted throughout the war years.[4]He appeared as a B26 pilot in a 1944 Army Air Forces training film, "How to Fly the B26 Airplane"as a savvy Captain, who teaches another pilot the tips and tricks of flying the Martin B26 Maurauder.

Besides his work in film and television, Porter was active on stage, as he acted in more than 200 plays.[4] His Broadway credits include The Front Page (1968), Plaza Suite (1967), and Any Wednesday (1963).[5]

He appeared in various films in the 1940s before landing the role of Peter Sands, the boss of Susan Camille MacNamara (Ann Sothern) on the 1950s sitcom Private Secretary. A retooled version of the series appeared later, titled The Ann Sothern Show. It featured many of the same actors, including Porter as hotel manager James Devery,[3] in the venue of a fashionable New York City hotel. He later guest starred on episodes of Green Acres, Love, American Style, The Mod Squad, Barnaby Jones, The Six Million Dollar Man, Hawaii Five-O, Three's Company (on which he played Jack Tripper's uncle), and Switch. Porter also had a lucrative stage career that included the long-running hit Any Wednesday (1964) opposite Sandy Dennis and Gene Hackman.

Porter also appeared in numerous films including The Turning Point (1952), Our Miss Brooks (1956), Gidget Goes to Rome (playing Russell Lawrence two years prior to repeating the role in the series), The Candidate (1972), and as Mr. Upson in the film adaptation of Mame (1974) with Lucille Ball and Bea Arthur. Porter made his last onscreen appearance in a 1988 episode of CBS Summer Playhouse.

Personal life and death

Porter was married to actress Peggy Converse with whom he had two children. He died at the age of 84 at his home in Beverly Hills, California on February 11, 1997.[6] He was survived by his wife, his daughter actress Melissa Converse, a son, two sisters, a brother, and two grandchildren.[7]



Year Title Role Notes
1939 Mystery of the White Room Dr. Donald Fox
1941 Sing for Your Supper Tim Uncredited
1942 Top Sergeant Al Bennett
1942 Eagle Squadron Ramsey
1942 Eyes of the Underworld Edward Jason
1942 Night Monster Dick Baldwin
1942 Who Done It? Art Fraser
1943 Madame Spy David Bannister
1943 Keep 'Em Slugging Jerry
1944 Resisting Enemy Interrogation Lieutenant Frank L. Williams, Jr. Uncredited
1946 She-Wolf of London Barry Lanfield Alternative title: The Curse of the Allenbys
1946 Cuban Pete Roberts Alternative title: Down Cuba Way
1946 Danger Woman Professor Claude Ruppert
1946 Wild Beauty Dr. Dave Morrow
1947 Buck Privates Come Home Captain Christie Alternative title: Rookies Come Home
1950 My Friend Irma Goes West Mr. Brent
1950 711 Ocean Drive Larry Mason
1950 Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone Myron Brynk
1951 The Racket R.G. Connolly
1952 Cripple Creek Denver Jones
1952 Because You're Mine Captain Burton Nordell Loring
1952 The Savage Running Dog Credited as Donald Porter
1952 The Turning Point Joe Silbray
1956 Our Miss Brooks Lawrence Nolan
1957 Desk Set Elevator operator Don Uncredited
Alternative title: His Other Woman
1961 Bachelor in Paradise Thomas W. Jynson
1963 Gidget Goes to Rome Russell Lawrence
1964 Youngblood Hawke Ferdie Lax
1968 Live a Little, Love a Little Mike Lansdown
1972 The Candidate Senator Crocker Jarmon
1973 40 Carats Mr. Latham
1974 The Morning After Rudy King
1974 Mame Claude Upson
1975 White Line Fever Cutler
1975 A Woman for All Men Barney
1979 Butterflies in Heat Commodore Phillips
1980 The Last Song Philip Brokhurst TV movie
1985 Joey Alternative title: Making Contact


Year Title Role Notes
1953–1957 Private Secretary Peter Sands 103 episodes
1959–1961 The Ann Sothern Show James Devery 45 episodes
1965–1966 Gidget Professor Russell Lawrence 32 episodes
1969 Judd, for the Defense Frank Vinton Episode: "Epitaph on a Computer Card"
1971 Green Acres Manager of Hotel Rexford, Carter Episode: "Hawaiian Honeymoon"
1972 Cade's County Martin Russell Episode: "Blackout"
1972 Banacek Arnold Leeland Episode: "A Million the Hard Way"
1972 The Rookies General Brooker Episode: "A Deadly Velocity"
1973 Hawaii Five-O Jonathan Cavel-IRS Investigator (The Star in the episode) Episode: "Murder is a Taxing Affair"
1973 The New Adventures of Perry Mason Otis Temple Episode: "The Case of the Deadly Deeds"
1973 Tenafly Miles Episode: "The Cash and Carry Caper"
1974 Here's Lucy Ken Richards Episode: "Meanwhile, Back At the Office"
1974 The Six Million Dollar Man Dr. Stanley Bacon Episode: "Population: Zero"
1974 Chase Miller Episode: "Out of Gas"
1974 The F.B.I. Mason Hammond Episode: "The Lost Man"
1974 Barnaby Jones Adam Montgomery Episode: "Web of Deceit"
1975 Ellery Queen Gregory Layton Episode: "The Adventure of Veronica's Veils"
1975 McMillan & Wife Adrian Danzinger Episode: "Secrets for Sale"
1976–1977 The Bionic Woman Dr. James Courtney 3 episodes
1977 Three's Company Uncle Fremont Episode: "Jack's Uncle"
1978 The Paper Chase Franklin Ford II Episode: "The Man Who Would Be King"
1978 Vega$ Senator William Mitchell Episode: "The Games Girls Play"
1978 Sword of Justice Judge Addams Episode: "Judgement Day"
1978 Love Boat Slade Summerhill Episode: “Gopher the Rebel”
1979 Turnabout Ed Episode: "Till Dad Do Us Part"
1980 Dallas Matt Devlin 4 episodes
1981 Fantasy Island Emmett Latham Episode: "Also Rans/Portrait of Solange"
1983 Hotel Jonathan Corry Episode: "Faith, Hope & Charity"
1986 Matlock Professor Erskine Tate Episode: "The Professor"

Awards and honors

Year Award Result Category Series
1974 Daytime Emmy Award Nominated Best Actor in Daytime Drama - For a Special Program The ABC Afternoon Playbreak


  1. Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 391. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  2. Vosburgh, Dick (March 5, 1997). "Obituary: Don Porter". The Independent. Retrieved September 11, 2009.
  3. Oliver, Myrna (February 20, 1997). "Don Porter; Actor Played TV Bosses and Gidget's Father". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 20 November 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  4. "Actor Don Porter Dies at 84 in L.A." Deseret News. February 20, 1997. Archived from the original on 20 November 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  5. "("Don Porter" search results)". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Archived from the original on 20 November 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  6. "Don Porter, 84, Actor In Sitcoms and Films". The New York Times. February 24, 1997. Retrieved September 11, 2009.
  7. Willis, John; Lynch, Tom (2000). Theatre World 1996-1997. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 259. ISBN 9781557833433. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
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