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Iowa History Daily: August 25 - Don DeFore

Iowa History Daily: On August 25, 1913, actor Don DeFore was born in Cedar Rapids. Best known for his roles on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” and the sitcom “Hazel,” the Cedar Rapids Washington and University of Iowa graduate shined in a variety of roles on Broadway, on television, and in film.

One of seven children born to local politician and railroad man Joseph Ervin DeFore and Sylvia DeFore (née Nezerka), Don grew up in the seat of Linn County. A part of the vibrant Czech community of Cedar Rapids, Don DeFore shined in basketball, baseball, and track while at CR Washington. Continuing his athletic career in college, DeFore also shined for the Hawkeyes before falling in love with acting later in his Iowa City experience.

Since Iowa didn’t offer acting, DeFore headed west to study at the Pasadena Community Playhouse. During his time in Pasadena, DeFore and several other students called “Where Do We Go From Here?” which Oscar Hammerstein II eventually took to Broadway. After a few years in New York building a successful Broadway resume, DeFore's first screen appearance was in a bit part in 1936's “Reunion”. By the early 1940s, he appeared regularly in films including The Male Animal (1942), A Guy Named Joe (1943), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), You Came Along (1945), Without Reservations (1946), It Happened on 5th 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.”

DeFore also worked in radio, 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.” His role earned him an Emmy nomination in 1955 for “Best Supporting Actor in a Regular Series.” From 1961 to 1965, DeFore was a co-star of the television series “Hazel” as 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.”

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. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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