When Hazel Was Young

Is That Really Hazel???

Once upon a time there were seven television channels to choose from in New York City. Before 1977 and the wide introduction of cable television every kid experienced the same TV shows and could talk about them with their peers.

Gilligan’s Island; I Dream of Jeannie; Mr. Ed; F-Troop; Green Acres; Bonanza, Star Trek, Family Affair; I Love Lucy; Batman; The Brady Bunch and so on. If it was being rebroadcast after school in syndication we saw it. That means kids also had little to choose from. Which means kids watched many bad TV shows. And that’s why I saw Hazel.

Hazel was one of the most annoying television series from the 1960s.

The star playing Hazel was Shirley Booth (1898-1992), a somewhat frumpy looking middle aged live-in maid; a know-it-all, who bosses around her employer Mr. B. (Baxter) played by Don DeFore.

Here is a 60 second clip (which is all I will subject you to.)

I would rather listen to nails being dragged across a chalkboard than listen to Shirley Booth’s voice. Hazel ran from 1961-1966 and then went into syndication where it played to screenglued children for about dozen years.

Obviously lots of  people liked the show or it wouldn’t have originally remained on network television for five seasons.

Before Hazel, Shirley Booth had carved out a respected  career as a talented stage actress, making her Broadway debut in 1925.

Shirley Booth won a Tony Award playing Lola Delaney in 1950 Come Back Little Sheba. Reprising the roe In Booth’s 1952 film debut, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

But if you asked anyone to conjure up an image of Shirley Booth it would most likely resemble Hazel.

Years ago I was reading a book about vaudeville, and I can’t remember which book it was. A 1920s star was interviewed and said when Shirley Booth started in the theatre she was desired by  a lot of men and stunning looking.

I looked online for photos 1920s Shirley Booth and came up with nothing. Then recently I found this photo taken around 1927. Well all I can say is “that’s Hazel?”

Shirley Booth circa 1927

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3 thoughts on “When Hazel Was Young

  1. John Suessmann

    I was one of those school kids glued to the screen. Always enjoyed it and still watch it from time to time on Antenna TV. Love your site, keep up the great work.

    Reply
  2. Kevin

    I remember when it originally aired. NBC must have thought a lot of it, because it was one of the few shows in color. When I found out that she had once been a respected dramatic actress, I felt kind of bad for her doing that goofy show. Then I realized she probably made more from “Hazel” than all her movies and Broadway shows combined, and with a lot less pressure. Kind of like Fred MacMurray on “My Three Sons”.

    Reply
  3. Clyde

    My mom, my brother, and I all enjoyed “Hazel” on television. Dad wasn’t a big television guy except for Gunsmoke — until it went to an hour long show — Wed. & Fri. Night Fights, and a couple others. I liked the Hazel cartoons in the Saturday Evening Post, so it was only natural to enjoy the show. I found Shirley Booth’s voice to be funny and friendly sounding, but her 1920s photo above to be very “Va-va-va-voom!” to quote Ed Norton

    Reply

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