Donald Hood Keefer (August 18, 1916 – September 7, 2014) was an American actor known for his versatility in performing comedic, as well as highly dramatic, roles. In an acting career that spanned more than 50 years, he appeared in hundreds of stage, film, and television productions. He was a founding member of The Actors Studio, and he performed in both the original Broadway play and 1951 film versions of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. His longest-lasting roles on television were in 10 episodes each of Gunsmoke and Angel.
Donald Hood Keefer
August 18, 1916
Highspire, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||September 7, 2014 (aged 98)|
Sherman Oaks, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Catherine McLeod Keefer (1950–1997, her death)|
Early life and careerEdit
Born in Highspire, Pennsylvania in August 1916, Donald Keefer was the youngest of three sons of Edna (née Hood) and John E. Keefer, who worked as a butcher. When he was in his early 20s, "Don" moved to New York City, where he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, graduating from that prestigious acting school in 1939. That same year, at the New York World's Fair, he performed various roles on stage in excerpts of works by William Shakespeare. During the 1940s, Keefer found work as supporting characters in Broadway plays such as Junior Miss and Othello. He also began studying method acting in Manhattan as an early member of The Actors Studio. In this period, he gained some early experience and performed in the new medium of television. In 1947, Keefer appeared in a televised presentation of Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night and in an episode of the anthology series Kraft Television Theatre. The next year, he performed again on Kraft Theatre in an episode titled "The Silver Cord".
By 1949, Keefer was back on Broadway as a cast member in the acclaimed production of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman, directed by Elia Kazan. Keefer's exposure in that play led to his first movie role, reprising his performance as Bernard in the 1951 film version of Death of a Salesman. He soon appeared in other films, including The Girl in White (1952), The Caine Mutiny (1954), Six Bridges to Cross (1955), Away All Boats (1956), and Hellcats of the Navy (1957). Increasingly, however, Keefer in the 1950s began focusing on performing on the "small screen", accepting more roles in a wide variety of television series.
Later films and televisionEdit
Keefer appeared in dozens of television series, including other early anthologies: Fireside Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre, The Philco Television Playhouse, the United States Steel Hour, Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond, The DuPont Show with June Allyson, Gunsmoke, and Death Valley Days. In 1957, Keefer appeared as McNair in the episode "Ito of Attu" on ABC Navy Log. That same year, he appeared with David Janssen as the character Reagan in "Big Score" of the CBS series Richard Diamond, Private Detective. In 1958, he appeared as Ed Locke in the episode "Wild Green Yonder" of the syndicated crime drama State Trooper, starring Rod Cameron. In 1959, Keefer appeared as John Alastair in the episode "Death Is a Red Rose" of the Craig Stevens NBC crime drama Peter Gunn. Keefer performed in three episodes of CBS's anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents: in the role of Dr. Elkins in "The Indestructible Mr. Weems" (1957), as Pete Williams in "The Percentage" (1958), and as a tax clerk in "The Kiss-Off" (1961). He also had small roles in some feature films, including Woody Allen's Sleeper. In 1966, he played the character Irving Christiansen in the movie The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming.
In 1957, Don played husband to Catherine on an episode of Gunsmoke titled “Wrong Man”(S2E29), his character being a homesteader turned cowardly killer and abusive husband who she finally leaves.
At the time of Catherine's death (following his retirement in acting), the Keefers were living in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles County, California. The three Keefer sons are Donald McLeod, John H., and Thomas James. Don Keefer died at the age of 98 on September 7, 2014.
- Death of a Salesman (1951) - Bernard
- The Girl in White (1952) - Dr. Williams
- Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) - Reporter
- The Caine Mutiny (1954) - Court Stenographer - Yeoman 1st Class (uncredited)
- The Human Jungle (1954) - Det. Cleary
- Six Bridges to Cross (1955) - Sherman
- An Annapolis Story (1955) - Air Officer (uncredited)
- Away All Boats (1956) - Ens. Twitchell
- Hellcats of the Navy (1957) - Jug
- Torpedo Run (1958) - Ens. Ron Milligan
- Cash McCall (1960) - Junior Partner (uncredited)
- The Clown and the Kid (1961) - Moko
- Incident in an Alley (1962) - Roy Swanson
- The Last of the Secret Agents? (1966) - Over-Vain Spy (uncredited)
- The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) - Irving Christiansen
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) - Fireman
- Gaily, Gaily (1969) - (uncredited)
- R.P.M. (1970) - Dean George Cooper
- Rabbit, Run (1970) - Mr. Springer
- The Grissom Gang (1971) - Doc Grissom
- Walking Tall (1973) - Dr. Lamar Stivers
- The Young Nurses (1973) - Chemist
- Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies (1973) - Mr. Parsons
- The Way We Were (1973)
- Sleeper (1973) - Doctor Tryon
- Candy Stripe Nurses (1974) - Dr. Wilson
- Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977) - Bailey Associate
- The Car (1977) - Dr. Pullbrook
- Fire Sale (1977) - Banker
- Mirrors (1978) - Peter
- The Kid from Not-So-Big (1978) - Hank 'Gramps' Goodman
- The Last Word (1979) - Mayor Wenzel
- Creepshow (1982) - Mike the Janitor (segment "The Crate")
- The Marrying Man (1991) - Justice #3
- Liar Liar (1997) - Beggar at Courthouse (final film role)
- Keefer's Gunsmoke appearances included three half-hour episodes and seven full one-hour broadcasts that aired from 1957-1973
- "Wrong Man" (13 April 1957) - as the character Sam Rickers
- "Bad Sheriff" (7 January 1961) - Chet
- "Coventry" (17 March 1962) - Rankin
- "Quint-Cident" (27 April 1963) - Nally
- "The Pariah" (17 April 1965) - Newspaper editor
- "Taps for Old Jeb" (16 October 1965) - Milty Sims
- "Champion of the World" (24 December 1966) - Wally
- "Gentry's Law" (12 October 1970) - Floyd Babcock
- "Waste: Part 1" (27 September 1971) - Drunk
- "Kitty's Love Affair" (22 October 1973) - Turner
- Keefer appeared in more than a dozen other western series
- Gunsmoke as Sam (robber) in Bad Sheriff" (CBS, 1960)
- Wagon Train in "The Tom Tuckett Story" (NBC, 1960)
- Hotel de Paree as Red Porterfield in "Sundance and the Barren Soil" (CBS, 1960)
- Rawhide as Hames in "Incident of the Druid Curse" (CBS, 1960)
- Have Gun - Will Travel, three episodes (CBS, 1957–1960)
- Whispering Smith as Dr. Johnson in "The Deadliest Weapon" (NBC, 1961)
- The Dakotas as a minister in "Feud at Snake River" (ABC, 1963)
- Death Valley Days as a military officer in "The Hero of Apache Pass" (Syndicated, 1966)
- Dundee and the Culhane as Johnson in "The Dead Man's Brief" (CBS, 1967)
- Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color as John Prentice in two episodes of the Gallegher miniseries. Roger Mobley played the part of Gallegher. (NBC, 1967)
- The Iron Horse as Blake in "Sister Death" (ABC, 1967)
- The Outcasts in "The Man from Bennington" (ABC, 1968)
- Cimarron Strip as Bolt in "The Judgment" (CBS, 1968)
- The Guns of Will Sonnett in two episodes (ABC, 1968–1969)
- The Virginian in three episodes (NBC, 1966–1969)
- The High Chaparral as a telegrapher in "Spokes" (NBC, 1970)
- Alias Smith and Jones as Dr. Hiram Wilson in "The Man Who Murdered Himself" (ABC, 1971)
- Nichols in "The Specialists" (NBC, 1971)
- Bonanza as Billy Harris in "The Running Man" and as Tobias Temple in "The Rattlesnake Brigade" (NBC, 1971)
- Kung Fu in two episodes (ABC, 1974 and 1975)
Angel and other comediesEdit
On Angel, Keefer portrayed the neighbor "George", husband of "Susie", a character played by Doris Singleton, a veteran of the original I Love Lucy series. Marshall Thompson (1925–1992) played Johnny Smith, a young architect and the husband of Fargé's Angel Smith character. Keefer's Angel roles include:
- "Goodbye Young Lovers"
- "Voting Can Be Fun" (13 October 1960)
- "Angel's Temper" (10 November 1960)
- "The Valedictorian" (15 December 1960)
- "The Dowry" (19 January 1961)
- "The Joint Bank Account" (2 February 1961)
- "Call Me Mother" (9 February 1961)
- "Phone Fun" (22 March 1961)
- "Unpopular Mechanics" (19 April 1961)
- "The Trailer" (10 May 1961)
- The following are a selection of other sitcoms in which Keefer performed
- Window on Main Street in "Girl with the Rose Colored Eyes" (CBS, 1962)
- Car 54, Where Are You? as Dr. R.L. Mitchell, psychiatrist, in "Remember St. Petersburg" (1962)
- The Real McCoys as Harry Porter in "The Peacemakers" (CBS, 1963)
- My Favorite Martian, two episodes (CBS, 1964)
- The Munsters (CBS, 1965)
- The Jack Benny Program (NBC, 1965)
- The Farmer's Daughter (ABC, 1966)
- Petticoat Junction (CBS, 1966)
- The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming as Irving Christiansen (film, 1966)
- Bewitched (ABC, 1966)
- That Girl (ABC, 1966)
- Love on a Rooftop in "My Father, the TV Star" (ABC, 1967)
- The Andy Griffith Show, two episodes (CBS, 1967 and 1968)
- The Good Guys (CBS, 1969)
- Green Acres (CBS, 1970)
- Alice (CBS, 1984)
- Lucy and Desi: Before the Laughter as Grandfather Ball in television movie (CBS, 1991)
Keefer appeared as Cromwell in the 1968 episode "Assignment: Earth" of the NBC science fiction series Star Trek. Earlier, he had roles in the following three episodes of CBS's The Twilight Zone: as Dan Hollis in "It's a Good Life" (1961), as Spiereto in "Passage on the Lady Anne" (1963), and as Fred Danziger in "From Agnes - With Love" (1964).
- His other drama roles include
- Appointment with Adventure ("The Royal Treatment" episode of the CBS anthology series, 1955)
- Richard Diamond, Private Detective, as Reagan in "The Big Score" (1957)
- Going My Way, as Mr. Ewbank in "One Small Unhappy Family" (ABC, 1963)
- The Fugitive as Ben Haddock in "Where the Action Is" (ABC, 1964)
- Slattery's People as George Farnum in "Question: What Did You Do All Day, Mr. Slattery? (CBS, 1965)
- Mission: Impossible as Zubin in "The Trial" (CBS, 1967)
- Felony Squad as Harry Jocelyn in "A Most Proper Killing" (ABC, 1967)
- The F.B.I., four episodes (ABC, 1966–1971)
- Chase in "Vacation for a President" (NBC, 1974)
- Marcus Welby, M.D. as Dr. Marvin in "Don't Talk About Darkness" (1972) and as Larry Sabberly in "The Mugging" (ABC, 1974)
- S.W.A.T. as Captain Wallen in "Terror Ship" (ABC, 1975)
- The Streets of San Francisco as Dr. Mayhill in "Clown of Death" (ABC, 1976)
- The Waltons as Arnie Shimerdy in "The Go-Getter" (CBS, 1977)
- Barnaby Jones as Mr. Greening in "Programmed for Killing" (1974), as Dave Blevins in "Silent Vendetta" (1976), as Professor Albertson in "The Killer on Campus" (1977), and Tully Kupper in "Target for a Wedding" (CBS, 1979)
- Quincy, M.E., three episodes (NBC, 1979–1982)
- Highway to Heaven as Dr. Washburn in "For the Love of Larry" (NBC, 1986)
- All My Children as Horace Willoughby (ABC, 1986)
- Picket Fences as Billy Shauger in "The Snake Lady" (1992) and "Heart of Saturday Night" (CBS, 1995)
- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman as Old Benny Rockland in "Brutal Youth" (ABC, 1996),
- "Don Keefer, Actor Who Had Bad Thoughts on 'Twilight Zone', Dies at 98". The New York Times.com. Retrieved September 27, 2014.
- Garfield, David (1980). "Birth of The Actors Studio: 1947–1950". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 52. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
Also [in Lewis' class were] Henry Barnard, Jay Barney, John Becher, Philip Bourneuf, Joan Chandler, Peter Cookson, Stephen Elliott, Robert Emhardt, Joy Geffen, William Hansen, Will Hare, Jane Hoffman, George Keane, Don Keefer, George Matthews, Peggy Meredith, Ty Perry, Margaret Phillips, David Pressman, William Prince, Elliot Reid, Frances Reid, Kurt Richards, Elizabeth Ross, Thelma Schnee, Joshua Shelley, Fed Stewart, John Straub, Michael Strong, John Sylvester, Julie Warren, Mary Welch, Lois Wheeler, and William Woodson.
- Yardley, William (2014). "Don Keefer, 98; had role in classic 'Twilight Zone'". The Boston Globe, September 28, 2014; updated reprint from The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
- Yardley, The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
- Yardley. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
- "Social Security Death Index". Rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
- Internet: People Search, Background Check
- Mike Barnes. "Don Keefer, Who Was Turned Into a Jack-in-the-Box on 'The Twilight Zone,' Dies at 98". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 18, 2014.