Don Keefer

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,[2] 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.

Don Keefer
Don Keefer (actor, television actor, born 1916).png
Donald Hood Keefer[1]

(1916-08-18)August 18, 1916
DiedSeptember 7, 2014(2014-09-07) (aged 98)
Years active1947–1997
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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[5] 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.

Personal lifeEdit

On May 7, 1950, Keefer married the actress Catherine McLeod, and the couple remained married for 47 years, until her death on May 11, 1997.[citation needed]

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.[6] The three Keefer sons are Donald McLeod, John H., and Thomas James.[7] Don Keefer died at the age of 98 on September 7, 2014.[8]

Films rolesEdit

Western rolesEdit

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

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

Dramatic episodesEdit

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

Keefer's last role was as a beggar at a courthouse in the 1997 film Liar Liar.


  1. ^ "Don Keefer, Actor Who Had Bad Thoughts on 'Twilight Zone', Dies at 98". The New York Retrieved September 27, 2014.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Yardley, The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Yardley. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  6. ^ "Social Security Death Index". Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  7. ^ Internet: People Search, Background Check
  8. ^ 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.

External linksEdit