Obituary: Don DeFore
Monday 03 January 1994
DON DeFORE's forte was playing the amiable goof; the smiling Good Guy who only seemed to get the girl in his low-budget movies.
DeFore studied law at Iowa University, but appearing in college shows drew him to acting, and he left to enrol at the Pasadena Playhouse. After graduating, he played bit parts in several films, then came upon Where Do We Go From Here?, a play about a group of college students trying desperately to save their fraternity house. He and his friends pooled their finances and put the play on in Los Angeles, where Oscar Hammerstein II saw it and took it to Broadway. It only ran two weeks, but DeFore's performance led to his being cast as a young football player in James Thurber and Elliott Nugent's hit play The Male Animal (1940). He returned to Hollywood to make We Go Fast (1941), and the screen version of The Male Animal (1942). America was now in the Second World War, and DeFore went into the army, but was invalided out after seven weeks. He played servicemen in The Human Comedy (1943), A Guy Named Joe (1943) and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944).
In 1945 Hal Wallis, who had produced The Male Animal for Warner Bros, left them and formed his own production company. He signed DeFore to a contract and cast him in the successful The Affairs of Susan (1945), a comedy in which DeFore vied for the affections of Joan Fontaine. (In You Came Along (1945) DeFore lost Lizabeth Scott to Robert Cummings. In the western Ramrod (1947), he was cast against type as a murderer, and was chillingly effective. He played the jealous businessman who hires Doris Day to spy on his wife in Romance on the High Seas (1948), and a singing soda-jerk in My Friend Irma (1949). He again broke away from typecasting in Dark City (1950), as a dupe who loses everything in a crooked poker game, then hangs himself. In 1952 he played an ex-football hero in She's Working Her Way Through College.
DeFore's easy-going personality brought him steady employment in television, particularly in the sitcoms The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-58) and Hazel (1961- 63).
In the 1980s he acted in the film Carnauba (1981), served on President Ronald Reagan's Peace Corps Advisory Council, and made television appearances in St Elsewhere and Murder She Wrote.
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