Veteran actor Don Porter started his career on stage and in “B” films in the 40s but would be better remembered for his buttoned-down executives and cheery dads on 50s and 60s TV. Universal Studios signed the handsome, articulate, deep-voiced actor to a contract in 1939 debuting in Mystery in the White Room (1939). He continued on in a rather non-descript fashion as co-star of second-string potboilers such as Night Monster (1942), Abbott and Costello’s Who Done It? (1942), Eyes of the Underworld (1943), and, most noticeably, opposite June Lockhart’s She-Wolf of London (1947) as her heroic fiance. Seemingly headed toward obscurity, he refocused his career in the 50s with television and took a strategic turn toward light, superficial comedy. He finally hit pay dirt co-starring as Ann Sothern’s exasperated boss on “Private Secretary.” Their chemistry proved so winning that he segued into her next series “The Ann Sothern Show” (albeit the second season) again as her boss. Although quite adept at drama with his portrayals of spiffy ‘stuffed shirt’ types whose shady intentions were often disguised by impeccable table manners and a pleasant disposition, Don’s forte was still breezy, cheeky comedy and he was most fittingly cast as Sally Field’s bewildered and bemused dad on the “Gidget” series. He had already played Gidget’s father once before in the 1963 film Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) with Cindy Carol. Don kept quite busy after the series’ demise in 1966 with numerous guest roles although such forgettable film fodder as Elvis Presley’s mediocre Live a Little, Love a Little (1968) and Lucille Ball’s misguided version of Mame (1974) as the stuck-up Mr. Upson didn’t improve his lot. With perhaps the exception of the terrific Robert Redford film The Candidate (1972) in which he ably portrayed a martinet Republican incumbant, Don was a highly appealing and durable actor but seldom tested, with most of his roles noted for their lack of dimension. Long married to actress Peggy Converse, who was a few years older than Don, the couple appeared frequently together on stage in such 60s touring productions as “The Best Man,” “Any Wednesday” and “Love and Kisses.” Porter died in 1997 at age 84.
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