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July 06, 2019

Life and Death of the 'Hazel' Star Whitney Blake Who Portrayed Mom Dorothy Baxter

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All Whitney Blake wanted to be in life was a famous actress who would leave her mark long after she left this world, and she was all that and more.

Whitney Blake, whose real name is Nancy Ann Whitney was born in 1926 in the town of Eagle Rock, California. Her father died when she was young, and she moved around a lot with her mother, Martha Mae Wilkerson.

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Before graduating high school, Blake had attended sixteen different schools, but she didn’t mind because, in the fifth grade, she discovered something that would make it worthwhile — acting.

The stage became the young actress' place of escape, and the cast became her family; when Wilkerson saw that her daughter had potential, she offered to take care of her financially for one year after high school while she chased her dreams. 

Blake then enrolled at the Pasadena City College to study performing arts and got her first paying role acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, a place she would return to from time to time after she found fame and fortune.

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In between all these, the “Route 66” star married John Thomas Baxter with whom she had her three children — Richard, Brian, and Meredith Baxter, and by 1953, they divorced after ten years of marriage.

By ’57, Blake starred in the big screen movie “My Gun is Quick,” but her fame started in ’61 after she took on the role of “Dorothy Baxter” in “Hazel.” In a 1963 interview with the Los Angeles Times, the actress said she loved being a part of “Hazel” because people were happy watching the show as it dealt with happy problems and not deep ones.

Over a decade later, Blake co-created in ’75 “One Day at a Time,” a show that dealt with the problems faced by single moms; it was made to mirror the life of the “Mannix” star and Wilkerson.

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The actress also starred in frontline TV shows like “Bonanza,” and in ’87, she directed and produced a documentary “Reno’s Kids: 87 Days Plus 11;” it won Blake several awards and recognition, and got her a seat on the board of directors of Women in Film.

The mother-of-three also had a stint as a TV host for the lifestyle show “Boutique,” and was equally known as an activist and writer. In 2002, at the age of 76, Blake died in her home at Edgerton, Massachusetts, surrounded by her family, including her husband, Alan Manings.

The actress had a brief illness, and at the time of her death, she had her three children, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

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As Meredith pointed out in her 2011 book “Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering,” all Blake wanted in her life was to be a great actress, and she was all that and more. 

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