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Don Porter; Actor Played TV Bosses and Gidget's Father

February 20, 1997|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Don Porter, who portrayed consummate suave authority figures--the boss in "Private Secretary," the father in "Gidget"--has died. He was 84.

Porter died Feb. 11 in Los Angeles.

In "Private Secretary," one of television's earliest sitcoms, Porter played Peter Sands, the New York talent agent boss of secretary Susie McNamera, played by the series' star, Ann Sothern. The show ran from 1953 to 1957.

Porter was also Sothern's boss in "The Ann Sothern Show" which was aired from 1958 to 1961. In that show, he played hotel manager James Devery, who thwarted the promotion of Sothern's character, assistant manager Katy O'Connor.

In the mid-1960s, Porter put on his fatherly mien to play professor Russ Lawrence, the widowed father of the teenager Gidget. Based on the series of "Gidget" films, the television series introduced a newcomer named Sally Field as the lively title character. Porter also played Lawrence in one of the films, "Gidget Goes to Rome."

Born in Oklahoma, Porter served in World War II and then immediately began his six decades in show business. He started acting on stage in Portland, Ore., and eventually starred in more than 200 plays across the country. His Broadway hits included "Plaza Suite," "Any Wednesday" and a revival of "The Front Page."

In addition to his popular television series, Porter appeared in several television specials and movies. Among them were "The Legend of Lizzie Borden," "Christmas Miracle in Caufield, U.S.A.," "Frankie and Annette: The Second Time Around," "The Murder That Wouldn't Die," "All Together Now" and "Old Money."

On the large screen, Porter appeared in such films as "Youngblood Hawke," "The Candidate," "40 Carats," "Mame," "White Line Fever" and "The Women's Club."

An avid golfer and tennis player, Porter spent his retirement years organizing and participating in charity golf tournaments throughout the country.

Porter is survived by his wife and frequent co-star, actress Peggy Converse; his daughter, Melissa Converse, also an actress, and a son, Don Porter Jr., an architect.

The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to the Salvation Army or to the Motion Picture and Television Fund.

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