August 1, 1920|
|Died||October 27, 2016
Los Angeles, California
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, singer|
|Spouse(s)||Larry Rhine (?–2000; his death)|
Hazel Shermet (August 1, 1920 – October 27, 2016) was an American actress, comedian, and singer whose decades-long career spanned radio, television, film and theater, including Broadway. In addition to her live action-roles, Shermet also enjoyed a lengthy career as a voice-over and voice actor. She provided the voice of Henrietta Hippo for the entire 196-episode run of the syndicated children's show, New Zoo Revue, from 1972 until 1977.
Hazel Shermet also appeared in more than 100 television commercials, including ads for Borox, Charmin, Head & Shoulders, and Hunt’s Tomato Paste. At one point in her career, Shermet appeared in seven national television commercials airing simultaneously across the United States, which earned her a cover photo from The Commercial Actor Magazine as the publication's "actress of the month."
Early life and career
Shermet was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 1, 1920. She moved to New York City, where she was hired as a Al Paul Lefton Co. agency as an advertising copywriter at the age of 19. Throughout her career, Shermet credited her early work in advertising, as well as her studies at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh), for her longevity in the entertainment industry.
Her first major broadcast acting role was when she was cast as Miss Duffy in Duffy's Tavern, a long running radio situation comedy. Shermet relocated to Puerto Rico, where the Duffy's Tavern was produced and recorded, for the role. There she met her future husband, writer Larry Rhine, who was the head writer of Duffy's Tavern at the time. The couple, who married and had two children, remained together until Rhine's death in 2000. Rhine would earn two Emmy nominations during his career as a television writer.
Following her work on Duffy's Tavern, Shermet returned to singing and comedy on radio, where she appeared alongside Fred Allen, Morey Amsterdam, Milton Berle, Henry Morgan, Kate Smith, and Henny Youngman.
A pioneer of early television, Shermet starred in two shows which aired on WOR-TV in New York City, Songs You’ve Never Heard Before and Won't Want to Ever Hear Again, in which she performed tunes and songs requested by viewers.
Film and television
Shermet and Rhine moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, where she continued her radio career, in addition to roles in television and film. She was first cast in a 1954 television episode of Dragnet. In 1964, Shermet had a notable role as Cousin Melancholia on an episode of The Adams Family. Her dozens of other television credits, spanning the 1950s to the 1980s, included The Beverly Hillbillies, My Favorite Martian (where her husband was a screenwriter), The Patty Duke Show, That Girl, I Dream of Jeannie, The Facts of Life, Gimme a Break! and Punky Brewster. She also had a recurring role as the voice of Mrs. Bailey on the 1980s animated series, Jem.
Hazel Shermet's film career began with 1954's A Star Is Born, as Jack Carson's secretary. Her other film roles include Rockabilly Baby (1957), Auntie Mame (1958), The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960), Gypsy (1962), Bye Bye Birdie (1963), Love at First Bite (1979), and Body Slam (1987).
From 1972 to 1977, Shermet provided the voice of the Henrietta Hippo puppet for all 196-episodes of the children's television show, New Zoo Revue.
In a 2000 interview with the Archive of American Television, Hazel Shermet spoke of her prolific acting career, telling the interviewer Karen Herman, "I'm proud of the fact that I was able to work in all the mediums and raise two kids and be married to somebody that was working all the time. I hope people remember me as professional, as versatile and as somebody who loved every minute of it. I hope I gave a lot of joy," noting that "Acting for me is like eating for most people. When I'm 90 and the phone rings, I'll put my teeth in, hobble to the phone and see if it's my agent."
Shermet's husband, screenwriter and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Larry Rhine, died in 2000.
Hazel Shermet died from natural causes at her home in Los Angeles, California, on October 27, 2016, at the age of 96. She was survived by her two children: daughter, Vicki, and son, Robert Rhine, an actor and producer; as well as her granddaughter, Julie, an Emmy-nominated costume designer.
- Barnes, Mike (2016-10-28). "Hazel Shermet, Comedienne, Actress and Singer, Dies at 96". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
- "Hazel Shermet Interview". Archive of American Television. 2000-02-25. Retrieved 2016-12-10.