Ted Key, best known as the creator of the comic strip Hazel, passed on May 4 at the age of 95.
Ted Key was born Theodore Keyser born in Fresno, California on August 25, 1912. His father, a Latvian immigrant, had born Simon Katseff, but changed his name to Keyser and then changed it to Key during World War II. Ted Key attended the University of Berkley, California. Following graduation, his illustrations were published in a variety of publications. In 1937 he was an associate editor of Judge. From 1943 to 1946 Key served in the army.
His most famous creation, Hazel, made its debut in the Saturday Evening Post in 1943. The strip followed the misadventures of a wry, independent maid. The strip ran in the magazine until it ended publication in 1969. Hazel was then picked up by King Features Syndicate and syndicated to newspapers around the nation. Reprints of Key's old comic strips are still being published. A TV series based on the comic strip, starring Shirley Booth as Hazel, ran from 1961 to 1964,
In 1961 Key's comic strip Diz and Liz debuted in Jack and Jill magazine. It ran until 1972. Key also created the "Peabody's Improbable History" segment for Jay Ward's classic cartoon Rocky and His Friends (later known as The Bullwinkle Show). In addition to the talking, time travelling dog Peabody, Key also created a variety of other animal characters, among them a duck that laid golden eggs (the basis for the Disney movie The Million Dollar Duck); a football kicking mule (the basis for the Disney movie Gus), a cat from outer space (from the movie The Cat From Outer Space), and Phyllis, a sparrow who built her nest in the Philadelphia Phillies ball park. Ted Key also wrote for radio during its Golden Age. One of his radio plays, "The Clinic," was chosen for Max Wylie's Best Broadcasts of 1939-40 anthology. He also wrote a number of children's books, including the aforementioned Phyllis and So'm I ( about a bow legged, knock kneed colt).
While I do not ever remember reading the comic strip Hazel, like most Americans my age I was exposed to the work of Ted Key. Growing up I enjoyed The Peabody's Improbable History segment of The Bullwinkle Show. I also watched the movies The Cat From Outer Space, The Million Dollar Duck, and Gus. And while I never read Hazel (no newspapers around here carried it), it seems to me that it was fairly successful for a comic strip, even producing a TV series. Indeed, the old Hazel comic strips are still in print. When it comes to cartoonists in the 20th century, Ted Key was one of those who made the most impact.