Cartoonist Ted Key, whose comic strip “Hazel” about a bossy maid went from magazine page to TV screen, died May 3 in the Philadelphia suburb of Tredyffrin Township after a 1 1/2-year battle with cancer. He was 95.
“Hazel” was a popular feature in The Saturday Evening Post from the time it debuted in 1943. It evolved into a prime-time TV series in 1961 that starred Shirley Booth and ran for four years on NBC and one year on CBS.
Key also created the characters Mr. Peabody and Sherman for producer Jay Ward. The time-traveling dog/scientist and his boy made their TV debuts in 1959 in segments on the animated show, “Rocky and His Friends.”
Key created cartoon panels called “Diz and Liz” and “Jack and Jill” for children’s magazines and produced a number of other animated animal characters. He also wrote a play for radio, authored and illustrated books, and had freelance cartoons appear in Cosmopolitan, Better Homes and Gardens and Sports Illustrated.
His son Peter Key said four movies were made featuring characters conceived by his father, including Walt Disney productions of “The Million Dollar Duck,” about a duck that laid golden eggs; “Gus,” featuring a field goal-kicking mule; and “The Cat From Outer Space.”
Key literally dreamed up the concept of his wildly popular maid cartoon.
“Like a lot of creative people, he kept a notepad near his bedside,” Peter Key said of his father. “He had a dream about a maid who took a message, but she screwed it up completely. When he looked at the idea the next day, he thought it was good and sold it to The Post.”
Key randomly picked the name for the maid and was flattered that it later became synonymous with maids, according to his son.
Key acquired the rights to “Hazel” in 1969, the same year the magazine folded, and the comic was picked up for syndication by King Features. King still distributes the cartoon today, using those drawn by Key before he retired in 1993.
Theodore Keyser was born in Fresno, Calif.
Key was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2006 and suffered a stroke in September.
He is survived by his second wife, Bonnie, three sons and three grandchildren.— Associated Press