Blake was born in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, California. She was the first child of Martha Mae Whitney (née Wilkerson) and Harry C. Whitney, a United States Secret Service agent who had guarded President Woodrow Wilson, his wife, and other political officials. Blake and her younger brother traveled around the country extensively, during which time she attended sixteen different schools. While attending Pasadena City College, she worked in small-theater groups in the Los Angeles area. In the summer she worked at her mother’s ice-cream stand in McMinnville, Oregon. After her appearance in an amateur Hollywood production of The Women caught the attention of talent scouts, she appeared on a number of television series, including the syndicated Johnny Midnight, Sheriff of Cochise, and twice on Rod Cameron’s State Trooper, and on the David Janssen crime drama, Richard Diamond, Private Detective. Blake was cast in My Gun Is Quick, the film version of a Mike Hammer novel. In 1957 Blake appeared in the first episode of CBS’s Perry Mason, “The Case of the Restless Redhead” in 1957 in the title role of Evelyn Bagby, the defendant. In 1958 she again appeared in the title role as defendant Diana Reynolds in the episode, “The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde.” In 1957 she played Lilli Bridgeman, who hires a professional assassin to murder her husband, Les (Alan Hale, Jr.), so that she can marry a rival rancher, Kiley Rand (Don Megowan), in the episode “Hired Gun” of the ABC/Warner Brothers western series, Cheyenne, starring Clint Walker in the starring role. Blake played leading lady to James Garner in “The Day They Hanged Bret Maverick”, the second season opener in 1958 for the ABC/WB western series, Maverick. She appeared with Claude Akins in two 1959 episodes, “Cattle Drive” and “Border Incident” of the CBS western, The Texan, starring Rory Calhoun. In 1959 Blake guest starred in the first episode, “The Good Samaritan” of the syndicated western series Pony Express. That same year, her guest appearance in the short-lived series The D.A.’s Man garnered her an Emmy nomination in 1959.
She appeared in a “Marshal Dillon” episode called “Wind” in March 1959. Blake appeared in the 1959 film -30- with Jack Webb as a childless couple wanting to adopt a baby. The “-30-” comes from the symbol of the end of a newspaper story, as Webb played a newspaperman in the film. Blake guest-starred on Mike Connors’s CBS detective series, Tightrope, the CBS sitcom, Pete and Gladys, and on the NBC western series, Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin, and Overland Trail, with William Bendix and Doug McClure. She performed the lead female dramatic role on the Route 66 TV series in a January 1960 episode (1st season). She also guest-starred on police drama TV series M Squad, starring Lee Marvin (third season, 25th episode). In 1960 with Robert Lansing, she co-starred in an episode of the TV series Thriller. Blake is best remembered for having portrayed Dorothy Baxter, an interior designer and the wife of George Baxter (Don DeFore), a lawyer, on the NBC sitcom Hazel (1961), starring Shirley Booth in the title role as a bossy maid. Bobby Buntrock played her son, Harold Baxter. Oddly, Blake played Mrs. Baxter on Hazel, which had also been the name of her first husband and the surname of her three children in real life. Following the show’s cancelation by NBC in 1965, DeFore and Blake were dropped from the series when CBS picked up the show for one more season. They were replaced by Ray Fulmer and Lynn Borden, respectively in the roles of Steve and Barbara Baxter, the younger brother and sister-in-law of George Baxter. After Hazel, Blake guest-starred in an episode of the ABC western series The Legend of Jesse James. In 1966 she appeared in the episode, “Nice Day for a Hanging” of Chuck Connors’s NBC western series, Branded. She guest starred in a 1974 episode of Cannon, starring William Conrad.
As demand for her work in network television and films waned, Blake became a Los Angeles television talk show host. Later Blake moved into directing and producing. For later generations, Blake may be best known for her work in co-creating with her husband, Allan Manings, the Emmy and Golden Globe winning television series One Day at a Time. The sitcom ran for nine seasons on the CBS network, making household names of its stars: Bonnie Franklin, Mackenzie Phillips, Valerie Bertinelli and Pat Harrington. According to the book Untied, by Blake’s daughter, Meredith Baxter, on Blake’s 76th birthday Blake’s children took her and Manings to dinner. Later that evening Blake revealed that she had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. She expressed confidence that she would beat the disease but died seven months later. She experienced great discomfort during her final months. Manings told Baxter, his stepdaughter, that the most difficult day was when he told Blake that he had to hire hospice care for her, at which time Blake realized that her condition was terminal. Whitney Blake died at her home on September 28, 2002, in Edgartown, Massachusetts. She was survived by her husband, Allan Manings, and the three children from her first marriage. Manings also later died of esophageal cancer.
- February, 20, 1925
- Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, California
- September, 28, 2002
- Edgartown, Massachusetts
Cause of Death
- esophageal cancer