One of the busiest voice actors of the post-war era, radio star Bea Benaderet then became a fixture of CBS TV comedy with roles in "The Burns and Allen Show" (CBS 1950-1958), "The Beverly Hillbillies" (CBS 1962-1971) ... Read more »
One of the busiest voice actors of the post-war era, radio star Bea Benaderet then became a fixture of CBS TV comedy with roles in "The Burns and Allen Show" (CBS 1950-1958), "The Beverly Hillbillies" (CBS 1962-1971) and "Petticoat Junction" (CBS 1963-1970). Born in New York City to a Turkish father and Irish-American mother in 1906, Benaderet grew up in San Francisco where she was spotted aged twelve by the manager of KGO, who invited her to sing on his radio station. While attending the city's Reginald Travis School of Acting, she performed with various stock companies and little theaters and landed several minor radio roles before making her network debut in Orson Welles' "The Campbell Playhouse" (CBS Radio 1938-1940). Benaderet received her big break when she was cast as a regular on "The Jack Benny Program" (CBS 1932-1955) in 1939 and subsequently became a ubiquitous radio presence with high society matron Mrs Carstairs in "Fibber McGee and Molly" (NBC 1935-1959), nasal-voiced maid Gloria in "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" (CBS Radio 1944-1954) and menacing landlady Clara Anderson on "A Day In The Life Of Dennis Day" (NBC 1946-1951). After voicing Mama Bear in the classic Looney Tunes short "The Bear's Tale" (1940), Benaderet also established herself as a Warner Bros. cartoon regular, giving dozens of female characters a distinct identity including Tweety Pie's dim-witted Granny, and appeared on screen for the first time as a clerk in Alfred Hitchcock's spy thriller "Notorious" (1946). After appearing as Lucille Ball's best friend Iris Atterbury in "My Favorite Husband" (CBS Radio 1948-1951), Benaderet was then asked to play her landlady Ethel Mertz in the seminal "I Love Lucy" (CBS 1951-57). But having already been cast as next-door-neighbour Blanche Morton in the TV production of "The Burns and Allen Show" (CBS 1950-1958), Benaderet was forced to turn down the offer. She did eventually guest as a love-starved spinster in a 1952 episode of the series and went onto play mail-order bride Ella Heathers in western "Plunderers of Painted Flats" (1959) before teaming up with former radio colleagues Mel Blanc and Alan Reed to voice Betty Rubble on the first four seasons of "The Flintstones" (ABC 1960-66). Following performances as Wilma the housekeeper in short-lived sitcom "Peter Loves Mary" (NBC 1960-61) and Mrs McKisco in the big-screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender Is The Night" (1962), Benaderet was initially considered for the part of caustic Granny in "The Beverly Hillbillies" (CBS 1962-1971). But deemed to be 'too busty' for the role by producer Paul Henning, she was instead given the chance to display her impeccable comic timing as middle-aged widower Pearl Bodine. Benaderet then landed her most high-profile gig when she was cast as Shady Rest Hotel owner Kate Bradley in rural comedy "Petticoat Junction" (CBS 1963-1970) and also appeared several times in its spin-off "Green Acres" (CBS 1965-1971). Sadly, after being diagnosed with cancer in 1967, Benaderet passed away a year later aged 62.