Beatrice "Bea" Benaderet (April 4, 1906 – October 13, 1968) was an American actress born in New York City and raised in San Francisco, California. She appeared in a wide variety of television work, which included a starring role in the 1960s television series Petticoat Junction and Green Acres as Shady Rest Hotel owner Kate Bradley, supporting roles as Blanche Morton in The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and as the voice of Betty Rubble during the first four seasons of The Flintstones, and in The Beverly Hillbillies as Pearl Bodine. She did a great deal of voice work in Warner Bros. animated cartoons of the 1940s/50s.
Early life and careerEdit
Benaderet's father Samuel was a Turkish emigrant, and her mother, Margaret (née O'Keefe) was Irish-American. Their daughter first received notice for her radio work in the 1940s playing Millicent Carstairs on Fibber McGee & Molly, telephone operator Gertrude Gearshift (and many other roles) on The Jack Benny Program, school principal Eve Goodwin on The Great Gildersleeve, and appeared on the occasional Amos 'n Andy radio show, usually as a store clerk attempting to assist Andy and Kingfish in a purchase. During this period, Benaderet had two children, Jack and Maggie, from her marriage to actor Jim Bannon.
Benaderet played Blanche Morton, the hapless next-door neighbor to George Burns and Gracie Allen, on both the radio and television incarnations of The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show. She also held down a regular role in the series A Day in the Life of Dennis Day as Mrs. Anderson, Day's landlady, who was also the mother of Day's girlfriend on the program. She voiced widow Clara Longnecker on The Mel Blanc Show, wherein she often fended off the money-mad proposals of Mel's uncle Rupert with the exclamation, "Now, Rupert, I am in NO mood for your nincompoopity!" On The Adventures of Maisie, which starred Ann Sothern, she played various roles, including that of the title character's landlady.
She portrayed Lucille Ball's best friend Iris Attebury on the 1940s radio series My Favorite Husband. When Ball and husband Desi Arnaz decided to develop this program for television in a series called I Love Lucy, Benaderet was first choice to fill the role of Ethel Mertz, but was ultimately unavailable to accept it since she had already been cast for the fledgeling Burns and Allen television show. Vivian Vance, a relatively unknown character actress and singer, was eventually cast in the part. Benaderet did appear in a guest role on I Love Lucy on January 21, 1952 as "Miss Lewis", a love-starved spinster neighbor.
Benaderet began voicing the character of Granny (the sometimes dimwitted, sometimes assertive owner of Tweety) in the Warner Bros. cartoon series beginning in 1943. Benaderet continued to perform the voice of Granny well into the 1950s, when June Foray replaced her in that role in 1955. Benaderet voiced numerous female characters in the Warner Bros. animated shorts of the 1940s, displaying a great deal of versatility in her repertoire, from her natural feminine voice, to the "Granny" character, to the loquacious bobby-soxer (inspired by loud-mouthed comedienne Cass Daley) in Little Red Riding Rabbit (1944).
Later life and careerEdit
Benaderet was quite busy during the last decade of her life, starting with a voice role as Betty Rubble in the animated series The Flintstones, which debuted in 1960. The Flintstones reunited Benaderet with her 1940s co-workers Alan Reed (Fred Flintstone) and Mel Blanc (Barney Rubble and Dino). Benaderet received no on-screen credit for her many voice characterizations with Warner Bros., as the studio was bound by Blanc's iron-clad contractual stipulation that no other voice actor could ever receive credit for their work while he himself was under contract to Warners. Benaderet supposedly resigned from the show in 1964 owing to the workload on Petticoat Junction, when in fact Director Joe Barbera unceremoniously replaced her with Gerry Johnson for the remainder of the series' run.
Benaderet was seriously considered for the role of Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies, which began in 1962, by producer Paul Henning (earlier the producer of The Burns & Allen Show), who ultimately felt she was too buxom and feminine for the character he envisioned as a frail but caustic little spitfire; Irene Ryan was eventually cast. Henning cast Benaderet as the middle-aged, widowed Cousin Pearl Bodine (Jethro's mother), and she appeared in the pilot, as well as a majority of episodes throughout the series' first season. Cousin Pearl and her daughter Jethrine moved into the Clampett mansion with the rest of the Clampett clan late in the first season. The female Bodines disappeared, however, after Henning cast Benaderet in his next series Petticoat Junction, which premiered in September, 1963. She starred as Kate Bradley, owner/operator of the Shady Rest Hotel, who was said to be a cousin of Pearl Bodine.
Petticoat Junction proved an enormous hit in its first season, and remained a top-25 program for several years. Benaderet had done a radio variation of Green Acres with Gale Gordon beginning in 1950 called Granby's Green Acres. The Green Acres television series later became a spinoff of Petticoat Junction, with Eva Gabor portraying Benaderet's original part in this new series, and Benaderet herself showing up in the first few episodes as her Petticoat Junction character, in order to establish the Hooterville setting (Eddie Albert took Gale Gordon's role as the lawyer who moves to the country to become a farmer; whether he was considered for the role or not, Gordon was otherwise occupied with his role on The Lucy Show).
Benaderet was diagnosed with cancer in 1967, which led to her departure from Petticoat Junction in what was hoped would be a temporary absence, during which time Rosemary DeCamp was brought in to play "Aunt Helen" in scripts obviously written for Benaderet's character Kate. Benaderet, however, was well enough to return for a few additional episodes in the fall of 1968 before being written out permanently. Shortly after the death of Benaderet, June Lockhart was brought in to play a female doctor who had set up her practice at the Shady Rest hotel, and thus became the show's surrogate mother figure.
On October 13, 1968, Benaderet died in Los Angeles, California at the Good Samaritan Hospital from lung cancer and pneumonia.
She was entombed in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. Her second husband Eugene Twombly died of a heart attack on the day of her funeral (four days after her death), and was interred beside her. Twombly had been a sound-effects artist for a number of radio and television shows, including The Jack Benny Program, on which Benaderet had been a regular cast member.
- ↑ NOTE: Although most sources indicate 1906 as Benaderet's year of birth, according to United States census records, she was 23 years old in April 1930, indicating 1907 as her year of birth. Also, her gravestone indicates 1908 as her year of birth. However, California Deaths, 1940-1997. Family Tree Legends Records Collection (Online Database) confirms the 1906 birth year.
- Sitcom Queens: Divas of the Small Screen by Michael Karol (2005); ISBN 0-595-40251-8
- The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms by David C. Tucker (2007); ISBN 978-0786429004
- Bea Benaderet at Find a Grave
- Bea Benaderet at the Internet Movie Database
- 1930 census records for Beatrice Benaderet, indicating 1907 as year of birth and age as 23 in April 1930. However, California Deaths, 1940-1997. Family Tree Legends Records Collection (Online Database). Pearl Street Software, 2004-2005 confirms the 1906 birth year.
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