Bea Benaderet

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Bea Benaderet

Born April 4, 1906
New York City, New York, USA
Died October 13, 1968 (aged 62)

Bea Benaderet (April 4, 1906October 13, 1968) was an American actress, born in New York City and raised in San Francisco, California. She is probably best remembered for starring in the hit 1960s television series Petticoat Junction. Through the program, Benaderet reached stardom in her late fifties after over twenty years of active work as a supporting player on radio and early television, as well as a career doing voice work for 1940s and 1950s Warner Bros. cartoons, notably originating the role of Granny.

[edit] Career

Benaderet first received notice for her radio work in the 1940s playing Millicent Carstairs on Fibber McGee & Molly, telephone operator Gertrude Gearshift on The Jack Benny Program, school principal Eve Goodwin on the Great Gildersleeve and appeared on several Amos 'n Andy radio shows, usually as a store clerk trying to assist Andy and Kingfish in a purchase. Benaderet also played Blanche Morton, next door neighbor to George Burns and Gracie Allen, on both radio and television.

She played Lucille Ball's best friend, Iris Atterbury, on the 1940s radio series My Favorite Husband. When Ball and husband Desi Arnaz decided to create a very similar television series called I Love Lucy, Benaderet was first choice to fill the role of Ethel Mertz but was unavailable to take the role since she had already signed for Burns and Allen's television adaptation of their radio program. Vivian Vance, an almost unknown character actress and singer, was eventually cast in the part. Benaderet did get to guest on I Love Lucy on January 12, 1952 in a very amusing appearance as Miss Lewis, a love-starved spinster neighbor.

Benaderet was also seriously considered for the role of Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies, created by her producer from The Burns & Allen Show, Paul Henning, who ultimately felt she was too buxom and womanly for the character he envisioned as a frail but caustic little spitfire. Irene Ryan was eventually cast. Henning instead cast Benaderet as Cousin Pearl Bodine (Jethro's mother) in the series, and she appeared in the pilot and virtually every episode during the show's first season. Cousin Pearl and her daughter Jethrine moved into the Clampett mansion with the rest of the Clampett kin late in the first season, but after Henning cast Benaderet in the lead in his next series, Petticoat Junction, debuting in September 1963, the female Bodines disappeared.

Petticoat Junction proved an enormous hit and was a top ten 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 playing Benaderet's counterpart in the TV series, and Benaderet herself showing up occasionally as her Petticoat Junction character (Eddie Albert took over 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 a "busy Bea" during this time, as she also played a part in another iconic television series of the 1960s, as the voice of Betty Rubble on the cartoon series The Flintstones, which debuted in 1960. Benaderet resigned from the animated series in 1964 due to the workload on Petticoat Junction, and Betty would be voiced by Gerry Johnson for the remainder of the series' run. Benaderet was no stranger to cartoon voice work. She had played many female characters in the Warner cartoons of the 1940s, showing a good deal of versatility, from her natural feminine voice, to the "Granny" character, to the loud-mouthed teenager in Little Red Riding Rabbit. The Flintstones re-united her with her 1940s co-worker Mel Blanc (as Betty's husband, Barney Rubble). Benaderet never received an on-screen credit for her voice characterizations with Warner, as the studio had a policy of not listing them (with the exception of Blanc, who had it written into his contract).

[edit] Illness

Benaderet became ill in 1967 which led to her leaving Petticoat Junction in what was hoped would be a temporary retirement. Rosemary DeCamp was brought in to play Aunt Helen in scripts obviously written for Benaderet's character Kate. Benaderet, however, was well enough to make only two additional appearances on the show. After her death, June Lockhart was brought in to play a female doctor who set up practice at the Shady Rest hotel and thus became the show's surrogate mother figure.

Bea Benaderet died from lung cancer at the age of 62, and her body was interred in the Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, next to her second husband, Eugene Twombley, who died of a heart attack only a week after the death of his wife. Mr. Twombley was a sound effects man for many radio and television shows, including The Jack Benny Program, on which Bea Benaderet was a regular.

Her son, Jack Bannon (whose father was Bea's first husband, Jim Bannon), later became a regular on Lou Grant.

[edit] External links

NAME Benaderet, Bea
DATE OF BIRTH April 4, 1906
PLACE OF BIRTH New York, New York, United States of America
DATE OF DEATH October 13, 1968
PLACE OF DEATH Los Angeles, California, United States of America
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