Bea Benaderet (April 4, 1906 – October 13, 1968) was an American actress, born in New York City and raised in San Francisco, California. She is best remembered for starring in the 1960s television series Petticoat Junction as Shady Rest Hotel owner Kate Bradley and The Beverly Hillbillies as Jed Clampett's cousin Pearl Bodine (Jethro's mother), and as the original voice of Granny of Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes media franchise and Betty Rubble on The Flintstones. Benaderet reached stardom in her late 50s after over 20 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.
Benaderet began voicing the character of Granny—the sometimes dimwitted, sometimes assertive owner of Tweety Bird—in the Warner Bros. cartoon series beginning in 1943, and was one of the few female voice artists associated with the studio in the early days. Benaderet continued to play the voice of Granny into the 1950s, before June Foray took over the role in 1955.
Benaderet 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 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 also had a regular role in the series "A Day in the Life of Dennis Day" as Mrs. Anderson, Day's landlord, who was also the mother of Day's girlfriend on the show. Benaderet also voiced the widow on the Mel Blanc show. She fends off Mel's uncle Rupert's money-mad proposals with the phrase, "now Rupert I am in no mood for your nincompoopity."
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 21, 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 an older widowed hillbilly woman, Cousin Pearl Bodine (Jethro's mother) in the series, and she appeared in the pilot and a majority of episodes 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 (Kate Bradley, owner of the Shady Rest Hotel, who was said to be Pearl Bodine's cousin) 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 in the first few episodes as her Petticoat Junction character in order to establish the Hooterville setting (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 (inspired by loud-mouthed comedienne Cass Daley) in Little Red Riding Rabbit. The Flintstones reunited Benaderet (Betty Rubble) with her 1940s co-workers Alan Reed (Fred Flintstone) and Mel Blanc (Barney Rubble, Betty's husband). 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).
Benaderet became ill in 1967 which led to her leaving Petticoat Junction in what was hoped would be a temporary retirement. In her absence 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 a few additional appearances on the show. Shortly after Bea's 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.
On October 13, 1968, Bea Benaderet died from lung cancer. She was entombed in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. Her second husband, Eugene Twombley, died of a heart attack on the day of her funeral (four days after the death of his wife) and was interred beside her. 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 father, Samuel Benaderet, was a Turkish immigrant and her mother was Margaret O'Keefe Benaderet. Bea had two children, Jack and Maggie, from her first marriage to actor Jim Bannon.
- Notorious (1946)
- On the Town (1949)
- The First Time (1952)
- Black Widow (1954)
- Plunderers of Painted Flats (1959)
- Tender Is the Night (1962)
- Puss n' Booty (1943) (voice)
- Little Red Riding Rabbit (1944) (voice)
- Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears (1944) (voice)
- The Weakly Reporter (1944) (voice)
- The Shooting of Dan McGoo (1945) (MGM)
- Baseball Bugs (1946) (voice)
- Quentin Quail (1946) (voice)
- Scent-imental Over You (1947) (voice)
- Tweetie Pie (1947) (voice)
- Doggone Cats (1947) (voice)
- What's Brewin', Bruin? (1948) (voice)
- I Taw a Putty Tat (1948) (voice)
- Kit For Cat (1948) (voice)
- A Hick a Slick and a Chick (1948) (voice)
- The Bee-Deviled Bruin (1949) (voice)
- Bear Feat (1949) (voice)
- The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950) (voice)
- An Egg Scramble (1950) (voice)
- All a Bir-r-r-rd (1950) (voice)
- Canary Row (1950) (voice)
- Two's a Crowd (1950) (voice)
- Room and Bird (1951) (voice)
- Chow Hound (1951) (voice)
- Lovelorn Leghorn (1951) (voice)
- Tweety's S.O.S. (1951) (voice)
- A Bear for Punishment (1951) (voice)
- Feed the Kitty (1952) (voice)
- Gift Wrapped (1952) (voice)
- Kiddin' the Kitten (1952) (voice)
- Orange Blossoms for Violet (1952) (voice)
- Terrier-Stricken (1952) (voice)
- From A to Z-Z-Z-Z (1953) (voice)
- Kiss Me Cat (1953) (voice)
- Easy Peckin's (1953) (voice)
- Of Rice and Hen (1953) (voice)
- Sandy Claws (1954) (voice)
- Wild Wife (1954) (voice)
- The Cats Bah (1954) (voice)
- Bewitched Bunny (1954) (voice)
- Goo Goo Goliath (1954) (voice)
- Feather Dusted (1955) (voice)
- The Hole Idea (1955) (voice)
- The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1950–1958)
- The George Burns Show (1958–1959)
- The Flintstones (cast member from 1960–1964) (voice)
- Peter Loves Mary (1960–1961)
- The Beverly Hillbillies (recurring cast member from 1962–1963)
- Petticoat Junction (cast member from 1963–1968)
- 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
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