Benadaret in 1966.
April 4, 1902
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||October 13, 1968
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Lung cancer and pneumonia|
|Resting place||Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery, North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California|
(m. 1938; div. 1950)
(m. 1957; her death 1968)
|Children||2, including Jack Bannon|
Beatrice "Bea" Benaderet (April 4, 1902 - October 13, 1968) was an American actress born in New York City and reared in San Francisco, California. Her major breaks in radio came on The Jack Benny Program and as a member of Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre repertory company. 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 Pearl Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies, and as the original voice of Betty Rubble during the first four seasons of The Flintstones. She did a great deal of voice work in Warner Bros. animated cartoons of the 1940s and early 1950s, most famously as Granny.
Benaderet was born in 1902 in Manhattan, although occasionally her year of birth was given as 1906 or 1909 in census records. Her father Samuel was a Turkish Jewish emigrant. Her mother, Margaret (née O'Keefe), was Irish-American. Her family moved to San Francisco, California, around 1910, where she attended St. Rose Academy, a private girls' school.
Her debut on radio came when she was 12. She had performed in a children's production of The Beggar's Opera on KGO. Her first job in radio was at KFRC in San Francisco, California. Her responsibilities there included acting, singing, writing, and producing.
Bea Benaderet was a member of the Mercury Theatre repertory company heard in Orson Welles's radio presentations including "Escape", "The Magnificent Ambersons," "The Hurricane," "A Christmas Carol," "Craig's Wife" and "June Moon.":324-360 She first received notice for her radio work in the 1940s on Fibber McGee & Molly, The Jack Benny Program, My Favorite Husband, The Mel Blanc Show, The Great Gildersleeve, and Amos 'n Andy. She played Blanche Morton, the next-door neighbor to George Burns and Gracie Allen, on both the radio and television incarnations of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. In 1949, she guest-starred as Fanny Philipot Burns on the Young Love episode "The Dean Gets Married".
When Lucille Ball and husband Desi Arnaz decided to develop a program for CBS television called I Love Lucy, Benaderet, who had worked with Ball on My Favorite Husband, was the first choice to fill the role of Ethel Mertz, but was ultimately unavailable to accept it since she had already been cast for the fledgling television production of The Burns and Allen Show. While four different actors played her husband during the course of the series, Benaderet co-starred on the show throughout its run as the same character on both radio and television, as Gracie's best friend and neighbor. Vivian Vance, a relatively unknown character actress and singer, was eventually cast in the Ethel Mertz part. Benaderet did eventually appear in a guest role on I Love Lucy on January 21, 1952, as "Miss Lewis", a love-starved spinster neighbor.
She was twice nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress (1954, 1955) for her work on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. In addition to her more familiar comedic roles, Benaderet had a dramatic role in The Restless Gun in 1959.
Benaderet voiced numerous female characters in the Warner Bros. animated shorts of the 1940s, including "Granny," the sometimes dimwitted, sometimes assertive owner of Tweety. She performed the voice of Granny until 1955, when she was succeeded by June Foray. She also portrayed Little Red Riding Hood as a loud, obnoxious teenager in the 1944 Bugs Bunny cartoon Little Red Riding Rabbit. Benaderet also voiced Betty Rubble in The Flintstones from seasons one (1960) to four before resigning in 1964 due to the workload on Petticoat Junction.
Benaderet was 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 contractual stipulation that no other voice actor receive credit while he was under contract to Warner.
Benaderet was considered for the role of Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies by producer Paul Henning, who felt she was too buxom and feminine for the character he envisioned as a frail but caustic spitfire; Irene Ryan was eventually cast. Henning cast Benaderet as 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 (Max Baer Jr. in drag with Linda Kaye Henning providing the voice) moved into the Clampett mansion in the first season. However, the female Bodines disappeared 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.
Petticoat Junction proved an enormous hit in its first season, and remained a top-25 program for several years. In 1968 Benaderet would have been reunited with her former Flintsonesco-star Alan Reed during Season 5 of Petticoat Junction, when Reed played a sinister hotel guest in the episode "Bad Day At Shady Rest". However, Benaderet was ill at the time and Rosemary DeCamp replaced her playing Kate Bradley's sister Helen. Shortly after Benaderet returned to Petticoat Junction, another Flintstones cast member, Jean Vander Pyl (who voiced the character of Wilma Flintstone) did appear in the sixth season premiere episode "Birthplace of a Future President" although she and Benaderet were never in any scenes together. Benaderet had done a radio variation of Green Acres with Gale Gordon beginning in 1950 called Granby's Green Acres. Green Acres was a spinoff of Petticoat Junction, with Eva Gabor portraying Benaderet's original part, and Benaderet appearing in several 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 as Gordon was then occupied with his role as "Mr. Mooney" on The Lucy Show.)
Undergoing exploratory surgery at the Good Samaritan Hospital on November 29, 1967, Benaderet was discovered to have a tumor on her lung. The subsequent treatment and recovery forced her to be absent from 10 of that season's remaining episodes of Petticoat Junction. To account for her absence, veteran actresses Joan Blondell and Shirley Mitchell filled in for Benaderet in two single episodes and then Rosemary DeCamp appeared in six episodes in the role of Kate Bradley's sister Helen including the 1967-68 season finale which marked Benaderet's return. The following season, she was part of the first four episodes, the last one utilizing only her voice over the phone. That was necessitated by her failing health, which caused her to be hospitalized for the final time on September 26th.
Benaderet died on October 13, 1968, in Los Angeles, California of lung cancer and pneumonia. She was 66 years old and survived by her second husband and two children. She was entombed in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. Her second husband, Eugene Twombly, suffered a heart attack and died on the day of her funeral, four days after her death. He was interred beside her. Twombly had been a sound-effects artist for a number of radio and television shows.