The voice of Betty Rubble was happy being a supporting character

She didn't have to steal the show to be a part of (pre)history

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When actors star in supporting roles, we assume it's so they can work toward a project as the main character. There is a hierarchy in acting, with the lead at the top. But many people want that #1 spot on the call sheet. With such stiff competition, the energy on set can feel icy and distrustful.

Bea Benaderet, though, was quite content with being a little lower down the list. She made a comfortable living playing roles that contribute to a show while never stealing it. Benaderet was one of the best at propping up a lead character.

"You might call me the professional friend," Benaderet told the Detroit Free Press in 1961. "It sounds like I'm making an idiot of myself, but I love my work. I never wanted to reach higher than the second banana. I never thought of myself as star material."

Her name might not be instantly recognizable, but her voice sure is; Benaderet voiced the role of Betty Rubble. But before accepting her most famous role, Benaderet made a career out of not being the lead actor. During the Golden Age of Radio, she supported comedians such as Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, and even Lucille Ball. If Betty Rubble ever seems like the perfect best friend, it's because Benaderet had decades of experience. During this era, the actress also became skilled with accents and dialects, skills which would doubtlessly aid her in future animated roles.

While lack of vanity may be a rare trait in Hollywood, Bea Benaderet was the exception that proved the rule. Rather than spend her time positioning herself for better roles, Benaderet instead focused her energy on raising her children. It was her role as a mother that the actress was truly proudest of. At the time of her interview in the Detroit Free Press, Benaderet's son, Jack, was 21, while her daughter, Maggie, was 14. 

"They suddenly both got interested in acting. They went to drama classes last summer and now Jack is majoring in it at college, and Maggie belongs to a teenagers' drama group."

The proverbial apple must not have fallen too far from the tree.

"Maggie has that star-sparkle, that extra something that you can't put your finger on, but it's there. And Jack is so handsome that --oh, honey-- if he can just read he'll be all right. I can see him in a million parts."

Two years after the interview, Bea Benaderet would land what was perhaps her best-known role, as Kate Bradley in Petticoat Junction

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21 Comments

Mark 7 months ago
Bea mentioned her son Jack, who wanted to become an actor...well, he did! Jack Bannon later became a familiar TV face, playing Art Donovan on Lou Grant.

His mom also got him work as a dialogue coach on the various Filmways sitcoms. If you're an avid credit reader, like me, you can see his name listed on those shows.
daDoctah 8 months ago
A few years ago, one of the other digital channels dug out an old sitcom called Peter Loves Mary, starring real-life couple Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy (long-time Svengoolie watchers may remember them from a movie called "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T" that was written by Dr Seuss). They played fictionalized versions of themselves, entertainers who decide to move to the suburbs.

Their live-in housekeeper is Bea Benaderet, and she was often more entertaining than the lead characters.
top_cat_james_1 8 months ago
Not one mention of her role as Pearl Bodine on the first season of "The Beverly Hillbillies". The only character besides the main four to ever be included in the waving-goodbye closing credits.
ironman2000 8 months ago
I was a year old when the Flintstones first aired in 1960, and I must have been around 4 years old when my father was watching this old Humphrey Bogart movie. When Alan Reed showed up as a heavy in it. My mother said that's Fred Flintstone, and the voice matched. He even looked like Fred. After that I was on a search to find all the people who were behind all the voices of my favorite toons. Bea Benarderet was the second voice I found, because Petticoat Junction had just aired and my mom told me she was Betty.
Runeshaper 8 months ago
Bea Benadere was the perfect voice for Betty! She sounds like a wonderful person too. Thanks for sharing, MeTV!
Cartoonist1959 8 months ago
She could have had another role which would have added onto her fame. Lucille Ball originally wanted to cast Bea Benadaret alongside Gale Gordon for the Role of Fred and Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy, but her previous commitment on the George and Gracie show forced her to turn down the offer. She was one of three actresses who provided the voice of Betty Rubble ( of course she did it the best in my opinion). And after the fourth season of The Flintstones She went on to concentrate on her role as Kaye Bradley on Petticoat Junction. May she always rest in peace.
BorisK Cartoonist1959 3 days ago
Gale Gordon was great though as Mr. Mooner on The Lucy Show.
Andybandit 8 months ago
I meant to say with her on it.
Andybandit 8 months ago
Bea had a good voice as Betty. I never saw PJ with her in on it. The lady who did Betty's voice place of Bea was good too.
KawiVulc 8 months ago
The perfect Betty, her voice fit the character exactly. The live action movie Betty, however... yeesh, what genius made that call?
BorisK KawiVulc 3 days ago
They ruin everything, and you know who they are.
teire 8 months ago
I think her name is pretty darn recognizable!
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 8 months ago
Why isn't Petticoat Junction mentioned, where she was the main star most seasons (before she passed away)? It was on around the same time as The Flintstones.
Well,I brought it up! Read the post below!
It was an excuse to mention The Flintstones. Oddly enough when I was knee high to a grasshopper, I was absolutely glued to The Flintstones, but now many moons later, I just gave it a pass.
cperrynaples 8 months ago
Bea finally got to be on top with Petticoat Junction! Sadly, this would be her last role as she died early in season 6!
justjeff cperrynaples 8 months ago
She was also the co-star (with Gale Gordon) on radio's "Granby's Green Acres" - the predecessor to the TV show, and played Blanche Morton [married to Harry Morton], the next-door neighbors to George Burns and Gracie Allen on the TV version of their popular radio show.

By the way, Blanche Morton went through **four** Harry's during the run of the show:

John Brown: 7 episodes, 1951
Hal March: 15 episodes, 1950-1953
Fred Clark: 75 episodes, 1951-1953
Larry Keating: 199 episodes, 1953-1958

You can watch George Burns break "the fourth wall" and change out Harrys mid-show here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLmALqDXlzg

I can't say for sure, but this might hold the record for the number of different actors to play the same character in a TV series...
daDoctah justjeff 8 months ago
Pretty sure that record goes to all the people who played the title character on "Doctor Who".

As for US prime-time network, four Harry Mortons is tied with four Ally Starks (Krysten Ritter, Laura Clery, Lindsay Broad and Kate Micucci) on the series "'Til Death". Later seasons worked Ally's changing appearance into the storyline of the show.
justjeff daDoctah 8 months ago
Thanks for your insight. In the case of Doctor Who, there is a slight technicality... It was **planned** that the Doctor would "morph" as a certain point in the series' storyline.

The Harry Morton situation was either actors chose to move on or were dismissed in order to find a better fit for George's next-door neighbor.

Since I'd never watched "Til Death", I was unaware of the four Ally Starks actors. This then does make it a tie... still something unusual in a TV show.

There have been numerous "second" characters (ie: Mr. Wilson, Darrin Stevens, etc.) but not four changes of actors except as we've noted...
daDoctah justjeff 8 months ago
The BBC didn't originally plan for the Doctor to regenerate, though, but of course it's now a standard part of the series. The first regeneration came about because the original Doctor, William Hartnell, began having age-related problems with his memory and it became apparent that he'd need to be replaced.

The case with 'Til Death originally had Ally move out, and when she came back married the second actress had taken over the role. Later on her husband nearly had a breakdown because while *he* knew his wife had turned into someone else, nobody else on the show seemed to believe in. (And of course it eventually got them Kate Micucci who's an absolute treasure.)

There may be another extreme case of this on another show you made passing reference to: on "Bewitched", the secretary at McMann and Tate was always "Betty", and when I went through the list of actors I found at least eight different actresses playing a secretary with that name (including Marcia Wallace!), but there's no out-and-out statement that they're all supposed to be the same woman. Maybe the agency just put out a classified ad every couple of months with requirements "experienced secretary wanted for busy ad agency, must take messages and set appointments, skilled in filing and dictation, type at least 80wpm, and either be named "Betty" or be willing to be called that by everyone else who works here".

(That's not as out there as it might seem; maybe McMann wasn't able to remember a new name every time someone was replaced, and when I was taking ballroom dance I learned that whoever answered the phones at the studio was instructed to identify herself as the "Miss Jill" mentioned in their ad.)
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