Judy before the Jetsons: Janet Waldo's rise to fame

The teenager of the future was linked to radio's Golden Age.

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Judy Jetson is a teenage icon, emblematic of that age bracket for an entire generation. As mid-century America began recognizing the post-adolescent, pre-adult as an enviable demographic, specific cultural signifiers emerged to explain the newly-coined grouping. Teenagers were savvy, forward-thinking consumers, and media depictions reflected that. Inevitably, some teenage characters satirize that age, heightening the melodrama of those hyper-emotional years. On occasion, though, a character like Judy Jetson emerges that lovingly showcases those precious years, taking a funny approach while never devolving into parody.

Janet Waldo was uniquely qualified to voice Judy Jetson. Her portfolio of radio work gave her a powerful skillset that allowed a full spectrum of realistic, emotional voice acting.

Waldo was born in Grandview, Washington, and raised in Seattle. High school productions led to a more serious pursuit of the theatrical arts, and upon graduation, Janet moved to Hollywood with her mother. Shortly after her arrival, Janet Waldo was cast as Corliss Archer in the same-named radio production based on plays by F. Hugh Herbert. Waldo played 15-year-old Corliss until she was six months pregnant, at which point the actress left on maternity leave to give birth to her firstborn son. 

In addition to this most-popular radio role, Ms. Waldo filled her time and her bank account with more and more radio work. In March 1949, she married writer Robert E. Lee, one-half of the Lawrence and Lee writing team behind "Inherit the Wind" and the stage version of "Auntie Mame."

Ms. Waldo was never financially desperate in a way that would necessitate taking roles she didn't want. Instead, the actress was able to take roles based on how long they'd take her away from her family. 

One of Janet Waldo's favorite roles was that of Judy Jetson, who she brought to life in the original Jetsons run from 1962-63. The voice-acting role maximized the amount of time she could spend with her husband and children. Ms. Waldo would continue voicing Judy Jetson until her own retirement from voice acting in 2000.

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19 Comments

Kramden62 9 months ago
Janet Waldo was also in the first-season episode of "The Lucy Show," "Lucy's Sister Pays a Visit." A then-unknown Peter Marshall played Ms. Waldo's husband.
ncadams27 10 months ago
In I Love Lucy she played a teen-age fan of Ricky’s in 1952 when she was 33 and pregnant. I don’t think the part about her being pregnant was part of the storyline, considering they couldn’t even use that word when Lucy was pregnant with her TV husband who was also her real-life husband.
TVHog61 10 months ago
I wish they would put the Beverly hillbillies back on in the morning. I miss watching them at that time.
Mike 10 months ago
I remember Janet Waldo from one of her few on-camera roles:
In 1964, she played Tony Franciosa's secretary on his one-season sitcom Valentine's Day.
That was a funny show, and Janet Waldo was a real knockout.
Valentine's Day also had Jack Soo, who was a riot as Franciosa's sidekick.
Somebody ought to dig that show up ...
DocForbin 10 months ago
Among the other characters Janet Waldo voiced were Josie in "Josie and the Pussycats" and Penelope Pitstop in the original version of "Wacky Races" and "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop".
WonderGeorge DocForbin 9 months ago
That's True, Doc - Janet did a wealth of voice work, which will last, as it were, a lifetime; my particular favorite is, of course, the speaking voice of Josie.
dougandandyfan 10 months ago
Meet George Jetson !
His boy Elroy !
Andybandit 10 months ago
I remember her on TAGS.
Who did she play there? I don't remember seeing her name in the credits but that doesn't mean much.
She played Amanda in one episode and the TV reunion movie, where she also did the voice of Aunt Bee.
teire 10 months ago
I remember her from the I Love Lucy episode with Richard Crenna, what a great career she had.
daDoctah teire 9 months ago
She totally perfected the "breathless teenager" thing doing Corliss Archer (who was played in a couple of movies by Shirley Temple), which defined the sound of Judy Jetson. Josie and Penelope Pitstop were dialed well back from that, although I could have done without the fake Southern accent for Pitstop.

Another actress who never got beyond that teeny-bopper thing was Trudy Ames, who was Ursula (best friend of Ann-Margret as Kim in the movie version of "Bye Bye Birdie"). Ames made just one appearance on The Dick Van Dyke Show as (surprise) a teeny-bopper when Chad and Jeremy stayed with the Petries, and her acting career concluded in 1968, whereupon she became a railroad engineer (?!).
justjeff 10 months ago
However, in the Jetsons full-length animated feature"The Jetsons: The Movie", they gave the role of Judy to pop singer Tiffany, which was a blow to Janet (who had already recorded all of her dialogue and was paid for her work)...

That feature was also the last time George O"Hanlon voiced George... he passed away after the film was completed...

According to an interview she gave to the Orlando Sentinal on July 13, 1990:

“I was totally crushed,” Waldo said. “I originated the character, and I feel very sentimental about Judy. If they had recast the whole show, there wouldn’t have been any problem at all. But the fact that my part was the only one that was changed just threw me. I felt it was very disloyal (of Hanna and Barbera).”
"
harlow1313 justjeff 10 months ago
I think I can imagine how she felt, but if she is a philosophical type of woman, this was a good life lesson.
justjeff harlow1313 10 months ago
At the time she took it pretty hard, but I'm sure she lived out the rest of her life without dwelling on that one setback...
daDoctah justjeff 9 months ago
I wonder if Laraine Newman had similar feelings when they made the movie version of "The Coneheads". Her character was recast but the Conehead parents weren't.
Bricat2001 justjeff 9 months ago
i wonder if the original recordings that Janet did for the film still exist, if so i hope that warner bros does a dvd release with the Janet's voice instead of Tiffany's
justjeff Bricat2001 9 months ago
The cost of re-dubbing might not make it worthwhile, especially if there are slight differences in timing, etc. during post production. The best you could hope for would be to have some excerpts of Janet's voice as bonus material...
Runeshaper 10 months ago
Janet Waldo really brought Judy Jetson to life, which is AWESOME! (-:
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