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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18 Comments

Mark 10 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.
top_cat_james_1 11 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 11 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 11 months ago
Bea Benadere was the perfect voice for Betty! She sounds like a wonderful person too. Thanks for sharing, MeTV!
Cartoonist1959 11 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 months ago
Gale Gordon was great though as Mr. Mooner on The Lucy Show.
Andybandit 11 months ago
I meant to say with her on it.
Andybandit 11 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 11 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 months ago
They ruin everything, and you know who they are.
teire 11 months ago
I think her name is pretty darn recognizable!
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 11 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 11 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 11 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...
justjeff 11 months ago
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justjeff daDoctah 11 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...
justjeff 11 months ago
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