Janet Waldo dies aged 96

Janet Waldo in about 1939 Janet Waldo in about 1939

Janet Waldo, who died in 2016 at the age of 96, was an American actress who was much in demand as a voice artist for numerous television cartoon series from the 1960s to the 1980s, notably for British audiences as Penelope Pitstop in Wacky Races, and as Judy Jetson in The Jetsons, both produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

Janet Marie Waldo was born in Yakima, Washington, on February 4 1920. She began acting in church plays as a child; her father, who was related to Ralph Waldo Emerson, died when she was an infant and her mother, a trained singer, gently pushed her towards a career in the theatre.

Janet studied at the University of Washington and joined a local repertory company, before entering a talent contest in Seattle, where she was spotted by Bing Crosby, touring with some Paramount Studios talent scouts. The young actress and her mother headed to Hollywood with a “feature player” contract from Paramount, Crosby having convinced the studio’s power brokers that Janet Waldo was a natural talent.

She was quickly put to work in a series of small roles, playing  Harriet Hillard in Coconut Grove, then (also in 1938) in Tom Sawyer, Detective, with a young Donald O’Connor, and in Paris Honeymoon with Bing Crosby in 1939.

She appeared in a run of  westerns with Tim Holt, and by the early 1940s had become a dependable minor player, appearing with Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor  in the wartime love story Waterloo Bridge.

Janet Waldo

 

Janet Waldo 3

She was in The Bandit Trail with Tim Holt – ABOVE

Janet Waldo 2

She was never entirely comfortable as a film actress, however, and during the war turned increasingly to the simplicity of radio. She started on Cecil B DeMille’s Lux Radio TheatRE in 1941 and proved to be a highly adaptable radio star with a flair for accents and dialects. She lent her voice to most of the popular shows of the decade, among them Big Town with Edward G Robinson, The Eddie Bracken Show and, later, Stars over Hollywood. She co-starred with Jimmy Lydon in the CBS situation comedy Young Love (1949-50), and she had a recurring role on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

 

There were television appearances, notably in I Love Lucy, and she reprised the role of Emmy Lou when The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet transferred from radio to television in the mid-1950s. She was also for a time a regular on The Andy Griffith Show.

Nevertheless, voicing cartoons would be where she was happiest, as she discovered in 1962, when she was hired by Joe Barbera for The Jetsons. She went on to appear in dozens of animated series: she had a two-year run in The Flintstones, and was in episodes of The Fantastic Four, The Addams Family, Yogi Bear, The Scooby-Doo Show, Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Smurfs.

One of her final roles was in 1998 in the hugely popular adult animated TV series King of the Hill, in which she guest starred as Mrs Tobbis in one episode.

Janet Waldo’s husband, the writer and producer Robert E Lee, whom she married in 1948, died in 1994. She is survived by a son and daughter

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