Janet Waldo, voice artist – obituary


Janet Waldo, who has died aged 96, was an American actress who was a lot in demand as a voice artist for quite a few tv cartoon sequence from the Sixties to the Eighties, notably for British audiences as Penelope Pitstop in Wacky Races, and as Judy Jetson in The Jetsons, each produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

Penelope Pitstop, “the glamour gal of the fuel pedal”, was sometimes clad in lurid cyclamen-coloured driving gear, incorporating miniskirt, belt with heart-shaped buckle, white go-go boots and jauntily peaked goggles. She was designed by the good animator Iwao Takamoto, and loosely primarily based on Maggie DuBois, the Natalie Wooden character in Blake Edwards’ 1965 comedy caper movie The Nice Race.

The animators gave Penelope an uncommon straight-legged operating model, and her pink convertible sports activities automotive, the Compact Pussycat, was outfitted with helpful devices such a parasol and an extending lipstick holder.

Wacky Races, first proven in Britain on BBC1 in 1969-70, turned an immediate hit, and shortly the girl-racer was given her personal spin-off present, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, a cliffhanger sequence alongside the strains of the silent period weekly melodrama The Perils of Pauline, wherein she would cry “Hey-yelp, Hey-yelp” in a Southern-belle drawl as she fought off the advances of the Hooded Claw (voiced memorably by Paul Lynde).

Janet Waldo’s first function in a cartoon, nevertheless, was as Judy, the teeny-bopper daughter of the household, in The Jetsons (ITV 1963-4), a futuristic companion to The Flintstones whose the characters loved high-tech aids to dwelling – resembling a robotic maid and a nuclear-powered house automotive – of which their viewers might solely dream.

She was “terrified” of the digital camera, as she defined later, so relished the possibility to work with solely a microphone: “No false eyelashes! Not having to look so glamorous!”

Janet Marie Waldo was born in Yakima, Washington, on February 4 1920. She started appearing in church performs as a toddler; her father, who was associated to Ralph Waldo Emerson, died when she was an toddler and her mom, a skilled singer, gently pushed her in direction of a profession within the theatre.

Janet studied on the College of Washington and joined an area repertory firm, earlier than coming into a expertise contest in Seattle, the place she was noticed by Bing Crosby, touring with some Paramount Studios expertise scouts. The younger actress and her mom headed to Hollywood with a “characteristic participant” contract from Paramount, Crosby having satisfied the studio’s energy brokers that Janet Waldo was a pure expertise.

She was rapidly put to work in a sequence of small roles, taking part in the ingénue – phone operator, hat-check lady – in a fast succession of musicals and comedies, resembling reverse Fred MacMurray and Harriet Hillard in Coconut Grove, then (additionally in 1938) in Tom Sawyer, Detective, with a younger Donald O’Connor, and in Paris Honeymoon with Bing Crosby in 1939.

She appeared because the sage-brush sweetheart in a run of forgettable westerns that includes Tim Holt, and by the early Forties had change into a reliable minor participant, showing with Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor, for instance, within the wartime love story Waterloo Bridge.

She was by no means totally snug as a movie actress, nevertheless, and throughout the warfare turned more and more to the simplicity of radio. She began on Cecil B DeMille’s Lux Radio Theater in 1941 and proved to be a extremely adaptable radio star with a aptitude for accents and dialects. She lent her voice to a lot of the standard exhibits of the last decade, amongst them Large City with Edward G Robinson, The Eddie Bracken Present and, later, Stars over Hollywood. She co-starred with Jimmy Lydon within the CBS state of affairs comedy Younger Love (1949-50), and she or he had a recurring function on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

 However it was her eight-year run as teenager Corliss Archer on Meet Corliss Archer for CBS (on-screen the function was performed by Shirley Temple) that left a long-lasting impression; it was revealed as a preferred comedian e book. 

There have been tv appearances, notably in I Love Lucy, and she or he reprised the function of Emmy Lou when The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet transferred from radio to tv within the mid-Nineteen Fifties. She was additionally for a time an everyday on The Andy Griffith Present.

Nonetheless, voicing cartoons could be the place she was happiest, as she found in 1962, when she was employed by Joe Barbera for The Jetsons. She went on to look in dozens of animated sequence: she had a two-year run in The Flintstones, and was in episodes of The Implausible 4, The Addams Household, Yogi Bear, The Scooby-Doo Present, Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Smurfs.

Within the mid- Eighties she returned to taking part in teenage Judy when The Jetsons was revived, and in 1990 she had a small half in Jetsons: The Film, having been changed on the final minute for the function of Judy.

In 1998 she was a visitor star (as Mrs Tobbis) within the cartoon sequence King of the Hill. It was her first stab at taking part in in a “post-watershed” cartoon.

In 2000, Waldo gave voice to Penelope Pitstop one final time for a Wacky Races online game, and in 2008 she appeared on the Christian radio present Adventures in Odyssey. She was nonetheless making visitor appearances at comedian e book and movie conventions till not too long ago.

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

Janet Waldo, born February 4 1918, died June 12 2016


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