Top 10 Female Voice Actors: Pre-1980s

Both in recording podcasts for GeekCastRadio's "Tooncast" and in adding content to the site here at Behind the Voice Actors, I noticed that certain names kept popping up over and over again in show credits. I also noticed that many 'top-ten' lists on the internet are either completely biased towards a person's favorite characters or even one particular show. (One top fifty list I saw had basically every voice actor that ever worked on the Simpsons) Thus, I started a 'monumental' task of coming up with Top Ten lists for voice actors in certain time periods. I was curious as to who the most prominent actors have been throughout our history. (What do you expect, I was a History Major). That being said, this is the second of six, Top Ten lists I will be adding to the site. Each list will be dedicated to either male or female voice actors in three different time periods (Pre-1980s, 1980s & 1990s). To lay some groundwork before we get to the list let me explain a few things.

First, this IS NOT a list of my favorite voice actors or a list of voice actors who voiced my favorite characters. This is a list of the most PROMINENT voice actors. What I mean by that, is that this list is dedicated to those voice actors whose entire body of work puts them head and shoulders above everyone else. For example, Larry Kenney voiced one of the most popular characters in the 80s, Lion-O from Thundercats. However, since he had literally fewer than a dozen voice credits to his name, he will not appear on any of the lists that you see here.

Movies, Commercial Voices, and Cartoons (of course) were the main things considered when compiling this list. I started by going through and making a list of every notable character in cartoon history. I then proceeded to fill in the voice actors for all of those characters and began cross referencing to see whose names showed up the most. From there I compiled a list of about 20-30 voice actors for each time period and for male and female. Next, I took an in depth look at each of those 20-30 voice actors entire filmography/career. Finally, having all of the data and credits in front of me for each of the finalists, I began to select who would make the Top Ten and at which rank they would fall in.

Two things helped each voice actor more than anything else. First, the total number of credits they had, and second, the total number of major credits they had. It should be noted that, since most voice actors work is not confined to the time periods I have created for these lists it was necessary to determine which time period each actor did their finest work. For example, Frank Welker has done notable voices from all three time periods, but no one can argue that his most notable work was done in the 1980s, so that is the list he would qualify for. Also, I would like to mention that I did leave the possibility for future lists open, like Top Ten of the 2000s. You will probably notice quite a few names that you may assume would have made the 1990s lists but since they really have done more work in the 2000s I left them off just in case myself, or someone else wants to do that list in the future. I will admit that this was perhaps the hardest list to come up with, in parts thanks to Mel Blanc and the lack of information on many early female voice artists. However, even though many of these voice actors may be lacking that major iconic role that you saw with their male counterparts, they still voiced enough side characters to warrant a place on the list.

For each list I will also mention a few Honorable Mentions for people I feel deserve to be mentioned in the discussion either because they just missed making the list themselves, or because they voiced an iconic character during their time period. So, for the Female Voice Actors Pre-1980s here are your

Honorable Mentions:

Kathryn Beaumont
: Although she has a fairly short filmography, I don't think anyone will argue that the voice of Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Wendy in Peter Pan should at least get a mention! She was also named a Disney Legend.

Nicole Jaffe
: If Beaumont's filmography is short, than Jaffe's is tiny but heck she was the original Velma from Scooby-doo.

Lillian Randolph
: The Iconic, "Mammy Two-Shoes" from early cartoon shorts fame.

Eleanor Audley
: Although much more known for her live action roles, she voiced perhaps two of the most iconic evil characters in Disney history. She was Lady Tremaine, aka the Wicked Stepmother, in Cinderella and Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. And now the

Top 10 Female Voice Actors: Pre-1980s
By OptimusSolo on Mon Mar 1 2010, 9 Comments, Add Comment


Bea Benaderet

Iconic Role: Betty Rubble

Bea appeared in many of the early Looney Tunes shorts usually appearing as a Grandma or a motherly figure, Mama Bear for example. Even though it was uncredited, no surprise, she also voiced Mother Magoo on Mister Magoo. She also voiced characters on the Jetsons, Top Cat, The Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner Show, as well as many Merrie Melodies shorts. Her most famous role is undoubtedly as the original Betty Rubble on the Flinstones.

Lucille Bliss

Iconic Role: Smurfette

Although Lucille Bliss has a somewhat short resume compared to many on our list, she has voiced characters for almost 60 years. She had the honor of voicing the main character on the first ever made for television cartoon, Crusader Rabbit in 1950. That year she was also the uncredited voice of Anastasia in Cinderella. She has also played minor characters in The Space Kidettes, The Flinstones, & Casper. Her most iconic role may have been her 1980s work as every boys' favorite Smurf, Smurfette! Lucille wasn't finished yet though as she also appeared in Duck Dodgers, Invader Zim, & Avatar: The Last Airbender. In fact, recently she has done most of her work for video games, including Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, Space Quest VI, & Battlestar Galactica. Her longevity as a voice actor alone warrants her a spot in the Top 10, not to mention the quality of some of the characters she has portrayed.

Julie Bennett

Iconic Role: Cindy Bear

Like Bliss, Bennett also was busy in Hollywood for half a century. Her first voice role came as Sagebrush Sal in Quick Draw McGraw. Ironically she played the daughter of Bea Benaderet's character, Mother Magoo in Mister Magoo. She landed her most famous role in 1961 though as the girlfriend of Yogi Bear, Cindy Bear. She also had minor roles in the Bullwinkle Show, The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, The Funky Phantom and Jeannie. Cattanooga Cats fans will recognize her as both Kitty Jo & Chessie. Her last voice over role was as Aunt May Parker in 1997's Spider-Man.

Verna Felton

Iconic Role: Queen of Hearts

Anyone who has seen any of the classic Disney films has heard Verna Felton's voice. Starting all the way back in 1941 as the Elephant Matriarch in Dumbo, Felton quickly became a favorite for Walt Disney. She would also voice the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, Aunt Sarah in Lady and the Tramp, and Flora in Sleeping Beauty. Ironically, her final role would see her return to her beginnings as an elephant, this time as Winifred in the Jungle Book. Her most noteable television series role was as Pearl Slaghoople, Wilma's mother, on the Flinstones.

Billie Lou Watt

Iconic Role: Astroboy

Like some of the others on the list, you could argue that Billie Lou Watt's resume is simply too short for her to be a member of the Top 10. You could also argue that she never really appeared in any of the 'iconic' cartoons of the classic era. However, unlike many of the others on the list who played mostly minor roles and side characters, Watt had a knack for landing starring roles. This began in 1963 with her portrayal of both Astroboy and Astrogirl in the classic Astroboy cartoons. Her next starring role came as Jimmy Sparks in the American adaptation of Gigantor. That was followed up by portraying the lead characters Kimba in 1965's Kimba the White Lion and 1968'sThe Little Prince in the show of the same name. I remember her most though from her work in two of the greatest religious cartoons of all-time where she played Christopher Peeper in Superbook and Justin Casey in The Flying House. Her last role was as Ma Bagge in the turn of the century toon, Courage the Cowardly Dog. Unfortunately Watt passed on before that show aired its final episode.

Jane Webb

Iconic Role: Sabrina, The Teenage Witch

Jane Webb is virtually the opposite of Billie Lou Watt. Whereas Watt is notable for voicing many lead roles, Webb was more known for the number of sidekicks and minor roles that she obtained. Her first voice role came as Cindy Lindenbrook in Journey to the Center of the Earth. She also voiced Batgirl in the Batman/Superman Hour and Wanda Kay Breckenridge and Aunt Gertrude in The Hardy Boys. Some of her best work came as a pair of characters from the Archie Show who ironically were both part of the same love triangle, Veronica Lodge & Betty Cooper. She also played various minor voices in the Archie Show. Her one lead role came when she secured the spot of Sabrina in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. She would continue to voice Veronica, Betty, and Sabrina in a variety of incarnations of those shows until she stopped doing voice work altogether in 1978.

Julie McWhirter Dees

Iconic Role: Jeannie

Julie McWhirter, or after she married famed DJ Rick Dees, Julie McWhirter Dees has many connections to the other actors on our list. Whereas Billie Lou Watt was the voice of the original Little Prince, McWhirter reprised the role for the 1982 version of the show. She also voiced the role of Betty Rubble, originally made famous by Bea Benaderet in the 1987 feature, The Jetsons meet the Flinstones. Finally, whereas Lucille Bliss played the most famous female on the Smurfs, McWhirter played one of the later female characters named, Sassette Smurfling. She also played Baby Smurf on that series. Some of her other notable roles include Jeannie, from the show of the same name, Bubble Blowton on Jabberjaw, Terri Barkley from the Barkleys, Huckleberry Pie from the Strawberry Shortcake specials, Amanda Panda from Pandamonium, Alfalfa from the Little Rascals, Vampira on Drak Pack and Q*Bertha & Q*Mom from Saturday Supercade's Q*Bert. Although not as the original voice, she was able to voice at different times, Kanga from Winnie the Pooh, and Casper the Friendly Ghost. Finally, she also had many minor roles in The Littles, Pirates of Dark Water, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Clue Club.

Jean Vander Pyl

Iconic Role: Wilma Flinstone

Just like the Male version of this Top 10 List, our Final 3 Ladies, truly are icons in the voice acting business. They may not have the name recognition and flash of Messick, Butler, and Blanc, but they definitely could give those men a run for their money. Starting off that Top 3 is Jean Vander Pyl who basically helped make the Flinstones one of the most successful cartoons in history. She was THE original Wilma Flinstone and outside of two episodes in which Don Messick and Janet Waldo may have portrayed versions of her, she was basically also the orignal Pebbles Flinstone. She voiced Wilma from her inception in 1966 through her death in 1999. In fact her voice is even featured in the 2005 video, First Family of the Stone Age.

However, don't even think for a second that it was the Flinstones alone that landed Vander Pyl so high on this list. Ever hear of Rosie the Robot Maid from the Jetsons? How about Winnie the Winsome Witch? She also played Madam LaFoo on Mister Magoo, Mama Kangaroo on the Yogi Bear Show, Fifi on Top Cat, Ogee on Magilla Gorilla, Maw and Floral Rugg in a variety of cartoons, Marge Huddles in Where's Huddles, and Rosemary on Hong Kong Phooey. Not to mention her minor roles on Scooby-Doo, Quick Draw McGraw and many others. Jean Vander Pyl is in a different league than everyone on this list, well, except for the Top Two, of course!

Janet Waldo

Iconic Role: Judy Jetson

Not many voice actors can flaunt a filmography that contains both works produced in the year 2000 and 1938. Janet Waldo is one of those voice actors. As most of her early roles are uncredited it is hard to give a truly accurate synopsis of her first few decades of work. However, once you get into the 60's it's not very hard at all to identify most of her roles. Her first major voice work, and probably her most famous, came as Judy Jetson from the classic cartoon, the Jetsons. She would hold on to this role for the better part of 4 decades. The 60s also saw her play the role of Penelope Pitstop. In the 70s she voiced the lead character, Josie McCoy from Josie and the Pussycats. She, ironically, was also one of three actors on the list to voice Mrs. Slaghoople, Wilma's mother on the Flinstones. The other two being Verna Felton and Jean Vander Pyl. At one point she also voiced the Vander Pyl character, Flora Rugg and the Julie Bennett character, Cindy Bear.

Some of her minor roles included Jenny from Space Kiddettes, Lana Lang from the New Adventures of Spider-Man, Nancy from Shazzan, Granny Sweet from the Secret Squirrel Show, Jenny Trent from Cattanooga Cats, The Princess from Battle of the Planets, the witch Circe from Thundarr the Barbarian, and Shana the She-Devil from tha Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. She also popped up throughout her career as the voice of Alice, in many television incarnations of Alice in Wonderland.

The shows in which she provided multiple voices is seemingly endless but includes Alvin and the Chipmunks, Smurfs, Scooby-Doo, Clue Club, CB Bears, Tom & Jerry Show, Hong Kong Phooey, and Jonny Quest. Having given us a variety of voices for over 6 decades, no one can argue that Janet Waldo deserves this high of a spot on our list!

June Foray

Iconic Role: Granny

Famous Cartoonist, Chuck Jones, once stated that "June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc, Mel Blanc was the male June Foray." With that, I could simply end my reasons for putting June Foray as the Top Female Voice Actor of the pre-1980 era, or pehaps of all time even. However, to be fair I will give the critics out there a few more reasons for her topping our list.

Like most of the voice artists on our list, June Foray would have a much larger filmography had it not been for Mel Blanc's contract stipulations. However, even without the knowledge of many of her early characters, Foray not only outshines every voice actor on this list, but also most male voice actors as well. Her most famous role is obviously the Granny from the Warner Brothers shorts, most notably the Slyvester and Tweety cartoons. Some of her other early characters were Witch Hazel, Knothead and Splinter. Outside of Granny, two of her other iconic roles came from the same show, as she voiced both Rocky and Natasha on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Not only did she take over the role of Granny from Bea Benaderet but she also lent her voice to two other Benaderet characters, Mother Magoo and Betty Rubble (uncredited and a role she originally auditioned for but lost out on to Benaderet). She also at one time or another has voiced both Tom and Jerry from the shorts known by the same name.

In the sixties she lent her voice to the title character, Krazy Kat, Bunny from Beetle Bailey, Cindy Lou Who from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Teacher and Karen from Frosty the Snowman and various characters from Scooby-Doo, Here Comes the Grump, Pink Panther and the Jetsons.

In the seventies she was Disney's Grandma Duck, Broom Hilda, and Raggedy Ann among others. In the eighties she voiced Aunt May Parker in Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, taking over from Linda Gary and later giving up the role to Julie Bennett, Jokey Smurf & Mother Nature from the Smurfs, Grandma from Teen Wolf, Ma Beagle & Magica De Spell from Ducktales, and Mrs. Dweeb from Slimer! And the Ghostbusters.

Some of her later roles have included Granny in Tiny Toon Adventures, Grammi Gummi in Disney's Gummi Bears, Martha Wilson in the All-New Dennis the Menace, Grandmother Fa in Mulan, and Queen Tabitha in Thumbelina. She also provided the voice for the famous Chatty Cathy Doll and even has an award named after her. This may be the one list in which no arguments can be made for any other person to come in at Number 1.

So, what do you all think? Where did I get it right and where did I go so awfully wrong? Did I forget a major female voice actor of the era in question, or at least your favorite? Can you truly change the self proclaimed, Expert's mind?

This was The, er, I mean My Top Ten...What's yours?


Add a Comment

said at 3:29 PM on Sun Jul 31 2016
While active in voice over work, Bea Benaderet was a regular cast member in the "George Burns & Gracie Allen Show" in the 1950s, and she was the first hotel manager of the first few seasons of "The Petticoat Junction" when that show debut in 1963. However, by 1968, Benaderet passed away and was replaced in the show by June Lockhart.
said at 3:26 PM on Sat Jul 21 2012
Sorry, I just wanted to clarify. A number of the voices that June did, were originally done by Bea, specifically, Granny and Witch Hazel. If you check I know you'll be able to confirm. I just think the originator of those voices should be No. 1 not 10
OptimusSolo (Admin)
said at 2:39 AM on Wed Jul 25 2012
@Esther you are entitled to your opinion
said at 8:50 PM on Wed Aug 15 2012
@Esther Yes, but June has done them far longer than Bea, and did them more often that Bea.
said at 3:19 PM on Sat Jul 21 2012
Bea Benaderet also did Granny, Witch Hazel and a ton of Looney Toons it was Bea that was always mentioned as Mel's stiffest competition where I lived so I am confused about how Bea is at the bottom of this list instead of the top.
OptimusSolo (Admin)
said at 2:48 AM on Sat Nov 27 2010
AWWW Thank you!! Have you read my other lists?
OptimusSolo (Admin)
said at 10:41 PM on Mon Mar 1 2010
Glad to see at least one person thinks I got it right!! :)
said at 10:00 PM on Mon Mar 1 2010
I agree with this ALL the way. It's all so well done, so well written.

This I guess would be my top ten as well, as June Foray tops all of my VA lists (male and female).
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June Foray
Janet Waldo
Jean Vander Pyl
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Jane Webb
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Verna Felton
Julie Bennett
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Bea Benaderet
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