How can the whole world not love June Foray? She’s brought countless moments of instant delight and enjoyment to several generations through her work in theatrical cartoons and on radio and television.
Well, someone didn’t like June Foray. Or, at least, they didn’t want her. For there was a role that got away 50 years ago.
Joe Barbera did all the voice casting and directing at Hanna-Barbera in the early years and he picked June to play Betty in The Flintstones. Her voice can be heard in the under-two-minute demo of the show that Barbera and John Mitchell of Screen Gems used to shop the show to New York ad agencies and networks. But, as we all know, she didn’t land the role.
June was asked about it in a 2000 interview for the Archive of American Television.
Oh, that broke my heart. I did a pilot because I had been working for Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera when they were out at MGM. And they said “we’re doing a”—it was called ‘The Flagstones’ at that time—and they said “you’re going to be the character [Betty] and so, it was Daws Butler and I who did the pilot.
And then my agent called and said “They’re not going to use you and they’re auditioning other people.” And I said “Gee, why don’t they at least [let her try a different voice]”—because when I went in there, Joe Barbera says “Oh, just be, na[tural], just do any voice,” you know. And I thought I did a good job. And they wouldn’t let me audition anymore. And so, a few months later, Joe called my agent and said “We feel so very bad about June. We’d like to hire her for something else.” And I said “You tell him to take a long walk off a short pier.” And I didn’t work for Bill and Joe for a long time until I did—well, I did ‘A Man Called Flintstone’—until I did ‘The Smurfs.’
Thus, June joined a list of people who tried out the “short pier” line—or perhaps another one with a little more colour in it—on Joe Barbera. I suspect June’s replacement as Betty, Bea Benaderet, did the same after suddenly finding Gerry Johnson doing the role.
Despite June’s recollection, she did appear on three Flintstones episodes—‘Foxy Grandma’ and ‘Dress Rehearsal’ in the third season, and ‘Bedrock Hillbillies’ in the fourth. She did mention she maintained cordial relations with Joe and Bill during the years before she worked with them again on The Smurfs. Her first work at Hanna-Barbera was on the 1958 Yogi Bear cartoon “Bear on a Picnic,” a rare time that a female actor was hired in the first season of the Huckleberry Hound Show (Daws Butler and Don Messick generally did women’s roles in falsetto).
Why was she unceremoniously dumped as Betty? And by whom? No one knows or is saying.
However, birthdays are meant to be happy occasions, and not dwell on the negative. So I would suggest you set aside some time today to pull out some Jay Ward cartoons and enjoy June’s fun acting. Or you can listen to Tim Dolcé’s interview with June he recorded last year on his Behind the Lines podcast. You can find it HERE. Cue to the 4:15 mark for the interview.
June has given us so many great performances, she deserves every accolade given to her by her fans and peers.
Happy birthday, June.