Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, June Foray

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.

17 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday, June!

    So June had discussed the incident between her and Joe Barbara before. In most other interviews she usually would just ignore the question or say she didn't want to talk about it.

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  2. People like June Foray, Mel Blanc, among others are remembered today for their imputs to animation. I think of the current decay in animation and who will think in the future of anything of what's going on today.

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  3. Happy Birthday, June...if it wasn't for Yowp, though, I would never have know about her being in the demo. First heard her as Rocky T.F.S...
    RadioWizard (Jack)

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  4. Happy Birthday Granny! From Sylvester and Tweety and all your friends.
    Tom Ruegger

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  5. It doesn't seem to me like Joe replacing June was unreasonable. Actors for animated and live action series are often replaced after a pilot as the concept of the show becomes refined, and this was really more of a test scene than a pilot. At least from the information here, I don't think any short walks off of any piers were warranted here. I say this in contrast to what happened with Bea Benaderet, which seems completely egregious and shameful. Besides, June's wonderful and distinctive voice(s) don't seem quite right for Betty, whose main role is to blend in.

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  6. Reading about the attitude taken by the producers of the new Smurfs movie towards using June's voice, it's ironic that 50 years after the fact, very little has changed when it comes to how disposable/inconsequential some of the execs think animation voice talent is (thought I'm pretty sure the Benaderet-for-Foray swap on The Flintstones is going to end up being far less of a downgrade than whomever the execs have decided could handle June's role better in this movie).

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  7. 88 Fingers, I think June's telling Joe to walk off a pier had more to do with June asking if she could still audition for other characters and bit parts, and Joe telling her no..... only to come crawling back to her sometime later.

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  8. Putting aside whether June would have been as good, or maybe better, as Betty... it still seems perfectly reasonable for the cartoon to recast after the test scene, and it still seems like an overreaction for her to be so insulted that she wouldn't consider other parts at the time.

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  9. Having been through a similar situation, I can perfectly understand how June felt. It's pretty damned insulting.
    Then again, we show folk are a sensitive bunch. :)

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  10. I finally get to say thanks to June Foray for her memorable appearance on my radio program years ago which was broadcast by 'Westwood 1' in Los Angeles. We broadcast a satellite feed from 'Carlos O'Briens' on the strip. Of the many guests we had stop by to chat, my most unforgettable interview was with June. She was even kind enough to do a liner note for me in her Rocky voice before she bid adieu. "Your listening the the James Scott show on cfny 'the spirit of radio'. Thanks June for such and entertaining half-hour. Have a wonderful birthday.

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  11. Wow. I found this blog on John K's Blog. this is great! Happy birthday to June Foray. What can I say that no one else has already said. I've always loved the talented voice actress. I hope she has many happy healthy years ahead.

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  12. Actually, Ms. Foray worked at least twice at Hanna-Barbera between 1963 and '85: in the 1966 MAN CALLED FLINTSTONE theatrical, and uncredited in a single first-season SCOOBY-DOO episode as a fortuneteller. Supposedly she played a villian in a DYNOMUTT episode as well.

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  13. Oops, I meant to say June had a few H-B gigs between '63 and '81 (rather than '85) when THE SMURFS premiered. The year 1985 is significant for the return to the studio of Howard Morris (PAW-PAWS, 13 GHOSTS, JETSONS revival) after an acrimonious 19-year estrangement.

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  14. Re: Betty Rubble and Bea Benaderet - I have always read that she didn't so much get the axe in favor of Gerry Johnson, but instead gave up the role because she suddenly found her plate was already filled with work for her brand new show, "Petticoat Junction". Apparently it came down to the fact that she couldn't physically do both, that is, couldn't be in two places at once, because "PJ" took up her work week.

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  15. Unfortunately, that was not the case. No one was more surprised that Bea when she did not return to play Betty.

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  16. And of course, June has just passed milestone #94, celebrating it by winning her first Emmy award.

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  17. Why then was Bea dropped and what details are known? Her version of Betty Rubble was far superior to that of Gerry Jhnson.

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