Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Slice of the Life of Janet Waldo

It’s perhaps a little odd that Janet Waldo is celebrating a birthday today because she really is ageless. She sounds no different in the last interview I heard her give than she did when she was enthusiastically squealing to radio audiences as Corliss Archer back in the 1940s.

Janet, as I don’t need to tell you, is the voice of Judy Jetson. But she was a star on the air long before that as Corliss, and appeared in a supporting role on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” My favourite story surrounding her gig on that show comes from the Radio and Television Mirror of July 1950:

While Ozzie claims he is the world's worst business man, there are those who will argue the question — among them Bing Crosby.
When Ozzie gave Janet Waldo permission to appear on the Crosby show, he cautioned her about the squeal she has made so popular on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
"I don't know if they want you to squeal," Ozzie said, "but if they do, just be sure that they call you Emmy Lou."
Sure enough, Janet did squeal on the Crosby show. And in the signoff, Bing acknowledged his debt to Ozzie.
"The squeal by Janet Waldo," the groaner announced, "was heard through the courtesy of Ozzie Nelson."
Janet’s connection with Bing went back long before that. Crosby is credited with discovering her as a university co-ed in Seattle and bringing her to Paramount in January 1938. She seems to have done more photo shoots like the one you see to the right (from 1938) than movies, but she worked for a couple of studios before jumping full-time into radio.

Janet appeared on camera when network TV rolled around (though she passed on playing Corliss on the tube) and was given a co-starring shot after her time on “The Jetsons” on the series “Valentine’s Day.” Here’s a syndicated column from July 14, 1964 talking about it. The picture of her with the Laura Petrie hair accompanied the article.


TV KEYNOTES
Janet Waldo, Franciosa Team Up

By HARVEY PACK
NEW YORK — Janet Waldo, who will play Tony Franciosa's secretary on ABC's new Friday night series "Valentine's Day," is a veteran radio actress who, in spite of being the mother of two children, 12 and 8, hardly looks old enough to have owned a radio set.
Born in Grandview, Washington and reared in Seattle, Janet and her mother descended on Hollywood after Janet had scored in local high school shows and wanted a theatrical career. Almost immediately she was signed to play the role of "Corliss Archer," a precocious teen-ager originally created by F. Hugh Herbert for his play "Kiss and Tell". Janet was Corliss until she was in the sixth month of pregnancy at which time little Corliss took a maternity leave.
Janet, who looks like Donna Reed would look if she didn't spend so much time at the hairdressers, was not limited to the part of Corliss and she filled her time and bankbook by appearing on virtually every radio show in Hollywood. In March, 1949 she married writer Robert E. Lee and since then she has been a wife, mother, actress and confidant for the famous writing team of Lawrence and Lee, authors of such hits as "Inherit the Wind" and the stage version of "Auntie Mame".
She and Bob live in the San Fernando Valley (by choice, explained Janet, since her playwright husband can live on either coast) surrounded by many showbusiness neighbors including Shirley MacLaine, Steve Allen, Gale Storm and, most important of all, producer-director Hal Hanter of "Valentine's Day."
Food The Attraction
Since her husband's partner, Jerry Lawrence, is a bachelor with a bungalow overlooking the Pacific, I naturally assume the team worked at Lawrence's house. "Oh, no," said Janet smiling. "They work at our place because I feed them." At the moment, Lawrence and Lee have a play geared for next season on Broadway which may make things a little tricky for Janet and Bob since they have always agreed never to be separated for more than three weeks at a time and Janet will have the series and Bob will be in the east for revisions. "We'll work it out," said Janet. "We always have."
Although fans may not have noticed it, Janet Waldo has grown up on the air with the Nelson family right along with David and Ricky. Years ago, she played teen-ager Emmy Lou on the Nelson's radio show and on TV she has had the running role of Janet. Naturally, she and Bob are quite friendly with the Nelson clan.
Since she's not desperate for the money and her whole life is not wrapped up in her acting career, Janet picks and chooses her spots always with an eye for how much time it will mean away from Bob and the children. She does a lot of voices for cartoons and commercials and one of her favorites was Judy Jetson on ABC's "The Jetsons". Recently she did a sexy voice on a commercial and her words were joined up with a luscious former Playmate on the final film. "I had to see what the girl looked like," said Janet. "So I went out and bought the magazine where she was in the centerfold. Wow! And to think she needed my voice."
For Tony Franciosa, who used to be married to Shelley Winters, working with a girl like Janet Waldo should be a nice change of pace.

You have to chuckle at the reference to Janet doing the voice for a Playboy centrefold? Look at the photo to your right. It’s a publicity shot of Janet from 1943. Need I say more?

Needless to say, “Valentine’s Day” flopped. But Janet Waldo is no worse for it. When you think of her on camera, you likely think of her guest appearance on the top TV show of its day (and can likely quote the instructional line from Ricky Ricardo to Peggy about jiggling). She’ll always be eep-orping Judy Jetson to a few generations. And, best of all, she comes across in interviews as a genuine and happy person, unaffected by the problems that show biz fame can bring. She deserves a happy birthday today. I suspect she’ll have many more. She’s ageless, you know.

5 comments:

  1. Janet really is ageless. She also made many appearances on the television version of " Ozzie and Harriett ". Early in the series she was Emmy Lou, and later was everything from the lady behind the counter, to a PTA mother. She actually did the squeal in the " Traffic Light " episode. She was a " teenaged " receptionist for a high ranking city official on the phone talking about her dreamy boy friend. Sometimes only her voice was heard on the phone. From 1996 through 2013, she has been playing Alan Young's wife in the children's radio series " Adventures in Odyssey ". She has always been as comfortable in front of the camera as she is behind the mic. What a talent! Happy birthday to the world's forever teenager.

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  2. Was she also Jeannie the Baby Sitter in Tom and Jerry?

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  3. In 1991 Janet told me she thought Judy Jetsons was her first cartoon. She said the babysitter was her friend from radio, Barbara Eiler. Keith Scott

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  4. Happy Birthday..Janet. She also appeared as a teenage voice on the telephone in "The FBI",a Quinn Martin?WB production. Thanks, Keith Scott for the info.

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  5. There's at least one interview with her on archive.org.

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