Wednesday, September 9, 2015

J.B. and the Bear

Time for a little quiz. See if you recognise a certain voice in this broadcast of the Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show from October 5, 1952. Advance the show to about the 21:15 mark. She’s on for about 45 seconds with Phil and the great Elliott Lewis.



Off the air, she looked like this:



But you probably know her better as this:



Yes, it’s Julie Bennett, voice of Cindy Bear, originally hired to work at Hanna-Barbera in 1959 in the role of Sagebrush Sally in a Quick Draw McGraw cartoon. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera knew her before this; Variety reported on January 31, 1955 that she would be “narrating” Tom and Jerry cartoons for MGM, then revealed on August 27, 1956 that she would be voicing for them (there’s been speculation Bennett is the babysitter in Tot Watchers, one of the last T&Js).

I started writing this post 3½ years ago then set it aside, hoping some information would come to light about her, such as when she was born, if Julie Bennett is actually her name and what she is doing today. Nothing has surfaced, so I’ll have to give up the plan.

Bennett doesn’t seem to have done (or have been asked to do) many newspaper interviews. There’s one I found from 1970 consisting of three lines that may have been part of a longer interview. For cartoon fans, there’s no real news in it—all it says is that she was better known for commercials and cartoons than live action stuff. In another interview, the Los Angeles Times talks to her about how models can improve their voices. And during her radio soap opera career, she gave advice about what kind of shoes women should wear. Not weighty stuff.

Perhaps the oddest interview was by Wendy Warren. Warren was a fictional character, the star of the soap opera Wendy Warren and the News, which blurred lines by opening with a real newscast and then storyline banter with veteran CBS newscaster Doug Edwards. Here’s what “Wendy” wrote in her column; I found this in a paper of August 23, 1951:

Instead of following the famous “go West” maxim for success — Julie Bennett reversed it. . . . Born in California, right near Hollywood, Julie studied dramatics with Max Reinhardt, and dialects with Alice Harries — then she came to New York to try for radio. Her versatile voice was an immediate asset, and Julie began getting parts immediately.
Then she heard that auditions were being held over at NBC for a new “Chichi” on “Life Can Be Beautiful.” . . . This has always been Julie’s favorite dramatic serial, and she went over to try out—winding up as one of four selected from several hundred. . . . The role went to Teri Keane—but Julie so impressed the producers that she now has the key role of “Eunice” on the show. In real life, the slender, auburn-haired Californian is still single, so serious about her career that she names as her hobby “studying acting,” and so pretty that a Marine Corps Battalion in Korea has named her as its pin-up girl.
“Stage, screen and radio” certainly describes Julie’s early career. Her name pops up in Variety. I found these squibs between 1948 and 1950. Her first regular series roles were on the affiliate-rich, cash-poor Mutual network.
September 15, 1948
SHERLOCK HOLMES With John Stanley, Ian Martin, Barry Thompson, Charles D. Penman, Julie Bennett, Anthony Kemble Cooper; Cy Harrice, announcer; Albert Buhrman, organist. Writer: Howard Merrill; Director: Basil Loughrane.
30 Mins.; Sun., 7 p.m. (EDT)
TRIMOUNT CLOTHING
Mutual, from New York

January 26, 1949
Julie Bennett appearing as Helen Palmer in the comedy-farce “At War With the Army,” at the Bushnell Theatre in Hartford, Conn., staged by Ezra Stone.

October 5, 1949
I LOVE A MYSTERY With Russell Thorson, Jim Bowles, Tony Randall, Les Tremayne, Julie Bennett, Laurette Fillbrandt, Vilma Kurer; Frank McCarthy, announcer. Producer-Director-Writer: Carlton E. Morse
15 Mins.; Mon.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.
MBS, from New York

October 19, 1949
Julie Bennett, in from Coast for Manhattan radio-TV originations, into "Theatre Guild of the Air" next Sunday and on "M-G-M Theatre of the Air" Friday.

January 25, 1950
Julie Bennett into lead of "Grand Central Station" this Sat. (28).

February 8, 1950
Julie Bennett into "Portia Face's Life" and "Man Against Crime" TVer this Friday.

April 12, 1950
Julie Bennett into "Aldrich Family" tomorrow (13) and NBC's "To Ricky With Pride" on Tuesday (18).

June 28, 1950
Julie Bennett to Coast for month's legit engagement.

August 3, 1950
Julie Bennett, one of Gotham's top radio actresses, is returning home after what started out to be a three-week vacation. When the word got around she was in town there was a deluge of calls and just to accommodate some old friends she worked five shows.

October 4, 1950
Julie Bennett into MBS' "Nick Carter" Sunday (8) and a featured role on ABC-TV's Chico Marx show Monday (9).

November 29, 1950
Julie Bennett into “Big Town” TV lead tomorrow (Thursday).

December 6, 1950
Julie Bennett into "Life Can Be Beautiful".
She got even busier in the 1950s with television work on the West Coast. Interestingly, she turned down the role of a stripper in “Playrights ‘56” (even though it’s not as if she would be taking off anything on ‘50s TV) and voiced Jimmy Stewart’s three-year-old granddaughter in The FBI Story. And she picked up cartoon work at Warner Bros., UPA and (briefly) for Jay Ward.

Bennett can probably be happy that Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear came out in 1964 instead of two and half decades later when she might have been replaced by someone like Tiffany to maximise box office appeal. Years ago, cartoon stars with their original voices were deemed enough to attract an audience. The movie had a media preview at Yellowstone Park on May 30th and premiered in the entertainment mecca of Salt Lake City on June 3rd.

Allow me to sidetrack (remember, the main reason for this post didn’t pan out) and pass on some stories about the film from Variety.
June 4, New York
Mrs. Margaret G. Twyman, community relations director of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, will send a letter this week to 160 women's clubs and film councils lauding Columbia's “Hey There, It's Yogi Bear.” Mrs. Twyman's letter urges support for "such a happy film" as the Hanna-Barbera animated color feature, which she describes as "a delightful movie for the whole family."

June 10, Los Angeles
The phone company by early evening last night had pulled the plug on a publicity stunt engineered by Columbia to puff a pic.
Col set up 10 telephone lines for kids to call a certain number—WE 72000—in a bally for opening June 17 of the Hanna-Barbera animated feature, "Hey, There, It's Yogi Bear." It was figured by the phone company that more than 100,000 overflow calls came in. That jammed the Webster exchange for two hours. Hence phone company disconnected the setup, which was interfering with regular important calls.
Columbia today plans adding another 10 lines for stunt, but with the understanding that should the exchange area be seriously disrupted company will be forced to close out the phone gimmick for good.

June 19
Six words in almost microscopic six-point type which threaten to add $3,800 to cost of Columbia's "Hey, There, It's Yogi Bear" ads in the L.A. Times have been yanked by Col ad manager Jack Burwick.
Line, which reads "Original Soundtrack Album on Colpix Records," escalates the entire 42-inch ad into the “national rate” category, a difference, according to Burwick, of $19 an inch. Film ads normally qualify for "local" rate sans disk plug because pic screens in local theatres, but when a record is advertised, ad becomes "national" because it is something offered in stores nationally.
Times apparently overlooked line for first two days of advertising, then advised Burwick of discovery yesterday. Rather than pay upped rate, Burwick elected to drop the line. Burwick reports that MGM has had similar experiences with "Unsinkable Molly Brown" shellac plugs.
Times' ad censor Marvin Reimers, meanwhile, insists rate variance between the two ad classifications is not as great as Burwick claims, though Burwick asserts he got rate scoop from Herb Marx, the Times entertainment ad topper. Reimers says difference would be closer to $12.60 an inch.
Burwick plans to take beefs to Times ad execs after consulting with Col homeoffice. He is peeved with paper on other counts, among them censorship which he deems arbitrarily applied despite fact that MP'AA passes all ads prior to Times perusal.

August 5
While evening shows continue to present something of a problem, there apparently is still a nice amount of loot to be made from cartoon features aimed at the kiddie trade. This is the report from Columbia whose Hanna-Barbera cartoon feature, "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear," opened rather slowly in early June but is now picking up a neat boxoffice momentum.
That Col is not exactly disenchanted with the kiddie fare is underscored by the fact that company is presently negotiating for the release of Richard Davis' Italo import, "A Trip to the Moon," featuring a puppet mouse, Topo Gigio, seen this side on various Ed Sullivan tv shows. If the current negotiations are satisfactorily concluded, Col will release the color puppet feature this coming Christmas.
In an effort to combat the dropoff in trade which usually occurs for a kiddie pic at evening showings, Col has been booking "Yogi Bear" with a reissue of its British click, "The Mouse That Roared," or Audie Murphy's "The Quick Gun." In some instances the companion pic is only shown at the evening sessions.

September 2, Denver
Pairing of 20th-Fox's “Cleopatra” with Columbia's “Hey There, It's Yogi Bear” at three Denver drive-ins (Aug. 19-25) may have been an exhibitor's dream of a “well-balanced program,” but it did not excite the friendly wishes of 20th toppers.
Queried as to the unusual booking, a 20th spokesman reported this week that “Yogi” had been added to the three Denver dates without 20th's knowledge and were in actual violation of the “Cleo” contracts.
Latter specify that “Cleo” must play as a single bill. 20th, the spokesman adds, registered strong objections when they learned of it. Col's cartoon epic, it's understood, was played only once a night at the drive-ins as a sort of “curtainraiser.” Exhib paid flat terms for the pic which, 20th is told, did not come out of “Cleo's” percentages.


“Hey, There” did a mixed box-office, but it was enough of one for Columbia to sign a picture deal with Hanna-Barbera. From Weekly Variety of October 7, 1964:
Hanna-Barbara’s Diversification Kick as They Make Like Disney
Say this, too, for Walt Disney—he’s proving an inspiration for Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera in the hot pursuit of diversified fortune-making.
Peering past their drawing boards (or over their mahogany desks), the hotshot cartoon impresarios are, a la Disney, drawing a bead on the live-action field (for both theatrical and tv exposure), and, again like the master, are projecting a move into outdoor entertainments via a 90-acre “Jellystone Park” south of San Diego.
The boys, who know a merchandising parlay when they see one (Hanna-Barbera-licensed creations racked up a retail gross last year of more than $120,000,000), are eyeing yet another lucrative tangent (the Disney exemplar ends here)—a coast-to-coast chain of franchised snack shops starring “Yogi-burgers.”
Meanwhile, it’s contract renewal time between H-B and Screen Gems. Negotiations are in progress and expected to produce another hitch (the last extended three years), since it's obviously been a sweet tieup both ways. (But you can bet the animators will drive a good bargain.)
In New York last week, a reflective Joe Barbera contrasted their animation output (of “Tom & Jerry” shorts) over a 20-year span for MGM (48 minutes worth a year with a staff of 190), against their total for last year alone of over 90 hours with a staff of 320. And even at that old leisurely filmville pace, Barbera recalled he still worked many a night.
For the live-action segue, the pair’s blueprints include two for television, an hour adventure series (Bill Anderson and Bill Hamilton are scripting the pilot), and a half-hour gimmick comedy with Malibu beach for a backdrop. Both are ‘65-‘66 candidates. Three more projects are aimed for theatrical release—“Mr. Mysterious,” a costume opus about a travelling magician and his family (based on the novel by Sid Fleischman); “Park Ave. Indians,” initially scripted as a tv pilot but which is undergoing expansion to cinema proportions; and “Father Was a Robot,” which Barbera says is about a “funny, swinging robot” (it better be—he says the metallic marvel was built for $75,000).
None of the three features has a distribution deal as yet. H-B’s first movie entry, the current “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear,” will be followed by a feature treatment of the “Flintstones,” which Barbera says Columbia will release at Christmas, ‘65.
Not to forsake its homescreen cartoon output (the fellows are hardly neglecting the tube, with two shows on the networks, including the new “Jonny Quest” adventure skein, and a pretty goodsized zoo menagerie making it in syndication), H-B has yet four more animal formats on the boards, plus two more action-adventure half-hours in the “Jonny Quest” idiom, plus still another six-minute strip for local kidshow splicing.
Julie continued to both cartoon and live-action work, as well as commercials (DuPont, Stardust Hotel, Atlantic Richfield, Kraft, Montgomery Ward, So. Cal. Edison, the list is pretty long). She also found time to marry ABC programme executive Jerry Bredouw in 1965 (she listed her age as 32; they were divorced in 1971). Her last live action TV work seems to have been in 1990 in a special called “Thansgiving Day” on NBC, with Mary Tyler Moore, Morton Downey, Jr. and Sonny Bono in the cast and produced by Marvin Miller. I understand that Mark Evanier cast her in some Garfield TV cartoons after that but she seems to have faded away from the business.

So, sorry, fans. I would like to have passed on word that Julie is enjoying retirement from show biz somewhere, but I really don’t know. I hope she is. While cartoon fans may know her as a stereotypical Southern voice, she did much more than that in the fields of comedy and drama, on camera and behind a microphone. She was a trailblazer, being one of the first women to voice TV cartoons in the ‘50s. And she even put up with TV’s self-proclaimed Loudmouth (Morton Downey, Jr., not Fred Flintstone). That’s quite a lot in one career.

8 comments:

  1. Also recognized her face from a few television appearances. The Adventures of Superman, Dragnet, just to mention a few

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  2. Wonderful to find another fan of Elliot Lewis and The Phil Harris Alice Faye Show, one of the all time great radio shows.

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  3. Julie Bennett's vocal pipes would later turn up on Cattanooga Cats (ABC, 1969-70) doing Kitty Jo, the band's lead vocalist and dancer, and Chessie the Autograph Hound, a rather overzealous fan constantly demanding the band's autographs.

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  4. By the way, Julie Bennett was the voice over of Aunt May in Spider-Man in 1997 on TV and Old Woman in Spider-Man in 2000 in the video game. It is according to website, the Internet Movie Database. Nothing more is heard of her.

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  5. I noticed the Sherlock Holmes episode she was in had Ian Martin filling in for Alfred Shirley as Dr. Watson. And "Trimount Clothing" must have been a corporate name for the Clipper Craft chain that sponsored the show (they had a strange aversion to the word "thousand," as announcer Cy Harrice told of their more than "ten hundred" stores).

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  6. Thanks for the article Yowp (BTW I prefer Cindy - in either version - to Kitty Jo,m if only because C.cats looks too much like Scooby-Doo..)SC

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  7. Julie Bennett voiced Cindy Bear in "Yogi and the Invasion of the Space Bears" in the mid 1980s Cindy has an even bigger role in this movie than in "Hey There," so it's a treat for any Bennett fans. What's remarkable to me is how the cast members could sound so fresh and distinctive in their roles twenty plus years after the run of the original Yogi Bear Show.

    She also provided the voice of Lois Lane in several (but not all) of the Superman cartoons produced by Filmation in the late 60's.

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  8. Great actress. I have a question regarding the 1984 TV series ''Yogi's Treasure Hunt''. 3 facts:

    Episode "Double 0 Bear'' has Julie Bennett reprising her role as Cindy.
    In Episode "To Bee or Not to Bee", it is clearly Janet Waldo playing Cindy Bear...and to top it all off
    In Episode "Snow White & The 7 Treasure Hunters", it some other actress playing Penelope Pitstop. Russi Taylor?
    Why did this happen? All except the first.

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