Bea Benaderet was replaced as Betty Rubble by Gerry Johnson.
(Note in the comments that H-B doesn’t appear to have had much of a choice in Ms. Waldo’s case).
Mrs. Johnson may have been a very nice person but her voice was too squeally for me as Betty. On top of that, Bea had a long career dating back to the ‘20s and was a top supporting actress on radio and then television. She brought a pleasant, humorous quality to Betty’s voice.
Not a lot has been written about Gerry Johnson because about the only thing she’s known for is being the second Mrs. Rubble. When the series ended in 1966, her career ended. She didn’t return to the role when the Pebbles and Bamm Bamm Show (stop blowing that whistle!) debuted five years later. But she had been acting for more than two decades, as an amateur and a professional, and was a pioneer in post-war television.
It was front page news in the Grand Prairie Daily News of Grand Prairie, Texas when word spread that Gerry Johnson was coming to town. It’s hard to decipher the story through OCR errors, but here’s what I can make out from the March 1, 1953 edition:
TV Star to Comment March 9 On Fashions and Models
Gerry Johnson, pretty, vivacious star of KRLD-TV's "Variety Fair" in Dallas, will be the style commentator of the fifth annual Grand Prairie Teen fashion show on stage at the new high school auditorium Monday night, March 9. Mrs. Johnson consented to handle the show for The Texan after a number of other prospective commentators were studied, and The Texan feels it is fortunate in obtaining the services of so popular an artist.
She majored in speech and drama at the Leland Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., where she was also a student of the ballet.
Plans call for a dress rehearsal next Saturday evening. It is set for about 5:45 p.m., as soon as Mrs. Johnson can come out from her TV Variety Fair. Mrs. Johnson was especially enthusiastic for the fashion show, and will bring more popular comments than even the Von Sheridan show in 1952. Mrs. Johnson plans to interview each model to bring a personal touch to the show.
In addition to this inimitable rising star on the TV horizon, The Texan will have two or three entertainers also and possible a trio of vocalists in an intermission about midway of the show.
Adding a patriotic flavor to the show will be Lt. Anne Bean, Grand Prairie woman marine, who will exhibit the newest uniforms for women marines. About three uniforms will he shown, probably in one of the intermission acts.
Mrs. Johnson was the subject of a swell write-up in the March issue of Radio-TV Mirror. Her background is natural for her present show which exploits the famous guests interviewed daily on her Variety Fair. Guests are interviewed to their advantage instead of the conductor of a show, who usually "hogs" the conversation. Almost every "name" in the entertainment world who comes to Dallas winds up on Mrs. Johnson's show, and her friendliness and poise brings out the best in her guest star for the day.
However, she came by her talents naturally. A drama student since the age of six, she began her study at Madame Gordon's School for Girls in Los Angeles, where she won every drama contest. In Beverly Hills High, she won every competition in stage work and went on to win the California Shakespearean [missing words]. Martin Flavin, playwright, chose her also for his play, "Blue Jeans." She has appeared at the Biltmore, Belasco and other famous theatres in California, and was the Russian ballerina in "Bachelor Women," and portrayed the tense dramatic role of Olivia in "Might Must Fall."
Wife of Warren Johnson, public relations director for Taylor Publishing, Gerry is green-eyed and has dark brown hair. "I'm not the type to live for a career," she told The Texan. "When my husband decided to come to Dallas, I started packing."
Parents of two children, Larry and Sherry, the Johnsons live in Preston Hills, at 6222 Rex. KRLD discovered her, she said, about two years ago "and hence Variety Fair."
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any story about her in the Radio-TV Mirror at any time in the first six monthly issues of 1953. But the piece above gave me enough clues to go through some other publications and records and piece things together.
Geraldine Adelaide Schreiber was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on April 4, 1918 to Oscar Randolph and Geraldine (Crummy) Schreiber. Her father was the general manager for a publishing company. By 1930, the family was in Los Angeles and young Gerry was occasionally appearing in the social columns. The Los Angeles Times noted her performance in “Blue Jeans” in its edition of Feb. 22, 1938. She married Warren Martin Johnson on June 21, 1941 in Los Angeles. Her appearance in “Bachelor Women” (under the name Geraldine Johnson) was reviewed in October 1946 in several publications.
KRLD TV in Dallas signed on in December 1949. By the following October, Gerry was hosting the station’s “Vanity Fair.” She also involved with a puppet show for kids. After five years, Johnson was given her notice her show was going off the air and she headed to New York to hunt for acting work. She returned to Texas and appeared in several plays, then landed a role in My Dog, Buddy (1960), a low-budget film produced by radio mogul Gordon McLendon. By March 1961, she headed home to Los Angeles where she was hired to do interviews on KNXT’s “Panorama Pacific” show.
Johnson toured with Mickey Rooney in summer of ‘63 in Tunnel of Love, then was signed in the fall for roles in A Day in Court and a pilot for ABC called The Not Very News Reel starring Louis Nye.
Variety reported on March 27, 1963 that Johnson had left KNXT to do voice work at Hanna-Barbera, but I couldn’t tell you what she actually did for the studio for the first year. The trade paper announced on March 5, 1964: “‘Petticoat Junction’ chores forced Bea Benaderet to depart as ‘Betty Rubble’ in the ‘Flintstones’ — Gerry Johnson takes over the vocal role in the new segs.”
But that isn’t quite what happened. People who were around Hanna-Barbera at the time say that Bea stopped being called in for voice sessions and when she wondered why, she was told that Johnson had her job. Mel Blanc, in particular, was reportedly angry about the change as he and Bea had worked together for over 20 years, especially on the Jack Benny radio show. Why was the change made? I’m afraid we’ll never really know. But Bea Benaderet was well respected in the industry and no doubt the “Petticoat Junction” story was circulated to save some ill feelings.
Johnson performed some stage work after The Flintstones went off the air, but her name vanishes from newspapers after that. She died in Los Angeles on January 24, 1990.