Saturday 25 December 2021

Jean Vander Pyl

Jean Vander Pyl has a connection to Christmas.

She (her voice, to be specific) was one of the stars of the seasonal film “Santa and the Three Bears,” released independently to theatres in 1970. It was the brainchild of Hanna-Barbera writer Tony Benedict, who pitched it to Joe Barbera. If any company should have come up with an animated half-hour Christmas special that could run on TV every year, you’d think it would be Hanna-Barbera. But Mr. B. didn’t like the story and took a pass on it, so Tony went through some insane circumstances to get it into theatres.

This post, though, is about Jean Vander Pyl.

The four leading actors on “The Flintstones” all came out of radio, but Vander Pyl was the least prominent. Alan Reed co-starred on his own show in the early ‘30s and was a stooge on others. Bea Benaderet was one of the most sought-after secondary players on radio comedies on the West Coast and then appeared on television each week through the ‘50s with George Burns and Gracie Allen. I don’t have to tell you about Mel Blanc.

Vander Pyl appeared in a few top-level shows—surprisingly, one was “Amos ‘n’ Andy”—and was also one of countless anonymous commercial voices. Here’s a United Press article from November 9, 1949 that suggests she was pitching Arrid deodorant when she wasn’t taking up roles. (The Hollywood Reporter ad below is from 1947).

She Wants To Be More than "Half Safe"
HOLLYWOOD, Nov. 3 (U.P.)— Radio actress Jean VanderPyl, who swears that's the way to spell it, comes up with one of the most unusual complaints in Hollywood or anywhere else, for that matter. She's too successful.
Miss VanderP. is the lithe-tongued, dulcet-voiced lassie who beseeches her audience not to be "half safe."
That and 800 other chores for network moguls ranging from playing an ingenue to one of Macbeth's three witches have boosted her to a spot where her career interferes with her vocational ambitions.
"I just want to be in the movies," she says.
During the 12 long, yearning years she has been on the air, Jean says, she almost would have given her dulcet voice for a chance under the arcs.
It looked like waiting would pay off recently when producer George Mosko cast her in an important role in "Champagne for Caesar."
"I was ecstatic," she recalls. "I leaped at the chance, and leap is the right word. "I was so excited I jumped and fell all over director Dick Whorf."
Miss VanderPyl says she soon landed in gloom, however, because the "important role" turned out to be a "voice."
This young lady from Memphis plays a mysterious voice that takes part in a highly-charged scene with Ronald Colman in a soap tycoon's waiting room.
"I give him that double-syrup inflection which just oozes as it comes out," she says. "But unfortunately I won't see me."
So Jean, listed in the radio casting directory as "girl with sexy voice," faces the day when shell again bury her pretty self in a radio studio.
"I just wish," she comments plaintively, "I could show the world more of Jean VanderPyl than the vocal chords."

Perhaps Vander Pyl’s biggest radio role came as the mom on “Father Knows Best;” the Cincinnati Enquirer called her hiring “A change for the better.” She didn’t make the transition to television when the show appeared there and I don’t know why. This story in the Greenville News of October 18, 1951 talks about how she got it; the last sentence from a similar version in another paper.

Jean VanderPyl Natural In Part
Jean VanderPyl, lovely young actress who has just taken the leading feminine role of "Margaret Anderson", on WFBC's Father Knows Best." (9-9:30 p. m., Thursdays), is more than convinced that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
When Dorothy Lovett, who has been portraying the mother of "Father's" lively brood on the Thursday evening comedy-drama, found that she had laryngitis and wouldn’t be able to appear on the show, she suggested Jean Vander Pyl as a replacement, because Jean's voice quality is similar to hers. It was a last-minute emergency, and when Director Murray Bolen of "Father Knows Best," got in touch with Jean, an hour before program time the evening of the show, she was busy putting her youngsters to bed. Jean managed to dress, get from the San Fernando Valley to NBC's Radio City in Hollywood and have the script in her hand by the middle of dress rehearsal. The result was that she went on the air in the key feminine role opposite star Robert Young without having even having read the script completely through.
However, Jean's spur-of-the-moment interpretations of Margaret Anderson so impressed the program’s sponsors that she has been signed to portray her on the show regularly. Jean VanderPyl's reaction is that Margaret really should be an easy role for her to portray. Margaret Anderson was supposedly married at 17 and had her first child at 18; Jean was married at 18, and had her first younger at 19. Margaret has three offspring, one of whom is named Kathleen; Jean has three, also, and one is Kathleen! And a recent Father Knows Best script which revolves around Mother’s birthday falls on the day before Miss VanderPyl’s own birthday.

We should pass along something about “The Flintstones.” This feature story is from the Tampa Tribune of May 18, 1986.


Tribune Staff Writer
Oh, those "Stones" they just keep rolling along.
When Fred and Wilma celebrate their 25th year in show business this week, it should be a memorable event. It could rank right up there with that day in 1969 when, upon reaching the moon, astronaut Neil Armstrong repeated Fred's immortal words, "Yabba dabba doo!"
With that simple phrase, Armstrong confirmed Frederick F. Flintstone's place in our hearts and minds. Armstrong didn't have to explain; we knew what he meant.
Fred and Wilma. They're as much a part of our culture as Mickey and Minnie or Dagwood and Blondie.
But for baby-boomers, it may come as a mild shock that 25 years have passed since "The Flintstones" debuted in prime time on network television.
From 1960 to 1966, Fred and Wilma Flintstone romped through 166 half-hour adventures and earned their place forever in our cultural history.
Set in the Stone Age town of Bedrock, "The Flintstones" was a parody of modern sub urban life.
Modeled after Jackie Gleason's "The Honeymooners," the show featured a loudmouthed caveman, Fred, and his long-suffering wife, Wilma. Their next-door neighbors were Barney and Betty Rubble, the Ed and Trixie Norton of cartoons.
Fred, who operated a dinosaur-powered crane at the Rock Head & Quarry Cave Construction Co., was a hopeless social climber, a poor slob who usually blundered his way into trouble.
In addition to the situations, the series included a lot of Stone Age sight gags, such as Wilma's Stoneway piano, a hi-fi on which Fred played his "rock" music (a long-beaked bird served as the needle), Wilma's vacuum cleaner (a baby elephant) and Fred's garbage disposal (a famished buzzard-type bird stashed under the sink). The Flintstones' car was a foot-powered steam roller that flattened out the rocky roads.
"The Flintstones" was one of the first made-for-adult TV cartoons; and it lasted longer than any other prime-time cartoon series.
The original episodes still are playing around the world.
(Locally, "The Flintstones" reruns air weekdays at 7:30 a.m. on WTOG, Channel 44.)
The originals played on NBC [sic], but it is CBS that is paying tribute to this minor classic.
At 8 p.m. Tuesday, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman and Vanna White (from "The Wheel of Fortune") take us on a musical trip down memory lane.
In addition to a "Flintstones" music video, we'll hear from the series' creator, Joseph Barbera, and a few other animated characters, such as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw.
Also included is a film clip from Sting's movie "Bring on the Night" in which Sting's band performs the classic "Flintstones" theme song.
Animator Barbera will explain how he and his partner, William Hanna, built a cartoon empire on the success of Fred and Wilma. He also will give the little-known origin of "Yabba dabba doo!"
"I haven't seen it yet, but I had to do Wilma again," said actress Jean Vander Pyl, who has been the voice of Wilma Flintstone for 25 years.
In a recent telephone interview from her San Clemente, Calif., home, Vander Pyl talked about her long-running role.
"I've done other things, including a 20-year career in radio before 'The Flintstones,' and there was some acting on television, but nothing has been as durable or lasted as long as Wilma," Vander Pyl said.
"It was one of the few cartoons that dealt with adult situations. This was a family show with lots of gags that went over the kids' heads, but the adults loved it. These were characters adults could identify with," she said.
Vander Pyl recalled that "The Flintstones" was created for prime time after Hanna and Barbera discovered that 60 percent of adult viewing audience in the 1950s had been watching their afternoon cartoon series "Huckleberry Hound."
Barbera has said in previous interviews that Warren Foster and Mike Maltese, the original writers on "The Flintstones," were masters of satire. They enjoyed creating the Stone Age gags. There were puns on names, too. Over the years, Fred and Wilma entertained numerous guests including Ann-Margrock, Perry Masonary, Ed Sullystone, Cary Granite and Gina Lollobrickida.
"There was a lot of satire in 'Huckleberry Hound' that the writers put in to amuse themselves," Vander Pyl said. "They helped develop the adult audience for the later 'Flintstone' episodes."
She said the shows were situation comedies in animated form.
"And those of us who did the voices were actors, not just voices," she said. "The show used a formula that had been very successful with 'The Honeymooners,' and Fred was very much like Ralph Kramden," she added.
Vander Pyl, who played the original Margaret Anderson on the radio version of "Father Knows Best," said the cast was like a family and had fun with their roles.
The animation was not completed until the actors had read their parts. "People always asked which comes first—the voices or the pictures? The voices come first," she said.
Vander Pyl modeled her Wilma after the flat, nasal sound of Audrey Meadows' Alice Kramden.
The late Alan Reed was the original Fred Flintstone. He was succeeded by Henry Corden.
Veteran cartoon voice creator Mel Blanc played Barney Rubble and the family pet, Dino.
Another veteran of cartoons, Don Messick, provided numerous voices, including Arnold, the paperboy, and many of the Flintstones' prehistoric appliances.
"I also did the voice of the baby, Pebbles, that was added in the later seasons," Vander Pyl said. "My good friend, Bea Benaderet, who worked on 'Petticoat Junction,' was the voice of Betty Rubble. So, we were real friends off stage, too."
Betty also was played by Gerry Johnson and Gay Autterson.
Originally, the Flintstones had only a baby brontosaurus, Dino.
But, in 1962, they had a baby, Pebbles. Their neighbors, the Rubbles, soon adopted a son, Bamm-Bamm, the strongest baby in the world.
In 1967-68, Hanna and Barbera produced a feature-length cartoon film with a spy theme, "The Man Called Flintstone."
In 1971, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm were seen as teen-agers in their own series on Saturday mornings. Sally Struthers and Jay North ("Dennis the Menace") supplied the voices.
More than a decade later, NBC ordered two hour-long specials, "A Flintstone Christmas" and "Flintstones' Little League."
NBC then ordered new half-hour episodes in 1979 with "The New Fred and Barney Show." Wilma and Betty also were featured in another series, "Captain Caveman."
This fall, yet another series of Flintstone cartoons will be added to the Saturday morning lineup. In "The Flintstone Kids" we'll see Fred and Wilma as toddlers. Vander Pyl won't be doing a baby Wilma voice, however.
"It does seem like every few years, I get called back into the role," she said. "There was talk of a 'Miami Vice' clone with Fred and Barney as policemen, and I've been doing Wilma in commercials."
"Part of the charm was that it wasn't too cartoony. Fred and Wilma seemed like real characters," she said.
"My favorite line is still from the opening show, where Fred comes out on the front lawn, and Arnold the news boy calls out, 'Here's your paper, Mr. Flintstone,' and he tosses out a stone slab that knocks Fred flat. And Fred says, 'I hate the Sunday paper.'
"I still crack up when I see it," she said. "I think other adults howled, too. They knew Sunday papers are like that, and they appreciated the humor, while the kids just laughed at Fred getting knocked down. Slapstick and satire—it was a good combination."

As you likely know, this blog is retired. We’ve been through all the early syndicated Hanna-Barbera that have interested me. However, this post was sitting around Santa Yowp’s bag for some time and has now been delivered.

If you’d like to read more about Jean Vander Pyl, you can check out this post, or go to her name in the TOPICS column and click there.