Stopping train to stardom


TVTimes profiles Bea Benaderet, star of Petticoat Junction and voice of Betty Rubble in 1964

IT took Bea Benaderet about 30 years to become a star. And she still can’t quite get used to it.

From the TVTimes for 10-16 May 1964
“It’s fun — if you don’t let it go to your head,” she said.

Bea plays the talkative hotel proprietress Kate Bradley in Petticoat Junction (tonight, Wednesday, 6.5 on Granada).

And this means a “Star” dressing-room for the woman who has been around Hollywood a very long time.

It wasn’t that she was never considered for a starring role. It was just that she has been virtually indispensable as a supporting actress in so many successful radio and TV shows.

It was while she was in the “Burns and Allen” radio show in America that she first met Paul Henning, one of the programme’s writers.

Bea Benaderet as hotel proprietress Kate Bradley in Petticoat Junction
“In the early Fifties, when I was with George and Gracie. Paul took me aside and told me that some day he would write a show specially for me.”

Henning fulfilled that promise. After launching the highly-successful Beverly Hillbillies comedy show he became very interested in Bea’s performances.

He had the programme played back dozens of times, then set about creating a completely new show just for her. Bea first appeared in the Hillbillies show as Pearl Bodine, the man-chasing cousin. She really wanted to play Grannie but was told she was “too buxom.”

No one is more pleased now than Bea that she didn’t get the part.

“Just think,” said Bea. “if I had got that part I would never have come to Petticoat Junction. But, of course, Henning and that little train, the Hooterville Cannonball, are the real stars of the show.”

And here is Bea, right, with Donna Douglas, left, Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan of The Beverley Hillbillies

That may be so, but now everyone is busy giving Bea the big-star treatment.

“It means working a 14-hour day, starting at 5 a.m. I’ve never really been the star type… it takes some getting used to.” she insisted.

“When I was 11, I played my first part as an old man in a school play. I’ve played mature roles ever since.”

Edgar Buchanan takes a quick look over Bea’s shoulder in Petticoat Junction

Roles like Blanche Morton, whom she played for 20 years with Burns and Allen on radio and television. Or more outlandish characters like Gertrude Gearshift, the switchboard operator on “The Jack Benny Show.”

“I also provided the voice for Betty Rubble in The Flintstones.”

Bea and her family (her husband and children, Jack, 23, and Maggie, 16) now live in a rambling, ranch-type house 25 miles from Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley.

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