Monday, October 11, 2010
Happy birthday, Jean Vander Pyl!
Ninety-one years ago on this date in the City of Brotherly Love, one of the most recognizable voices in radio and cartoons was born—the incomparable Jean Vander Pyl, whose one-of-a-kind tones would soon be borrowed as the vocal intonations of the most famous Stone Age housewife in animation history…Wilma Flintstone. Oddly enough, Jean never set out for a career as a voice artist—she wanted to be a theatrical star. But after graduating from Beverly Hills High School in the late 1930s, she found work in radio—and soon began to make a name for herself…or as much a “name” as you could at the time. Old-time radio fans are accustomed to hearing her on shows such as Fibber McGee & Molly, Amos ‘n’ Andy and The Halls of Ivy—with her best-known role being that of Margaret Anderson, wife of Robert Young’s Jim on the radio version of Father Knows Best.
Jean’s voice became famous as The Flintstones' Wilma but she supplied speaking voices for other Hanna-Barbera characters as well: she was both Goldie and Fifi on Top Cat, Rosie the Robot on The Jetsons, Ogee on Magilla Gorilla (“How much is that gorilla in the window?”), Winsome “Winnie” Witch on Secret Squirrel (“Ippity pippity pow!”), Maw Rugg of The Hillbilly Bears (a personal favorite; she also voiced daughter Floral), Marge Huddles on Where’s Huddles?, Mrs. Finkerton on Inch High Private Eye and Rosemary on Hong Kong Phooey. When the Flintstones’ baby girl Pebbles was introduced in the show’s third season, Vander Pyl did the gurgling and babbling for that character as well.
Jean was more than just a voice—she appeared in the flesh on a number of television shows including The Millionaire, Medic, Leave it to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Petticoat Junction, Murder, She Wrote and Hardcastle & McCormick. She also contributed a brief bit to the 1994 movie adapted from the Flintstones series; giving Elizabeth Perkins (who played Wilma) a sage bit of advice that “Fred” is pronounced with two syllables (“Fr-ed!!!”)
Many, many years ago I found myself listening to a broadcast of Joan Davis’ radio show (Joanie’s Tea Room) and I laughed out loud at a snooty character (kind of a female Hubert Updike) whose voice I instantly recognized as Vander Pyl’s—it was like Wilma Flintstone had gone to finishing school. Jean left this world for a better one in 1999—but I just thought people would want to know that she’s held in high regard here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.