Monday, 27 June 2016

The 50th Anniversary of Dark Shadows

When I was little I thought that daytime soap operas looked creepy. The lighting always seemed to be rather dark. The resolution of the picture was always low. And the sets, well, looked obviously like sets. What I didn't know at the time is that daytime soap operas were generally shot on videotape and with budgets that would make the average Roger Corman movie look like Gone with the Wind. Of course, while as a kid I thought that soap operas looked creepy, their story arcs generally weren't, even if they weren't the sort of thing that would interest a little boy. An exception to this rule was Dark Shadows. Dark Shadows was a soap opera that more than looked creepy; it was creepy. Quite simply, Dark Shadows was a Gothic horror soap opera that in the course of its run featured vampires, ghosts, werewolves, Frankensteinian creations, diabolists, and even time travel. And unlike other soap operas I was always eager to see it. I always turned on Dark Shadows when I got home from school. It was fifty years ago today that Dark Shadows debuted on ABC.

Of course, Dark Shadows did not start out as a Gothic horror soap opera. In the mid-Sixties Gothic romance paperback books were exceedingly popular in book stores and drug stores. It then occurred to producer Dan Curtis that a soap opera inspired by the then popular Gothic romances could be a winner in the ratings. Dan Curtis had previously produced Challenge Golf for ABC and The CBS Match Play Golf Classic for CBS. Dan Curtis turned to writer Art Wallace to further develop his Gothic romance soap opera. Mr. Wallace drew upon one of his teleplays which had aired on Goodyear Theatre in 1957, "The House," for some of the characters and storylines. "The House" centred on a New England fishing village in which a middle aged woman whose husband is at sea feels isolated from the rest of society.

Dark Shadows was then very much a Gothic romance when it debuted on June 27 1966. Its first story arc simply dealt with the arrival of new governess Victoria Winters at Collinwood (the mansion of the wealthy Collins family) in the small town of Collinsport, Maine. The first reference to anything supernatural on the show is to the ghosts of the widows (later named  Rachel Comstock, Abigail Tolliver, and Margaret Findley) rumoured to haunt Widows Hill (a cliff near Collinwood) in episode 5. While there would be occasional signs of what could be ghostly activity (a mysterious knock at the door, a door seeming to close by itself, et. al.), it would be some time before any ghosts would actually appear on Dark Shadows.

It would not be until December 12 1966 that Dark Shadows left the confines of Gothic romance and ventured into the realm of Gothic horror.  On that day began a story arc that concerned the return of the estranged wife of Roger Collins, Laura. Laura, as it turns out, was an entity referred to as a phoenix. Every 100 years she would be reborn in fire. And, unfortunately for the Collins family, she was not at all benign.

Dark Shadows would venture even further into Gothic horror territory with a storyline that began on March 22 1967. It was that day that Barnabas Collins (played by Jonathan Frid), claiming to be the descendent of a Barnabas Collins who lived in the 18th Century, arrived at Collinwood. As it turned out, this Barnabas Collins was actually the original Barnabas Collins, cursed with vampirism (and, as a result, immortality). Barnabas Collins was originally meant to appear only for that storyline and, what is more, was originally played as a villain. As it turned out, however, the character of Barnabas Collins proved extremely popular. As a result he not only became a regular character on the show, but arguably the show's primary hero.

With Barnabas Collins easily being the most popular character on Dark Shadows, many of the show's storylines would centre upon him. It was soon revealed precisely how Barnabas became a vampire. Barnabas had planned to marry Josette du Pres (played by Kathryn Leigh Scott), but unfortunately Josette's maid Angelique (played by Parker) wanted him for herself (they had conducted an affair earlier). Angelique,who was skilled in witchcraft, then took measures to win Barnabas's love. Barnabas caught onto what Angelique was doing and shot her, only to have Angelique curse him with her dying words. Bitten by a vampire bat, Barnabas died and then rose from the grave as a vampire. Eventually Barnabas would befriend Dr. Julia Hoffman (played by Grayson Hall), who would seek a cure for his condition.

Of course, not every single storyline on Dark Shadows centred on Barnabas Collins, and eventually the show would touch upon nearly every single cliche in Gothic horror. Adam (played first by Duane Morris and later by Robert Roden) was a Frakensteinian creature made by Eric Lang (played by Addison Powell). Angelique would return with more schemes centred on Barnabas, this time aided by a warlock named Nicholas Blair (played by Humbert Allen Astredo). Chris Jennings (played by Don Briscoe) was afflicted with lycanthropy, becoming a werewolf at the full of the moon. In 1968 a character was introduced that nearly rivalled Barnabas in popularity. Quentin Collins (played by David Selby) was a ghost intent on destroying the present day Collins family. During its run Dark Shadows touched upon such tropes as time travel, Lovecraftian entities (the Leviathans), and even alternate realities.

Following the first appearance of Barnabas Collins, Dark Shadows soon became a cult phenomenon, particularly popular with young people. Given its popularity, Dark Shadows produced merchandise in a way that no other soap opera before it ever had. In December 1966 the first novel based on the show, simply titled Dark Shadows, was published. It was followed by 31 more during the show's run. Milton Bradley manufactured a Dark Shadows board game. In 1969 Gold Key began publishing a regularly scheduled Dark Shadows comic book. It actually ran well beyond the show's run, ending in 1976. From March 14 1971 to March 11 1972 the Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicated a daily Dark Shadows comic strip. There were also Viewmaster reels, colouring books, model kits, and much, much more.

In fact, Dark Shadows proved so popular that it produced two feature films during its run. The first, House of Dark Shadows, was released in 1970. The second, Night of Dark Shadows, was released in 1971. In both films cast from the soap opera reprised their roles on the show.

Despite its popularity, Dark Shadows did generate its share of controversy due to its supernatural themes. This was particularly true of a storyline in the autumn of 1968 involving Angelique and Nicholas Blair, who were pretty clearly devil worshippers. Not only did Angelique travel to Hell, but Nicholas Blair met with Diabolos, who was pretty clearly a thinly veiled version of the Devil.  It was around Halloween of that year that Fundamentalist Christians distributed a pamphlet attacking Dark Shadows, complete with a cartoon with the Devil watching the soap opera and the caption "Satan's Favourite Show".

Sadly, while Dark Shadows was incredibly popular from the years 1967 to 1969, its popularity eventually declined. A story arc began in November 1969 centred around the Leviathans did not prove particularly popular with viewers. Another factor in the decline of the popularity of Dark Shadows was that it was, quite simply, a fad.  In the book Fads, Follies, and Delusions of the American People by Paul Sann, it is noted that often the more intensely a fad is adopted, the shorter its duration will be. Dark Shadows was certainly a show that was intensely adopted by young people, so it was only a matter of time before it would see a decline in popularity.

It was on April 2 1971 that Dark Shadows ended its run. In part its cancellation was due to declining ratings. In the 1968-1969 season Dark Shadows peaked with an overall rating of 8.4. By the 1970-1971 season it had fallen to an overall rating of 5.3. This was complicated by the fact that much of the show's audience was under 18. Since children generally are not responsible for buying the goods advertised on daytime television at the time (primarily food and household products), Dark Shadows' audience was not particularly attractive to advertisers. Another factor in the cancellation of Dark Shadows may have been the controversy it had generated. Quite simply, the controversy Dark Shadows created may have made it a more likely candidate for cancellation than another low rated show on ABC.

While Dark Shadows ended its run in 1971, it continued to be popular well after its run. With nearly its entire run intact except for one episode (although some early episodes survived only as kinescopes), Dark Shadows became one of the few daytime soap operas to have its reruns syndicated.  That having been said, the entire series was not made available during its original run in syndication. The first 209 episodes and about the last year of the show were not made available. Eventually the Sci-Fi Channel would run all 1225 episodes. Every single surviving episode of Dark Shadows has been released on VHS and DVD, something that is nearly unknown for daytime soap operas (here it must be noted that many soap operas lost entire chucks of their runs to wiping, the practice of erasing or reusing old videotapes).

The continued popularity of Dark Shadows would also see attempted revivals of the show. In 1991  a short lived night time version of the soap opera aired on NBC. Sadly, it only lasted two months. In 2004 a pilot for a new Dark Shadows series was produced for the WB, but it wasn't picked up. In 2012 a film based on the show, directed by Tim Burton was released. Unfortunately, the film was played for comedy, leaving many fans of the original series disappointed (to say the least).  The 2012 Dark Shadows film also performed poorly at the box office. Perhaps the most successful revival of Dark Shadows are the audio dramas produced by Big Finish Productions since 2006. There have been three series: the first two consisting of four episodes each and the third being the 13 episode serial "Bloodlust".

Not only has Dark Shadows continued to be popular, but it has also had a lasting impact on American television. Dark Shadows was among the earliest horror TV series to have continuing characters. Earlier shows had primarily been anthology series. Dark Shadows is then in some ways the forerunner of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Supernatural, and other horror series. Over time it would even have an impact on other daytime soap operas. Starting in the Nineties Days of Our Lives featured plot lines which delved into the supernatural. The soap opera Passions went one step further. It was the first American daytime soap opera since Dark Shadows in which the supernatural played an integral role in the series, although it was largely played for camp. Guiding Light, Another World, and Port Charles were other daytime soap operas that delved a little into the supernatural.

After fifty years Dark Shadows remains as popular as ever. It currently airs on Decades and it can be streamed on Hulu. It would seem that even Tim Burton's 2012 feature film cannot kill Dark Shadows. I have to suspect that it will still be around for another fifty years.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Ann Morgan Guilbert Passes On

Ann Morgan Guilbert, who played Millie Helper on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Yetta Rosenberg on The Nanny, died on June 14 2016 at the age of 87. The cause was cancer.

Ann Morgan Guilbert was born in Minneapolis on October 16 1928. She studied theatre arts at Stanford University. Her professional career began as a featured performer in the Off-Broadway music variety act called The Billy Barnes Revue in 1959. It was there that writer, producer, and creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Carl Reiner, first saw her. When casting The Dick Van Dyke Show, he hired her for the role of Millie Helper, the Petries' neighbour and Laura Petrie's perky best friend. Miss Guilbert remained with the show for the entirety of its run.

In the Sixties she also guest starred on My Three Sons, Hennessey, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Good Morning World, The Andy Griffith Show, I Dream of Jeannie, Adam 12, Room 222, and Dragnet. She was a regular on the sitcom Hey, Landlord. She also appeared in the movies Two for the Seesaw (1962), The Man from the Diners' Club (1963), One Man's Way (1964), A Guide for the Married Man (1967), How Sweet It Is! (1968), and Viva Max (1969).

In the Seventies Ann Morgan Guilbert was a regular on The New Andy Griffith Show. She guest starred on The Partridge Family; Love, American Style; Emergency!, The Ghost Busters, On the Rocks, and Maude. In the Eighties she guest starred on Barney Miller, Cheers, Newhart, and Murder, She Wrote. She starred in the short lived sitcom The Fanelli Boys.

In the Nineties Ann Morgan Guilbert played Fran's doddering yet feisty grandmother Yetta Rosenberg on The Nanny. She remained with the show for its entire run. Before that she had a recurring role on Picket Fences. She guest starred on the shows Blossom, Home Improvement, Room for Two, Herman's Head, Empty Nest, and Seinfeld. She appeared in the films Grumpier Old Men (1995) and Sour Grapes (1998).

In the Naughts she guest starred on Curb Your Enthusiasm, State of Mind, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She appeared in the film Please Give (2010) and on Broadway in A Naked Girl on the Appian Way.

In the Teens Miss Guilbert guest starred on Happily Divorced, Modern Family, Grey's Anatomy, and Life in Pieces. She was a regular on the show Getting On.

Ann Morgan Guilbert was an incredibly talented performer with a particular knack for comedy. She had perfect timing and a gift for delivering lines in the funniest way possible. What is more she could play a wide variety of characters. Indeed, her two best known characters are very different. As Millie Helper she was bright, hyperactive, and just a little bit nosy. As Yetta Rosenberg she was absent minded, but at the same time a bit scrappy. What is more she played a wide variety of characters throughout her career. On The New Andy Griffith Show she played the neurotic, constantly complaining, and interfering Nora. In the I Dream of Jeannie episode "Jeannie for the Defence" she played the wife of a man seeking to defraud Tony Nelson after a minor fender bender. It was rare that she ever played the same sort of character twice. It should be little wonder that Ann Morgan Guilbert had such a long career. She was an immensely talented comic actress who could play nearly any role she wanted.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Ronnie Claire Edwards R.I.P.

Ronnie Claire Edwards, the actress perhaps best known for playing Corabeth Godsey on The Waltons, died June 14 2016 at the age 83. The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Ronnie Claire Edwards was born in Oklahoma City on February 9 1933. She made her film debut in a small role in All the Way Home in 1963. In the Seventies she guest starred on such shows as The American Parade, Paper Moon, and Future Cop. She began her run on The Waltons in 1974 and remained with the show until it went off the air in 1980. In the Seventies she appeared in the films Five Days from Home (1978) and Getting Wasted (1980).

In the Eighties Ronnie Claire Edwards was a regular on the short lived shows Boone, Sara, and June in Time. She guest starred on the show Dallas, Falcon Crest, Dynasty, Murder She Wrote, Designing Women, and In the Heat of the Night. She also appeared in the various Waltons TV reunion movies. She appeared in the films Perfect (1985), Nobody's Fool (1985), and The Dead Pool (1988).

In the Nineties she guest starred on The Torkelsons and Star Trek: The Next Generation. She appeared in the TV movie Inherit the Wind, as well as more Waltons reunion movies. She appeared in the films 8 Seconds (1994) and Sordid Lives (2000). In the Naughts she appeared in the film A Day Out with Gordy (2002). She was a regular on the TV show 12 Miles of Bad Road, which HBO elected not to air.

Ronnie Claire Edwards will always be remembered as Corabeth on The Waltons and with good reason. She was extremely convincing as Ike Godsey's persnickety wife. It was not a particularly easy role for any actress to play, having to straddle the line between making the character slightly dislikeable and yet making the character sympathetic at the same time. Of course, Ronnie Claire Edwards was quite capable of playing different roles. On Star Trek: The Next Generation she played a much more likeable role, that of a teacher who tries to help the character Data regain his memory. In The Dead Pool she played a much less likeable role, that of an ill-fated movie critic. Ronnie Claire Edwards may be best remembered as Corabeth, but she played many more roles.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Why HootSuite's New Streams are a Failure

Ever since Twitter dramatically changed their interface in 2012 I have relied upon HootSuite as my Twitter client of choice. Even before then I used HootSuite to schedule tweets. HootSuite had several advantages over Twitter's interface. One could reply to a single person (the individual who originated the tweet) rather than everyone mentioned in a tweet. One could hide inline images. Retweets and mentions appear in separate streams. What is more HootSuite has always had great customer service. Every time I had a problem with HootSuite (which was rare) I could rely upon HootSuite's customer service to help me out. What is more, they are not only prompt, but kind and courteous as well.

Unfortunately just last week HootSuite made what may be the biggest misstep of their existence. They introduced New Streams. In theory New Streams were supposed to be an improvement over the old Streams. In fact a large number of HootSuite users (perhaps the majority of HootSuite users) have expressed outrage at the old Streams being replaced by the New Streams. On both Twitter and HootSuite's feedback page there have been a large number of complaints about the New Streams. Many of the complaints are about the appearance of the New Streams, while a large number are due to a loss of functionality when compared to the old Streams. In fact, there appear to be more complaints about the New Streams than almost anything else in HootSuite's feedback pages in the past two years--this in only a few days time.

The biggest complaint with the New Streams seems to be the size of the New Streams. The old streams were highly customisable, so that one could easily maximise the number of posts one sees. The New Streams only have "Compact", "Standard', and "Comfortable" views, all of which take up more space than the old Streams. Quite simply, even the "Compact" view is not exactly compact! Even with images turned off (as I always do) I can see at most about three to four tweets per stream. This is in stark contrast to the old Streams, where I could see many more.

Part of the problem with the size of the streams in the New Streams comes down to the replacement of the old Streams' drop down menus for "Like", "Assign to", and so on by overly large buttons. The buttons take up far too much space, resulting in users seeing fewer posts per stream. It seems pretty clear to me that many users dislike the buttons and much prefer the drop-down menus for the simple reason that they took up less space and thus maximised the number of posts one could see.

Yet another complaint also arises from the size of the New Streams. In HootSuite one can choose the number of columns of streams that are displayed. I only ever display one, but other users sometimes displayed several. From the many complaints, it would appear now that users are able to view fewer columns than on the old Streams. As an example, a complaint on Twitter from just today was from someone who has three columns set up and could see three columns in the old Streams, but can now only see two columns in the New Streams. As someone who only ever views one column at a time in HootSuite this isn't a problem for me, but many users obviously seem upset about it.

What might be the second biggest complaint is that the New Streams do not give the exact time of a post as the old Streams did. To wit, while the old Streams would give "2:51pm" on a post, the New Streams only give "2 hours ago". This can be problematic for those who frequently schedule posts and really need to know the exact time something will or has been posted. Now one can hover over the timestamp ("2 hours ago") and get the exact time (2:15pm), but it would seem much easier to have the exact time right there on the post to begin with.

Another loss in functionality regards the way in which replies are handled on the New Streams versus the old Streams. In the old Streams when one replied to a tweet, the reply was only to the person who initially made the tweet, not everyone mentioned in it. If someone wanted to reply to everyone mentioned in a tweet, he or she would click the drop-down menu and choose "Reply All". This was particularly useful if one wanted to thank someone for a "Follow Friday" tweet and it came in useful in other circumstances as well. Indeed, it was one of the many advantages the old Streams had over Twitter's interface. Unfortunately, in the New Streams there is no way to reply to only a single person; it is always set to "Reply All". This means that if one wants to reply to only the person who made a tweet and not everyone mentioned in it, he or she will have to highlight every other name and delete them. I would hardly call this an improvement.

Aside from the loss of functionality in the New Streams, there have also been complaints that the New Streams are buggy. I haven't experienced any bugs beyond my Streams changing height (which is simply fixed by clicking on "Compact" again), but I have seen enough complaints on the feedback page and on Twitter to know that the New Streams are not functioning smoothly for many. For some people the streams are being very slow to update and for others they have to refresh to get them to update at all. Yet others have other problems. I have seen complaints that individuals can't retweet anything, people not being able to add lists to their streams, and people not being able to see replies or mentions.

While I do think the New Streams are a big step down from the old Streams and I would be very happy if HootSuite ditched the New Streams and returned to the old Streams, I am not going to stop using HootSuite. To me it is still superior to Twitter's interface and better than most any other Twitter client out there. Unfortunately I am not everybody. I have seen many tweets and even posts on the feedback page from people saying that they are giving up HootSuite in favour of Tweetdeck or even Twitter's interface. Clearly, at least to me, when long-time customers start talking about leaving a product for another product, a very big mistake has been made. I think HootSuite made a huge miscalculation with regards to how the New Streams would be received.

Indeed, on Twitter I have only seen one or two tweets in favour of the New Streams compared to countless numbers of those complaining about them. The feedback page is filled with complaints about the New Streams. A common refrain is that people want the old Streams back. What is more, people are being very specific in their complaints, so it is not simply a case of people disliking change. HootSuite insists that the old Streams will not return in order "to support a smoother transition to upcoming features and improvements." That having been said, I think I can speak for most Hootsuite users when I say that the only features and improvements we want are those that were lost when the change was made from the old Streams (a compact appearance, exact times on posts, the ability to reply to only one person, and so on).

Given the outrage over the New Streams, I think HootSuite really has only two choices. The first (and the one users seem to favour) is to get rid of the New Streams entirely and restore the old Streams. They would probably have to forget any "features and improvements" they have in mind, but at this point I think it would be worth it to keep their users happy. The second is a dramatic makeover to make the New Streams look and behave like the old streams. Replace the buttons with drop-down menus to save space and make posts more compact. Make the size of columns adjustable again. Restore the exact time to posts. Give individuals the ability to reply to only one person in tweets. The downside with this is that it would probably be so much work that it would perhaps be easier to restore the old Streams.

Regardless, it would seem HootSuite has made a serious misstep with the New Streams, to the point that many (if not most) of their users are very angry. It seems clear to me that they are going to have to take action immediately, whether that is bringing back the old Streams or making drastic changes to the New Streams. Either way, if they either do nothing or wait too long to make changes, I worry that HootSuite will lose a very large number of users to other Twitter clients. As someone who has used HootSuite for years and intends to continue using it despite my extreme dislike for the New Streams, I would really hate to see that happen.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Late Great Willis Pyle

Animator Willis Pyle died on June 2 at the age of 101. He had worked on Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), and Bambi (1942) at Disney and later worked at UPA on such shorts as "Ragtime Bear" (the debut of Mr. Magoo) and "Gerald McBoing Boing".

Willis Pyle was born on September 3 1914 in Portis, Kansas. His brother was actor Denver Pyle. He was studying art at the University of Colorado and working as an advertising illustrator for a clothing store when he noticed a poster for Walt Disney Studios about hiring animators. It was then in November 1937 that he moved to Los Angeles and began working for Walt Disney.  He began work there as an office boy, but soon he was an assistant animator on Pinnochio.

Willis Pyle went on to serve as an assistant animator on Fantasia and Bambi. Afterwards he left Walt Disney to work for Walter Lantz. During World War II he served U.S. Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit in Culver City. After the war he worked as an artist for Vogue and went to work at UPA. He would work on some of UPA's most famous theatrical shorts, including "Ragtime Bear" and "Gerald McBoing Boing". He also worked on the very last Fox and Crow cartoon, "Punchy De Leon".

After the era of theatrical cartoons had ended, Mr. Pyle worked on the feature films Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977) and The Mouse and His Child (1977). He worked on several television specials, including Really Rosie, Noah's Animals, Halloween Is Grinch Night, A Special Valentine with the Family Circus, and This Is America, Charlie Brown. After his animation career ended he took up painting. Many of his works were displayed at Montserrat Contemporary Art Gallery in Manhattan, New York City.

Along with Don Lusk, Willis Pyle was one of the oldest surviving animators from the Golden Age of Animation. He was also one of the most versatile. Indeed, he worked on Disney's animated features (which strove for a degree of realism), Walter Lantz's theatrical shorts (which used more traditional, American "funny animal" animation), and UPA's shorts (which eschewed realism for limited animation). It was this adaptability, as well as his sheer talent as an artist, that allowed him to have such a long career. Indeed, it is not many animators who can boast that they animated Pinocchio, Mr. Magoo, Gerald McBoing-Boing, and the Grinch.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Beth Howland R.I.P.

Beth Howland, perhaps best known for playing Vera on the sitcom Alice, died on December 31 2015 at the age of 74. The cause was lung cancer. Her death was not made public until May per her request.

Beth Howland was born on May 28 1941 in Boston, Massachusetts. She made her debut on Broadway in 1959 in the play Once Upon a Mattress. That same year she made her film debut in an uncredited role as Clem's wife in Li'l Abner. In 1960 she appeared in Bye Bye Birdie. During the Sixties she appeared on Broadway in High Spirits, Drat! The Cat!, and Darling of the Day.

In the Seventies Miss Howland appeared on Broadway in Company. In the Seventies she made her television debut in an episode of Love, American Style. She guest starred on Cannon, The Rookies, Bronk, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Little House on the Prairie before being cast as Vera on Alice. Vera was neurotic and a bit scattered brained, as well as clumsy. The show proved very popular, and Beth Howland played Vera for the whole of its nine year run. While still appearing on Alice, she guest starred on The Love Boat. She also appeared in the film Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

In the Eighties Beth Howland guest starred on American Playhouse, The Love Boat, Comedy Factory, and You Can't Take It With You. In the Nineties she appeared on Murder, She Wrote; Sabrina the Teenage Witch; and Chicken Soup for the Soul. She was a guest voice on Batman Beyond. She appeared on Broadway in a revival of Company. In the Naughts she guest starred on The Tick and As Told By Ginger.

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Late Great Janet Waldo

Legendary voice artist Janet Waldo died June 12 2016 at the age of 96. She was the star of popular radio show Meet Corliss Archer and provided the voices of such cartoon characters as Judy Jetson on The Jetsons, Penelope Pitstop on Wacky Races and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, and Josie McCoy on Josie and the Pussycats.  The cause was an inoperable brain tumour.

Janet Waldo was born in Yakima, Washington on February 4 1920. She attended the University of Washington. Bing Crosby discovered her after she had won a talent contest. She was signed to Paramount Studios. She made her film debut in an uncredited, bit part in Coconut Grove in 1938. She appeared in bit parts in several movies in the late Thirties, including such films as The Arkansas Traveller (1938), Paris Honeymoon (1939), I'm from Missouri (1939), Unmarried (1939), The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939), and The Farmer's Daughter (1940). She had more substantial roles in the films Tom Sawyer Detective (1938), Zaza (1938), Persons in Hiding (1939), and Waterloo Bridge.

It was with the B Western One Man's Law (1940) that she received her first leading role. She played opposite Don "Red" Barry. She played opposite cowboy star Tim Holt twice, appearing in The Bandit Trail (1941) and Land of the Open Range (1942). She appeared in a smaller role in the film So Ends Our Night (1941). Land of the Open Range would be the last film Janet Waldo would make in the Forties. While she had played bit parts in several films and the lead female role in in three B Westerns, she found stardom in the medium of radio.

Miss Waldo made her radio debut in an episode of Big Town in 1941, but her big break would come with Lux Radio Theatre. From 1941 to 1943 she appeared on several episodes of the show. From 1941 to 1945 she was a regular on the popular soap opera One Man's Family as Irene Franklin. She was also a series regular on The Gallant Heart and played the tile role on Lady Of The Press – Sandra Martin. From 1944 to 1954 she played teenager Emmy Lou on the popular sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. She was also a series regular on the shows The Eddie Bracken Show and People are Funny. It was in 1945 that Janet Waldo assumed her most famous role in radio, taking over the title role on Meet Corliss Archer from Priscilla Lyon. In her eight year run on the show Miss Waldo would become the actress most identified with the character, despite the fact that Shirley Temple played Corliss Archer in two films (Kiss and Tell in 1945 and A Kiss for Corliss in 1948).  From 1949 to 1950 she played the lead female role on the sitcom Young Love. In her long and prolific career on radio, Janet Waldo also appeared on such shows as Dr. Christian, Mayor of the Town, Cavalcade of America, The Dinah Shore Program, The Great Gildersleeve, The Mel Torme Show, Philco Radio Time, Four Star Theatre, and many others.

In the Fifties Janet Waldo continued to work on radio, appearing on such shows as The Halls of Ivy, My Favourite Husband, and Stars Over Hollywood in addition to her ongoing role on Meet Corliss Archer. She made her television debut in 1953 in the I Love Lucy episode "The Young Fans", playing a teenage fan of Ricky Ricardo. Just as she had on radio, Miss Waldo played the recurring role of Emmy Lou on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. She guest starred on The Phil Silvers Show

It was in the Sixties that Janet Waldo began providing voices for animated TV shows. In fact, the very first animated character she voiced would be among those for which she was best known. Miss Waldo voiced Judy Jetson, the teenage daughter of George and Jane Jetson, on the primetime animated series The Jetsons. During the Sixties she went onto voice Granny Sweet in the "Precious Pup" cartoons on The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show, Nancy on  Shazzan, Lana Lang on the "Superboy" segments of The New Adventures of Superman, Jenny on The Space Kidettes, Penelope Pitstop on Wacky Races and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, and Josie McCoy on Josie and the Pussycats. She also provided various voices for such shows as The Flintstones, A Laurel and Hardy Cartoon, and The Fantastic Four. She was a regular on the sitcom Valentine's Day. She guest starred on the shows Saints and Sinners, The Lucy Show, The Andy Griffith Show, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, The F.B.I., Petticoat Junction, and Julia. She provided the voice of Princess Serena in the television special Jack & the Beanstalk. She also provided the voice of Emmy-Lou in Loopy De Loop theatrical cartoons.

In the Seventies Janet Waldo provided the voice of Morticia in Hanna-Barbera's animated version of The Addams Family, the voice of Belinda in the animated series Around the World in 80 Days, the voice of Mrs. Anders in the Saturday morning cartoon Jeannie, and the voices of  Princess and Susan in Battle of the Planets. She also provided various voices for such TV cartoons as The Roman Holidays, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, Inch High Private Eye, Hong Kong Phooey, The Scooby Do/Dynomutt Hour, and Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels. She also Hollow Log Chief and Traag Child  in the English version of the animated feature Fantastic Planet (1973--original title La planète sauvage).

In the Eighties Janet Waldo reprised the voice of Judy Jetson for a new series of The Jetsons. She was the voice of Hogatha on The Smurfs. She provided additional voices for such animated series as The Dukes and Alvin & the Chipmunks. She reprised her role as Penelope Pitstop in two episodes of Yogi's Treasure Hunt. She did voice work for the TV animated films Daniel Boone, Heidi's Song, Beauty and the Beast, The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones, and The Canterville Ghost. She provided the voice of the West Wind in the English language version of Unico in the Island of Magic (1983). She reprised the voice of Judy in Jetsons: The Movie (1990), only to have her voice replaced by pop star Tiffany at the insistence of studio executives who though Tiffany would attract a younger audience. Casting director  voice director Andrea Romano objected to the change, while voice director Gordon Hunt reportedly insisted that Tiffany sound more like Janet Waldo.

In the Nineties Janet Waldo provided voices for the TV films I Yabba-Dabba Do! and Hollyrock-a-Bye Baby. She provided the voice of Edgar's mom in the feature film Once Upon a Forest (1993). She guest starred on the prime time animated series King of the Hill. Her last work was on the video game Wacky Races, where she reprised the voice of Penelope Pitstop.

Janet Waldo numbers among the greatest voice artists of all time. Two of her best known characters were teenagers (Corliss Archer and Judy Jetson), but she was certainly capable of other voices as well. Penelope Pitstop sounded like a twentyish Southern belle. Hogatha on The Smurfs was an elderly witch with a voice to match. Granny Sweet in the "Precious Pup" cartoons sounded like a nice, old lady. 

Janet Waldo was blessed with a mellifluous speaking voice (in real life she sounded a lot like Corliss Archer or Judy Jetson), but it was also a voice that was extremely versatile. Of course, much of Janet Waldo's success as a voice artist was due to the fact that she was a very good actress to begin with.  Indeed, on I Love Lucy she was convincing as a teenage girl, even though at the time she was around 32 years old. She was convincing in the B-Westerns she made. Janet Waldo was exceedingly talented, and truly one of the last great voice actors from Old Time Radio and  television's early days.