Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Voice Bllie Mae Richards Passes On

Canadian voice artist Billie Mae Richards, best known as the voice of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the famous Rankin/Bass special of the same name, passed at the age of 88 on September 10, 2010.

Billie Mae Richards was born in Toronto on 21 November 1921. Her father was a silverware salesman who wanted to be an actor. During World War II she joined the Canadian Navy. She performed for troops in both Canada and Europe. Following the war she studied at the the Lorne Greene School of Broadcasting in Toronto and afterwards worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. For a quarter of a century she acted on various Canadian radio shows.

Her most lasting claim to fame would come when Rankin/Bass looked to Canada to cast their Yuletide special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Deer. Quite capable of imitating the voice of a young boy, Billie Mae Richards was cast as Rudolph. Sadly, she would see little money from her role, as the only member of the cast to get long lasting residuals was Burl Ives. Regardless, she would reprise the voice of Rudolph in Rudolph's Shiny New Year and Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July.  Miss Richards would also work for Rankin/Bass in providing the voice of Willy McBean in the feature film Willy McBean and His Magic Machine (1965),  the voice of Billy on the animated series King Kong, and one of the voices on the series The Smokey Bear Show.

Billie Mae Richards would provide incidental voices for the Sixties Spider-Man cartoon and the voices of Chris and  Robbie on The Undersea Adventures of Captain Nemo. She was very much a part of the Eighties Care Bears franchise, providing the voice of Tender Heart Bear in The Care Bears Movie (1985) and Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation (!986), and Brightheart Raccoon on the series The Care Bears Family..

Miss Richards also appeared in live action films and TV shows as as well. She appeared in the movies Jailbait Babysitter (1977), The Big Slice (1991), Shadow Builder (1998) , and Bluehair (2001). She guest starred on the series War of the Worlds, My Secret Identity, and Maniac Mansion.

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