Tuesday, November 13, 2012
A part of television history died last week. Lucille Bliss, the actress who is probably best known by folks near my age as the voice of Smurfette for nine seasons on "The Smurfs," died at the age of 96. Here's a link to Yowp's obit complete with a recent photo which I'll share here.
That's June Foray on the left, with Bliss seated on the right.
Here's another link, this one to the Cartoon Brew site with a more historic perspective.
In both cases, you'll find interesting video interviews, and the segment on how Bliss was almost the voice of Elroy Jetson reveals how the business of voice acting can be brutal at times.
In 1949, Bliss became the voice of the title character in "Crusader Rabbit," the first cartoon series produced expressly for television. (Despite what misters Hanna and Barbera may have wanted you to believe.) So, Lucille Bliss was not only the first female TV cartoon voice star, but the first TV cartoon voice star, period. OK, yeah, Crusader Rabbit is a male character, but in that era, female cartoon voices were rare, with the Warner Brothers and Disney stables being pretty much men's clubs. (Tweety is a boy, just to be clear on that.) Only Mae Questel as Olive Oyl was more ubiquitous until "The Flintstones."
After tracking the voice of the evil stepsister Anastasia in the Disney feature "Cinderella," Bliss moved to San Francisco and hosted "The Happy Birthday To You Show" on KRON through the 1950's, making Lucille Bliss a genuine children's television pioneer as well.
She would also perform in Disney's "Alice in Wonderland," and several theatrical short cartoons, including that annoying little Cockney mouse Tuffy in the Tom and Jerry outing "Robin Hoodwinked." ("And there's the bloomin' key!") She worked in Disney's "101 Dalmatians" (1961) and after that, things got a little lean, due in no small part to being suddenly replaced by Daws Butler as the voice of Elroy in "The Jetsons." (Daws was blameless for this incident, but uncomfortably caught in the middle) Hannah and Barbera made good... even if it did take a while. Eventually, Bliss was cast as the voice of Smurfette in 1980, and a legend was born. In more recent years, a new generation of viewers heard Bliss as the voice of Miss Bitters in Nickelodeon's "Invader Zim" series.
Lucille Bliss, a legendary voice actor, and television host. We'll miss you, Smurfette.
UPDATE: Check out this post by Mark Evanier for more insight on Lucille Bliss.