Janet Waldo

Active - 1938 - 1993  |   Born - Feb 2, 1920   |   Died - Jun 12, 2016   |   Genres - Comedy, Children's/Family

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Janet Waldo was a star of radio in the mid-1940s (at age 23) in the role of Corliss Archer, a typical American teenager. Twenty years later, Waldo became identified for another generation (or two) as the voice of the quintessential teenage girl Judy Jetson on the prime-time cartoon show The Jetsons. Born in Yakima, WA, in 1918, Waldo had a love of theater and acting from an early age, and while growing up, she participated in plays put on by her church. Her family had an artistic bent on both sides: her mother was a singer trained at the Boston Conservatory while her father, a railroad executive, was a descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and her sister Elizabeth was later a violin virtuoso who also appeared in movies. Waldo attended the University of Washington, where she engaged in student theatricals and won a special award in her freshman year. A distinguished alumnus -- Bing Crosby -- was visiting at the time, and they met when he presented her with the award. With him was a Paramount talent scout, ever on the lookout for new additions to the studio's stable of actors, who got Waldo signed up for a screen test and a role in the Crosby comedy The Star Maker. She was soon a bit player at the studio, but still waiting for her big break. That break ended up coming from radio rather than movies, however, on the Cecil B. DeMille-produced Radio Theatre, working with Merle Oberon and George Brent. Waldo's voice and range as an actress seemed to blossom when heard over the airwaves, and by 1943, at age 23, Waldo was starring or co-starring in Meet Corliss Archer, One Man's Family, The Gallant Heart, and Star Playhouse, as well as playing the cigarette girl on both The Red Skelton Show and People Are Funny; she also played roles on the Edward G. Robinson series The Big Town. Over the ensuing final great decade of radio, she worked on Dr. Christian, Silver Theater, Ozzie & Harriet, and Railroad Hour, although she never took as many roles as she might have.

Waldo married writer/director/producer Robert E. Lee, who later achieved renown in the theater as the co-author, with Jerome Lawrence, of Inherit the Wind, First Monday in October, and Auntie Mame. The couple soon had a family to raise, and she turned down a great number of roles after that, even declining the offer to play Corliss Archer when the series jumped to television at the start of the 1950s. Waldo continued working in radio and subsequently did voice-over work in addition to returning to the theater. In the early '60s, as an established voice artist, she was chosen to portray the role of Judy Jetson in the prime-time cartoon series The Jetsons, produced and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Waldo took on the role, and has been known to a generation of baby boomer cartoon fans as Judy Jetson ever since, even returning to the role for later episodes of the series shot in the ensuing decades. She also made headlines in 1989, when, in a decision made by Universal Pictures and William Hanna, her voice was wiped from the audio track of Jetsons: The Movie so that she could be replaced by the singer Tiffany. Waldo got in the last word, however, in 2004, when, at age 83, she provided commentary for two episodes on The Jetsons: The Complete First Season DVD set from Warner Home Video. Waldo died in 2016, at age 96.

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