Biography

Philadelphia-born Jean Vander Pyl was an actress with a 40-year career, but few people -- even fans of her work, and she had millions of them at various times -- ever knew what she looked like. Vander Pyl was a voice artist on radio and later on television, and became most famous in the 1960s as the voice of Wilma Flintstone on The Flintstones. Vander Pyl was born in Philadelphia, the daughter of a salesman, in 1919. The family moved several times during her childhood, and she lived in Memphis and Chicago, the New York communities of Larchmont and New Rochelle, and Long Beach, CA, before finally settling in Los Angeles in 1933. She graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1937 and attended UCLA as an acting student. While still an undergraduate, she got her first acting job, on the radio show Calling All Cars. In her earliest jobs, she portrayed women in danger and distress. She later joined the radio cast of Amos 'n' Andy, on which she played Andy's numerous girlfriends, and Lux Radio Theatre, an anthology show on which she played a multitude of roles. Additionally, she was Margaret Anderson on the Father Knows Best radio show, before Jane Wyatt took over the role for the television version. Vander Pyl moved into television as radio faded away, appearing on such shows as Leave It to Beaver, This Is the Life, and Petticoat Junction. (On the latter show, she worked alongside her voice-over colleague Bea Benaderet; in 1967, when Benaderet was forced to leave the series because of terminal lung cancer, the producers gave her character, Kate Bradley, a final appearance using an on-camera double and with Vander Pyl serving as a voice double.) It was her voice that kept Vander Pyl busiest, however. Rather fortuitously, she was hired by producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera to work on their first round of cartoon shows produced specifically for Saturday morning television, including Quick Draw McGraw, Yogi Bear, and The Huckleberry Hound Show. When Hanna and Barbera prepared their first prime-time half-hour animated series, The Flintstones, Vander Pyl ended up cast as Wilma Flintstone, as well as several other characters during the run of the show (including Mrs. Slate, Fred Flintstone's boss' wife, and Wilma's mother); Alan Reed Sr. was Fred, Mel Blanc was Barney; and Bea Benaderet was Betty. When that show became a hit, Vander Pyl was given further work in its follow-up series, The Jetsons, as Mrs. Spacely (the boss' wife), Rosie the Robot (the most popular character on the show), and George Jetson's mother-in-law. Finally, when they did their next prime-time series, Top Cat, she was cast as a regular supporting player. Vander Pyl subsequently appeared in the full-length feature film The Man Called Flintstone, a parody of such spy films as Thunderball and Our Man Flint. Vander Pyl continued to work for Hanna and Barbera into the 1990s, doing voices in subsequent Flintstones and Jetsons feature films, until 1998, when she was hospitalized. She died of lung cancer in 1999, at age 79. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi