Billie Lou Watt
|Billie Lou Watt|
Watt in 1945, touring company of Kiss and Tell
June 20, 1924|
St. Louis, Missouri
|Died||September 7, 2001
New York City, New York
|Spouse(s)||Hal Studer (19?? – 2001; her death); 3 children|
Billie Lou Watt (June 20, 1924 – September 7, 2001) was an actress in theater and television, including several voice acting roles for commercials, anime and animated series. She is best known as the voice of the title characters of the 1960s anime series Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, the character Elsie the Cow for Borden Cheese's TV commercials, and a live-action turn playing Ellie Harper Bergman on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow.
Life & career
Watt was born in St. Louis, Missouri, where her career on the stage began at the age of 12 in the role of Becky in a local play based on the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Her first role on a professional stage came two years later at the St. Louis Municipal Opera production of The American Way. Her first acting role using mainly her voice was heard by listeners of the KMOX radio program The Land We Live In. She graduated from Ritenour High School and Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois before continuing her acting career in the touring company of the play Kiss and Tell. This would lead up to performing on the stages of New York City, with special thanks to George Abbott for hiring her for the play Barefoot Boy with Cheek. She also appeared in Little Women and King of Hearts[disambiguation needed] during her time on Broadway. Watt's first regular role on television was for the 1958 series From These Roots as Maggie Barber Weaver.
Watt's career in animation began after she and her husband Hal Studer were suggested by Fred Ladd as actors in his journey into animation, with their first successful project being Astro Boy in 1963. Along the way, Billie Lou and Hal learned how to write character dialog and situations as Ladd brought in more shows to work on, resulting in such series as Kimba the White Lion (as Kimba) and Gigantor (as Jimmy Sparks). Ladd's cast remained close during Watt's career, including her friend Ray Owens, his wife Sonia, and Gilbert Mack. Watt returned to acting as herself on the soap opera The Edge of Night in the role of Florence Hatcher in 1967, but her longest TV role would be Ellie Harper Bergman on Search for Tomorrow from 1968 to 1981. In the meantime, Watt continued to provide voice-acting and script-writing duties for English redubs of Japanese anime, such as the 1970s feature-length Jack and the Beanstalk (as Jack), Taro the Dragon Boy (as the title character), and the Biblical-based TV series Superbook (as Christopher Peepers and various other characters) and The Flying House (as Justin Casey and various other characters).
Later in life, Watt and her voice became of great help for radio listeners of In-Touch Networks who are hearing impaired or completely blind. Watt's final acting role was the voice of Ma Bagge (Eustace's mother) on the series Courage the Cowardly Dog from 1999 to 2001. She would succumb to lung cancer in New York City later that year, leaving her husband Hal and their three children. For her contributions to the entertainment industry, and her charitable works, she was inducted into the Ritenour Alumni Hall of Fame in 2005.