Betty Lou Gerson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Betty Lou Gerson
Betty Lou Gerson 1941.jpg
Gerson in 1941.
Born (1914-04-20)April 20, 1914
Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.
Died January 12, 1999(1999-01-12) (aged 84)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Stroke
Occupation Actress/Voice actress
Years active 1935-1966; 1997
Known for Original voice of Cruella de Vil in Disney's One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
Spouse(s) Louis R. Lauria (1966-1994) (his death)
Joe Ainley (1937-1965) (his death)
Children 3 stepchildren
Awards Disney Legends (1996)

Betty Lou Gerson (April 20, 1914 – January 12, 1999) was an American actress, predominantly in radio, but also in film and television, and as a voice actress. She is best known as the voice of Cruella de Vil from the Disney animated film, One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) for which she was named a Disney Legend in 1996.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Gerson was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but raised in Birmingham, Alabama, where her father was an executive with a steel company. She was Jewish.[1] She was educated in private schools in Birmingham and Miami, Florida.[2] At age sixteen, Gerson moved with her family to Chicago, Illinois where she performed in the radio serial The First Nighter Program. She later moved again to New York City, New York.

Radio and film[edit]

She began her acting career in radio drama in 1935, while still in her 20s, and became a mainstay of soap operas during this period, appearing on Arnold Grimm's Daughter (as the titular daughter Constance in 1938),[3] Midstream (in the leading role, Julia),[4] Women in White (as Karen Adams)[5] Road of Life (as Nurse Helen Gowan), Lonely Women (as Marilyn Larimore), and the radio version of The Guiding Light, as Charlotte Wilson in the mid-1940s. She co-starred with Jim Ameche in the 1938 summer drama Win Your Lady[6] and was the resident romantic lead on such romantic anthologies as Curtain Time, and Grand Hotel.

Moving to Los Angeles in the 1940s, she soon established herself on such series as The Whistler, I Love Adventure, the historical drama Mr. President (as the presidential secretary), Crime Classics, Escape, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. She was heard in several episodes of Lux Radio Theater, notably as Glinda in a 1950 dramatization of The Wizard of Oz. She also played a variety of feminine roles on Johnny Modero, Pier 23.[7]

Around this time, she was cast as the narrator in Walt Disney's version of Cinderella (also 1950). 11 years later, she provided the voice of the villainous, selfish socialite Cruella De Vil in the Walt Disney animated feature One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). Her few on-camera film roles include appearances in The Fly (1958), The Miracle on the Hills (1959), and Mary Poppins (1964) in a small cameo as an old crone. In television, she made three guest appearances on Perry Mason, including the role of murderer Marjory Davis in the episode, "The Case of the Foot-Loose Doll" (1959). She also guest starred on The Twilight Zone, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Hazel, and The Rifleman.

Family and later life[edit]

In 1936, Gerson married Joseph T. Ainley at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. At that time, he was radio director of the Leo Burnett Company, Incorporated.[8]

Gerson retired in 1966, though still using her voice, working at the telephone answering service of her second husband, Lou Lauria. She was honored as a Disney Legend in 1996. She returned to films one last time in 1997, providing the voice of Frances the fish in Cats Don't Dance. On January 12, 1999, she died of a massive stroke at the age of 84.



  1. ^ "Southern Jewish miss," Front page
  2. ^ "She Wanted Career". The Evening News. November 4, 1938. p. 28. Retrieved March 7, 2015 – via  open access publication - free to read
  3. ^ Dunning, John. (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. P.42.
  4. ^ Sher, Jack (August 1940). "Love Incorporated" (PDF). Radio and Television Mirror. 14 (4): 12–13, 72–73. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Wolf, Tom (October 30, 1941). "Television Promises to Create New Market for 'Etheral' Beauty". The Indiana Gazette. p. 32. Retrieved March 7, 2015 – via  open access publication - free to read
  6. ^ "(photo caption)". The Lincoln Star. July 3, 1938. p. 32. Retrieved March 7, 2015 – via  open access publication - free to read
  7. ^ "The Johnny in Jack" (PDF). Radio Life. June 8, 1947. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  8. ^ Mason, Mildred (May 12, 1936). "Betty Lou Gerson Is Married". Xenia Daily Gazette. p. 6. Retrieved March 7, 2015 – via  open access publication - free to read

External links[edit]