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Grace Stafford

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Grace Stafford
Stafford in 1958.
Grace Boyle

(1903-11-07)November 7, 1903
DiedMarch 17, 1992(1992-03-17) (aged 88)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
Years active1935–1975
Known forWoody Woodpecker
(m. 1919; div. 1940)
(m. 1940)

Grace Lantz (née Boyle, November 7, 1903 – March 17, 1992), also known by her stage name Grace Stafford, was an American actress and the wife of animation producer Walter Lantz.[1] Stafford is best known for providing the voice of Woody Woodpecker, a creation of Lantz's, from 1950 to 1991.


Stafford started in Hollywood at a joint production between Harold Lloyd's Beverly Hills Little Theatre for Professionals and the Vine Street Theatre, in 1935.[2] She then appeared in feature live-action films from 1935's Dr. Socrates to 1975's Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. Some of her more notable roles were in the films Anthony Adverse and Blossoms in the Dust.

Around the time the Woody Woodpecker short Drooler's Delight was in production, Mel Blanc, who had originally supplied Woody's voice and laugh, filed a lawsuit against producer Walter Lantz, claiming that Lantz had used his voice in later cartoons without permission. The judge, however, ruled for Lantz, saying that Blanc had failed to copyright his voice or his contributions. Though Lantz won the case, he paid Blanc in an out-of-court settlement when Blanc filed an appeal. Wanting to avoid any future retaliation from anyone wanting to sue him, Lantz opted to find a new voice actor to replace Ben Hardaway, who had been voicing Woody since 1944's The Barber of Seville, as the character's talking voice, as well as a definitive version of the laugh for his star woodpecker.

In 1950, Lantz held anonymous auditions. Stafford offered to do Woody's voice, but Lantz turned her down because Woody was a male character. Not discouraged in the least, Grace made her own anonymous audition tape and submitted it to Walter Lantz Productions. Not knowing who was behind the voice he heard, Lantz picked Grace's voice for Woody Woodpecker. Stafford provided Woody's voice from 1950 to 1972, and also performed in non-Woody cartoons. She later voiced the character on several rare occasions after the Lantz studio's permanent shut down in 1972, particularly Woody's cameo at the 51st Academy Awards ceremony in 1979.[3]

At first, she asked not to be credited in the role, as she believed that audiences both young and old would be "disillusioned" if they knew Woody was voiced by a woman.[4] But she soon came to enjoy being known as Woody's voice and, starting with 1958's Misguided Missile, finally allowed her name to be credited on screen. Her version of Woody was cuter and friendlier than the manic Woody of the 1940s.

Stafford also appeared on an episode of What's My Line? on November 10, 1963.


Gracie Lantz died of spinal cancer on March 17, 1992, at age 88.[5]



  1. ^ "Walter Lantz, Creator of Woody Woodpecker, Dies". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  2. ^ "Hollywood Vine Street Quits Films for Legit". Variety. 22 May 1935. p. 54. Retrieved 23 March 2024.
  3. ^ "Robin Williams presents an Honorary Award to Walter Lantz: 1979 Oscars". YouTube. 11 August 2014.
  4. ^ "Gracie Lantz Dies; Invented Woody Woodpecker". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  5. ^ "Gracie Lantz, 88, Dies; Cartoon Figure's Voice". The New York Times. 1992-03-20. Retrieved 2013-08-10.

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Preceded by Voice of Woody Woodpecker
Succeeded by