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Bea Benaderet’s Last Episode of Petticoat Junction is Hard to Watch

Did you grow up watching the show Petticoat Junction? One of the most popular characters from the show was Kate Bradley – played by Bea Benaderet. Sadly, we didn’t see Kate after the fifth season – as Bea Benaderet passed away from lung cancer.

The character and Bea’s performance was so popular among audiences that the show’s creators didn’t wish to replace the character in the later seasons. While the show went on, it wasn’t the same without Bea Benaderet.

In fact, Bea Benaderet’s last episode of Petticoat Junction is hard to watch – knowing that she suffered from lung cancer. Nevertheless, she worked hard till the very end and is remembered as a brilliant actress and a consummate professional.

Let’s look back at Bea Benaderet’s incredible life and career and her final episodes of Petticoat Junction…



Bea Benaderet was born on the fourth of April, 1906, in New York City. Her mother was Irish American, and her father was a Turkish immigrant who worked as a tobacconist. At the age of 9, she moved with her family to San Francisco where she would grow up.

During her young age, she began taking voice and piano lessons. At the age of 11, she acted in a school play where she had a small role as a bearded old man! The following year, she managed to land a small acting role on a radio play and was paid for it! This made her realize that she had a gift for entertaining others. From this young age, she decided that she wanted to pursue acting as a full-time career.

She landed her first professional role when she was 16 in a play called The Prince of Pilsen. After graduating from high school, she decided to join an acting troupe to gain more experience working in theater.

Bea was part of the The Players’ Guild – run by Reginald Travers. She also studied acting at his school. She appeared in plays such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Polly Lysistrata. Bea Bernaderet had a successful career in theatre but also wanted to try out new mediums.

As Bea Benaderet came of age, radio was becoming increasingly popular throughout the United States. She had a powerful voice and had the ability to bring characters to life solely through audio performances.

In 1926, she landed a job with the radio station KFRC – based in San Francisco. She performed in a variety of radio plays and involved in acting, singing, writing, and even producing. With her radio performances, her voice became well-known throughout the country. She especially showed aptitude in performing a variety of characters and speaking with different dialects and accents.

Before long, Bea Benaderet had become a household name both in theater and radio. She also garnered a reputation as being a great professional. This reputation would help her land more work in the future and made her a joy to work with.

While Bea was becoming more popular among radio fans, she was eager to expand her horizons. Just as she had gotten into the medium of radio as it becoming more popular, she now eager to try her luck with the medium of television. She also wanted to try her luck in cinema and was eager to see where else her voice acting talents could take her.

Once her TV career began, she was on her way to becoming one of America’s biggest stars…

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In the early 1940s, Bea Benaderet began the next phase of her career as a voice actress. Her voice had become famous on the radio, and it was now time for her to give a shot at animated films.

She appeared in several short films for Warner Bros. – often voicing female supporting characters in the Looney Tunes shorts. Some of her popular characters included Little Red Riding Hood, Witch Hazel, and Miss Prissy.

Her most famous roles included Granny in the film Tweetie Pie and Mama Bear in several of the Three Bears short films. Animator Chuck Jones praised Bea Benaderet for her portrayal as Mama Bear and her incredible range as a voice actress.

Oddly enough, she didn’t get credit for her work with Warner Bros. – as she was a freelance artist rather than under a fixed contract. Nevertheless, her voice had made her famous in the industry and the work offers continued to come in.

By the mid-1950s, she also began looking for on-screen work. She had become successful through her voice – now she wanted to become a familiar face in TV and film.

She was actually the first choice to play Ethel in I Love Lucy. In fact, it was Lucille Ball who originally wanted Bea Benaderet to take on the role. Unfortunately, Bea contracted to work on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and had to turn down the role – which eventually went to Vivian Vance.

Bea had worked with George Burns and Gracie Allen on the radio version of the show. She reprised her role as the secretary Blanche in the TV show. This made her one of the most popular actresses on TV. In the 1960s, she became well known for playing Wilma in the sitcom Peter Loves Mary. She also became known as the voice of Betty Rubble in The Flinstones. She also occasionally voiced characters on Top Cat and The Yogi Bear Show.

While Bea focused mainly on television, a mention should made about her film career. She had a brief role as a File Clerk in Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious. She had a supporting role as Ella Heather in the Western film Plunderers of Painted Flats.

Her other film credits include roles in Tender Is the Night and the TV movie O’Conner’s Ocean. Throughout most of her television career, she continued to voice roles in animated shows and short films.

But her best work was arguably in a show created by Paul Henning. Paul Henning was best known for his role in creating “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Petticoat Junction.” On the latter show, Bea Benaderet was cast as Kate Bradley – and this remains one of the best roles that defined her career.



Bea Benaderet met Paul Henning back in the 1940s while she was working on the radio production of Burns and Allen. He wrote several episodes for the radio show and impressed by Bea’s talent. He wanted to continue working with her as the two of them eventually transitioned to the television industry.

She appeared in 2 episodes of The Bob Cummings Show which written by Paul Henning. She later cast as Cousin Pearl Bodine in The Beverly Hillbillies – after initially being considered for the role as Granny. The character only appeared on the show occasionally, yet Bea’s performance made Cousin Pearl one of the most memorable characters on the show!

Paul Henning loved writing parts for Bea Benaderet and wanted to create a great character for her to star in. Following the success of The Beverly Hillbillies, he wanted to create another rural sitcom and use this sitcom as a starring vehicle for Bea Benaderet.

The show was Petticoat Junction and Bea Benaderet’s role as Kate Bradley become one of her most famous roles. While she’s voiced some of our favorite animated characters, we remember her most for her on-screen TV roles. Kate Bradley was one of her most serious characters, but it was perhaps the role that helped Bea Benaderet showcase her talents best!

While the show featured a great ensemble cast, Bea really stood out with her performances. She remained the professional she’d always been, and her co-stars loved working with her. The audience loved her and couldn’t imagine the show without her!

It’s because of this that Bea Benaderet’s last episode of Petticoat Junction is hard to watch. During a routine medical checkup in the early 1960s, it was discovered that Bea had a spot on one of her lungs. She had been a longtime smoker and it was discovered that she had lung cancer.

She cut down on smoking and started to improve her health. Unfortunately, the cancer continued to grow and took its toll on her. Kate Bradely stopped appearing in some episodes of Petticoat Junction so that Bea could look after her health.

Her final 4 episodes aired in 1968. They were, Birthplace of a Future President, The Singing Sweethearts, Only a Husband and The Valley Has a Baby. Knowing how she suffered with lung cancer and still managed to work, it’s challenging to watch The Valley Has a Baby – knowing that she died before the episode aired.

Bea Benaderet passed away due to complications of lung cancer and pneumonia on October 13, 1968, in Los Angeles. 13 days later, The Valley Has a Baby aired, and this was the last time that fans would get a chance to watch Bea on TV.

The character of Kate Bradley and Bea’s performance were so great, that it was decided not to cast another actress to play the role. This was relatively rare for the time.

Bea Benaderet was only 62 when she passed away. Nevertheless, though it’s hard to watch her last episode of Petticoat Junction – her life was one that serves as an inspiration to us all.


Now, let’s hear from you:

Did you know about Bea Benaderet and Petticoat Junction?

In fact, here’s what we’d like to know:

Do you think that Petticoat Junction still holds up today?

Or has the show become dated and won’t resonate with a newer generation?

Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

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