Verna Felton (July 20, 1890 – December 14, 1966) was an American actress who was best known for providing many voices in numerous Disney animated films, as well as voicing Fred Flintstone's mother-in-law Pearl Slaghoople in Hanna-Barbera's The Flintstones (1962–1963).
She also had roles in live-action films; however, she was most active in radio programs. She was known for her husky voice and no-nonsense attitude. Two of her most famous roles were as Dennis Day's mother Mrs. Day on The Jack Benny Program (1939–1962) and as Hilda Crocker on the CBS sitcom December Bride (1952–1959).
Felton was born in Salinas, California, on July 20, 1890. Her father, a doctor, died when she was seven years old. When going over his accounts after his death, Felton's mother discovered that although her husband had a large medical practice in San Jose, there were no records of his patients' payments for treatment and no cash in the office. Shortly before her father's death, Felton had performed in a local benefit for victims of the Galveston Flood. Her singing and dancing attracted the attention of a manager of a road show company that was playing in San Jose at the time. The manager spoke to Felton's mother, offering to give Felton a job with his company. Since the family was experiencing difficult financial times with the loss of Felton's father, her mother contacted the road show manager. Felton quickly joined the cast of the show, growing up in the theater.
An August 19, 1900, newspaper advertisement for Fischer's Concert House in San Francisco listed among the performers "Little Verna Felton, the Child Wonder." By 1903, she was acting with the Allen Stock Company, which that year toured the west coast of the United States and performed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. By 1907, she was still with the Allen troupe, but she had progressed from child performer to leading lady. Herbert Bashford wrote a play, The Defiance of Doris, specifically for Felton, and the Allen company included it among the group's productions in 1910.
She acted in stage plays at the Empress Theatre in Vancouver in the late 1920s, playing the lead role in Goldfish, Stella Dallas, and The Second Mrs. Tanqueray. Future husband Lee Millar directed the band for these plays.
Radio and television
Felton worked extensively in the 1930s and '50s in Hollywood radio, notably playing The Mom in The Cinnamon Bear, Junior the Mean Widdle Kid's grandmother on Red Skelton's radio series, Hattie Hirsch on Point Sublime, and Dennis Day's protective, domineering, and authoritative mother, Mrs Day, who was always looking out for him while trying to boss around Jack Benny on The Jack Benny Program. In addition, she performed on radio as a regular on The Abbott and Costello Show and The Great Gildersleeve.
Felton appeared in a recurring role as the mother of Ruth Farley, a young woman played by Gloria Winters in the 1953–55 ABC sitcom with a variety show theme, Where's Raymond?, renamed The Ray Bolger Show. The series starred Ray Bolger as Raymond Wallace, a song-and-dance man who was repeatedly barely on time for his performances.
Though some sitcom aficionados might assume that her guest appearances on I Love Lucy led to a regular supporting role as Hilda Crocker on the CBS sitcom December Bride, Felton had played that same character on the radio version two years prior to the television production. December Bride also starred Spring Byington, Dean Miller, Frances Rafferty, and Harry Morgan.
Felton continued her Hilda Crocker role on the December Bride spin-off, Pete and Gladys, with Harry Morgan and Cara Williams. For her performance on December Bride, Felton was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1958 and in 1959.
Felton was the original voice of Wilma Flintstone's mother, Pearl Slaghoople, voicing the character as a semi-regular on Hanna-Barbera's The Flintstones from 1962–63. In 1963, in the series finale of CBS's Dennis the Menace sitcom, Felton played John Wilson's aunt in the episode entitled "Aunt Emma Visits the Wilsons." In the story line, Mr. Wilson (Gale Gordon) tries to convince Aunt Emma to leave her estate to him and his wife, Eloise (Sara Seegar). Wilson becomes suspicious when Emma begins spending time with Dennis Mitchell (Jay North).
Film and animation
During the 1940s and the early 1950s, she was in demand as a character actress on films, with roles in If I Had My Way (1940), Girls of the Big House (1945), The Fuller Brush Man (1948), Buccaneer's Girl (1950), Belles on Their Toes (1952), Don't Bother to Knock (1952), and her memorable role as Mrs. Potts in the film adaptation of William Inge's stage play Picnic (1955).
Felton was a popular actress at the Walt Disney Studios and MGM Studios, lending her voice to several animated features, including:
Dumbo (1941) as the Elephant Matriarch and Mrs. Jumbo, Dumbo's Mother
Cinderella (1950) as The Fairy Godmother
(a role Felton reprised in re-imaginings of the Cinderella story on the radio programs
Screen Directors Playhouse (1950) and Hallmark Playhouse (1951))
Alice in Wonderland (1951) as the Queen of Hearts
Lady and the Tramp (1955) as Aunt Sarah, Jim Dear's aunt
(Felton's son voiced Jim Dear and the dogcatcher)
Sleeping Beauty (1959) as Flora, the Red Fairy
and Queen Leah, Princess Aurora's mother
The Man from Button Willow (1965) as Mrs. Pomeroy, Mother and Lady on Trolley
The Jungle Book (1967) as Winifred the Elephant (her final role, animated or live-action)
Felton was married to radio actor Lee Millar (1888–1941), who also did animation voices (notably for Disney's Pluto). Their son, Lee Carson Millar Jr. (1924–1980), appeared as an actor on a variety of television series between 1952 and 1967, including, coincidentally, playing Tommy Anderson's father on several episodes of Dennis the Menace between 1959-63.
Felton died at the age of 76 from a stroke in North Hollywood, California, on the evening of December 14, 1966, the day before Walt Disney died. She is interred at Grand View Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
Original Air Date Program Role Notes
1937 The Cinnamon Bear Mother
1938–1939 Candid Lady Aunt Julia
1939 Fibber McGee and Molly Mrs. Homer Gildersleeve
1939–1942 The Great Gildersleeve Miss Fitch, Mrs. Goddwin
1939–1955 The Jack Benny Program Dennis's Mother Mrs. Day
1947–1948 Point Sublime Hattie Hirsch
1942 Lux Radio Theatre Madame Therese DeFarge "A Tale of Two Cities"
1942–1943 Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou Mrs. MacIntyre
1942–49 The Abbott and Costello Show Multiple characters
1943–1947 The Joan Davis Show Blossom Blimp Also known as The Sealtest Village Store
1944 Command Performance Saleswoman "Christmas"
1944–1952 The Judy Canova Show Aunt Agatha
1945 The Old Gold Comedy Theater Nick's Mother "My Favorite Wife"
Also known as The Harold Lloyd Theater
1946–1951 A Day in the Life of Dennis Day Dennis Day's Mother
1946–1953 The Red Skelton Show Junior's Grandmother
1948 Suspense Ada "The Man Who Thought He Was Edward G. Robinson"
1950 Young Love Janet's Mother Mrs. Shaw "Visit by Janet's Mom and Jimmy's Dad"
1950 Screen Directors Playhouse The Fairy Godmother "Cinderella"
1951 The Hallmark Playhouse The Fairy Godmother '"The Story of Cinderella'"
1952–1953 December Bride Hilda Crocker Radio version
1952–1955 My Little Margie Mrs. Odetts Radio version
Year Film Role Notes
1917 The Chosen Prince, or the Friendship of David and Jonathan Michal
1939 Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the President Neighbor Uncredited
1940 Northwest Passage Mrs. Jill Towne Uncredited
1940 If I Had My Way Mrs. Abigail DeLacey Uncredited
1941 Dumbo Elephant Matriarch / Mrs. Jumbo Voice, Uncredited
1945 Girls of the Big House Agnes
1946 She Wrote the Book Mrs. Lauren Kilgour Uncredited
1948 The Fuller Brush Man Junior's Grandmother Uncredited
1950 Cinderella The Fairy Godmother Voice
1950 Buccaneer's Girl Dowager
1950 The Gunfighter Mrs. August Pennyfeather
1951 New Mexico Mrs. Fenway
1951 Alice in Wonderland Queen of Hearts Voice
1951 Little Egypt Mrs. Samantha Doane
1952 Belles on Their Toes Cousin Leora
1952 Don't Bother To Knock Mrs. Alex Ballew
1955 Lady and the Tramp Aunt Sarah Voice
1955 Picnic Mrs. Helen Potts
1957 The Oklahoman Mrs. Stephanie Waynebrook
1957 Taming Sutton's Gal Aunty Sutton
1959 Sleeping Beauty Flora / Queen Leah Voice
1960 Goliath II Eloise Voice
1960 Guns of the Timberland Aunt Sarah
1965 The Man from Button Willow Mrs. Tiffany Pomeroy, Mother, Lady on Trolley Voice
1967 The Jungle Book Winifred the Elephant Voice, Released Posthumously, (final film role)
Year Program Role Notes
1951 The Amos 'n Andy Show Nurse "Kingfish Has a Baby"
1952 The Ezio Pinza Show Mrs. Day
1952–1953 The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show Emily Marsh, Mrs. Rodney, Maggie, Mrs. Evans 4 episodes
1952–1954 The Dennis Day Show Dennis' Mother Mrs. Day
1953 I Love Lucy Mrs. Simpson, Mrs. Porter "Sales Resistance"
"Lucy Hires a Maid"
1953–1955 Where's Raymond? Ruth Farley's Mother
1954 Walt Disney's Disneyland Queen of Hearts (voice, archived) "Alice in Wonderland"
1954–1959 December Bride Hilda Crocker 155 episodes
1955 Walt Disney's Disneyland Mrs. Jumbo / Elephant Matriarch (voice, archived) "Dumbo"
1955–1962 The Jack Benny Program Dennis' Mother Mrs. Day 5 episodes
1957 Climax! Nurse "The Disappearance of Amanda Hale"
1959 The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Mrs. Lapping "Deck the Halls"
1960 The Real McCoys Naomi Vesper "Cousin Naomi"
1960–1961 Pete and Gladys Hilda Crocker 30 episodes
Spin-off of December Bride
1961 Miami Undercover Aramintha "Cukie Dog"
1962 Wagon Train Gran Jennings "The Lonnie Fallon Story"
1962 Henry Fonda and the Family TV miniseries
1962–1963 The Flintstones Pearl Slaghoople Voice role
1963 Dennis the Menace Aunt Emma "Aunt Emma Visits the Wilsons"
1977 The Wonderful World of Disney Flora / Queen Leah (voice, archived) "Sleeping Beauty"
1983 The Wonderful World of Disney Flora / Queen Leah (voice, archived) "Sleeping Beauty"
1998 The Wonderful World of Disney Flora / Queen Leah (voice, archived) "Sleeping Beauty"
Walt Disney's Cinderella (1954, RCA/Camden) - The Fairy Godmother
Disney Songs and Story: Sleeping Beauty (2012, Walt Disney Records) - Flora / Queen Leah
1. Felton, Verna (January 1948). Love That Red-Head. Radio Mirror. pp. 46, 81, 82. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
2. "Fischer's Concert House ad". San Francisco Call. California, San Francisco. August 19, 1900. p. 35. Retrieved 9 February 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
3. "The Allen Stock Company". Petaluma Daily Morning Courier. California, Petaluma. February 2, 1903. p. 3. Retrieved 9 February 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
4. "The People's Theatre". The Province. Canada, British Columbia, Vancouver. November 30, 1903. p. 8. Retrieved 9 February 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
5. "At the Stock Theatres". The Oregon Daily Journal. Oregon, Portland. May 7, 1907. p. 5. Retrieved 9 February 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
6. "'The Defiance of Doris'". The Leader-Post. Canada, Saskatchewan, Regina. December 19, 1910. p. 3. Retrieved 9 February 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
7. Playford-Beaudet, Laurance (March 25, 2018). "Verna Felton, a brief introduction". playford-beaudet.com. grunt gallery, Vancouver BC – via posters from theatre.
8. "Where's Raymond?/ The Ray Bolger Show". ctva.biz. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
10. ""Aunt Emma Visits the Wilsons", July 7, 1963". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
11. Wilson, Scott; Mank, Gregory W. (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company. p. 238. ISBN 9780786479924.
Terrace, Vincent. Radio Programs, 1924–84. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1999. ISBN 0-7864-0351-9
Tucker, Fredrick. Verna Felton. Albany, Georgia: BearManor Media, 2010. ISBN 978-1-59393-524-5