Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet performing in Granby’s Green Acres
It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else in the roles of Ethel and and Fred Mertz but Lucille Ball’s first choices were actually Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet.
Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet were both 44 when “I Love Lucy” was being developed. They had worked with her on the radio show, “My Favorite Husband,” portraying married neighbors, Rudolph and Iris Atterbury.
Gale and Bea were both under contract with other studios, so they couldn’t take the roles of Fred and Ethel Mertz.
Each did, however, appear on episodes of “I Love Lucy.” Gale played Ricky’s Tropicana boss, Alvin Littlefield on two episodes. Bea played a shy spinster, Miss Lewis, in a particularly hilarious episode. Miss Lewis had the hots for someone, but was too shy (and frankly too old!) to do anything about it. As much as I love, love, love Lucy – in that particular episode she had her scenes stolen right from under her heels by the amazing Bea Benaderet.
You may be more familiar with Bea as Cousin Pearl on the Beverly Hillbillies or as Kate Bradley on Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. She also was the voice of Betty Rubble (and additional voices) on “The Flintstones”, and was Witch Hazel and Tweety Bird’s Granny until 1955.
She apparently did a LOT of the female voices on the early cartoons.
Gale Gordon, of course, went on to co-star with Lucille Ball on Here’s Lucy.