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Eleanor Audley

Eleanor Audley
Eleanor Audley in Beverly Hillbillies 1962.jpg
Audley in 1962
Eleanor Zellman

(1905-11-19)November 19, 1905
DiedNovember 25, 1991(1991-11-25) (aged 86)
Resting placeMount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery
Other namesElinor Audley
Years active1926–1970
Known forDisney's Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty
Green Acres

Eleanor Audley (née Zellman) (November 19, 1905 – November 25, 1991) was an American actress with a distinctive voice and a diverse body of work. Audley was best known for her roles as aristocratic, somewhat villainous matrons. She played Oliver Douglas's mother, Eunice Douglas, on the CBS sitcom Green Acres (1965–1969), and provided Disney animated features with the voices of Lady Tremaine in Cinderella (1950); and Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty (1959). She had roles in live-action films, but was most active in radio programs such as My Favorite Husband and Father Knows Best. Audley's television appearances include those in I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mister Ed and My Three Sons.

Early and personal life

Eleanor Zellman was born in Newark, New Jersey on November 19, 1905. Her family had moved to West 86th Street in Manhattan, New York City, by 1917. Her parents, William David Zellman and Ruth Simmons, were Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants. Her father was born in Ukraine, immigrated to the United States in 1895, and became a naturalized citizen in 1916.[citation needed] He worked in the silk industry. Her mother was born in Prussia, and immigrated circa 1890. She had a younger sister, Muriel.[citation needed]

Zellman graduated from Hunter College High School in Manhattan in 1924.[citation needed] She began using the stage-name "Eleanor Audley" sometime before 1940.

A Democrat, she supported Adlai Stevenson's campaign during the 1952 presidential election.[better source needed]


Stage and radio

Audley made her Broadway debut at age 21 in the 1926 production of Howdy, King. Her other stage appearances included On Call (1928); Pigeons and People (1933); Thunder on the Left (1933); Kill That Story (1934); Ladies' Money (1934); Susan and God (1937); and In Bed We Cry (1944).[citation needed]

Audley worked extensively in the 1940s and 1950s in radio, notably playing George Cooper's aristocratic mother, Mrs. Cooper, who typically looks down on her daughter-in-law, Liz Cooper on My Favorite Husband, and the Anderson family's neighbor, Mrs. Smith on Father Knows Best. In addition, Audley performed on radio as a series regular on Escape, Suspense and The Story of Dr. Kildare. She played the stepmother in re-imaginings of the Cinderella story that were included in episodes of the series Hallmark Playhouse, and the weekly western series, The Six Shooter, that starred James Stewart.[citation needed]

Film and animation

Audley's first feature film appearance was in 1949's The Story of Molly X, where she played the non-credited role of a parole board member.[citation needed] Other film appearances followed, including: Pretty Baby (1950); Gambling House (1951); Cell 2455, Death Row (1955); The Unguarded Moment (1956); Full of Life (1956); Spoilers of the Forest (1957); Home Before Dark (1958); a cameo in 1959's The FBI Story (as the mother and slain victim of suspect Jack Graham); The Second Time Around (1961); and Hook, Line and Sinker (1969).[citation needed]

In the animated film industry, Audley provided her distinctive voice to Lady Tremaine, Cinderella's evil stepmother, in the 1950 Disney film Cinderella; and Princess Aurora's evil fairy nemesis, Maleficent, in Disney's 1959 version of Sleeping Beauty. For those films, animators Frank Thomas and Marc Davis designed the characters' facial features and expressions to be closely similar to Audley's. In addition to providing their voices, she served as the performance model for both characters for live-action referencing to help the animators. Audley had initially turned down the role of Maleficent because she was battling tuberculosis at the time.

Audley provided the voice for Madame Leota—the spirit of a psychic medium—in the Haunted Mansion attractions in Disneyland and Walt Disney World.


Audley's first television appearance was in the pilot episode of The Mickey Rooney Show (also titled Hey Mulligan) as Bessie, a terrible actress who stars in an awful TV show.[citation needed] From 1954 to 1970, she appeared regularly on television, including episodes of: The People's Choice; I Love Lucy; Crossroads; The Real McCoys; Richard Diamond, Private Detective; The Twilight Zone; Dennis the Menace; Mr. Lucky; Perry Mason; The Tab Hunter Show; Pete and Gladys; and Hazel. Audley had recurring roles on The Dick Van Dyke Show as the P.T.A head Mrs. Billings, on The Beverly Hillbillies as the school headmistress Mrs. Potts, on Mister Ed as Wilbur Post's aunt Martha, on Pistols 'n' Petticoats as Mrs. Teaseley, on My Three Sons as Mrs. Vincent, and on Green Acres as Oliver Douglas's disapproving mother, Eunice Douglas, despite being only five months older than actor Eddie Albert who played the role of her son.


Audley died from respiratory failure on November 25, 1991, at the age of 86. She is interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.



Year Title Role Notes
1950 Cinderella Lady Tremaine voice role
1950 Pretty Baby Miss Karen Brindel
1951 Gambling House Mrs. Fern Livingston
1955 Cell 2455, Death Row Blanche
1956 The Unguarded Moment Mr. Pendleton's secretary
1956 Full of Life Mrs. Kelly Jameson
1957 Spoilers of the Forest Mrs. Shelby Walters
1958 Voice in the Mirror Speaker at Soup Kitchen uncredited[citation needed]
1958 Step Down to Terror Mrs. Felicia Brighton uncredited[citation needed]
1958 Home Before Dark Mrs. Jayne Hathaway
1959 Sleeping Beauty Maleficent voice
1961 The Second Time Around Mrs. Katie Trask
1969 Hook, Line and Sinker Mrs. Maya Durham



Theme parks


  • Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1949, RCA/Camden) as Evil Queen
  • Walt Disney's Cinderella: Little Nipper Series (1949, RCA/Camden) as Lady Tremaine
  • Walt Disney's Cinderella (1954, RCA/Camden) as Lady Tremaine
  • The Story and Song from The Haunted Mansion (1969, Disneyland Records) as Madame Leota
  • Disney Songs and Story: Sleeping Beauty (2012, Walt Disney Records) as Maleficent


  • Howdy, King as guest in hotel, December 1926 to January 1927
  • On Call as Mary Randall, November 1928 to January 1929
  • Pigeons and People as Elinore Payne, January 1933 to November 1933
  • Thunder on the Left as Ruth Brook, October 1933 to November 1933
  • Kill That Story as Millicent, August 1934 to December 1934
  • Ladies' Money as Claire Touhey, November 1934 to December 1934
  • Susan and God as Charlotte Marley, October 1937 to June 1938, December 1943
  • In Bed We Cry as Claire Dangerfield, November 1944 to December 23, 1944

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