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Well, I have done it. After a lifetime of small accomplishments I have finally done something to write home about. I had the opportunity to chat with one of the sweetest celebrities you will ever meet. Billie Mae Richards was the original voice of Rudolph in the Rankin Bass production from 1964 and she was one of our special guests in the “all things Rankin Bass” show this week. See…I AM somebody! Now for those of you who are true trivia buffs you may be saying, “wait, I watched this show a million times and in the credits it says the voice of Rudolph was voiced by Billy Richards. Billy with a “Y”. But that is a mistake that has yet to be corrected even 44 years later. But Billie just smiles. Her work speaks for itself. The voice actress said she was always cast as little boys but truly loved her work. I always thought Rudolph sounded like he had a cold but I realize now it was Billie’s characterization…plus, you have to remember that Rudolph had that little black cap on his nose to cover the glow and that made him sound funny. I can just imagine Billie in the studio holding her nose with one hand and gesturing with the other.
When you listen to our show (just use the “player” to hear it. I know…a shameless plug. I have no pride) you can still hear Rudolph pushing through Billie’s voice. Billie’s in her 80’s now and has suffered a stroke but was still willing and happy to be a part of our show. Her spirit is one that could teach us all a lesson. Her daughter Cindy tagged along in our interview and gave us a really cool perspective on what it was like to have Rudolph as your Mom! Ha Ha.
Billie provided the voice of many a character for Rankin Bass and others. She handled the Rudolph duties for three Rankin Bass specials! She is amazing and why not she was taking dance lessons at the age of two
and was already performing on stages all across Toronto. During World War II Billie became a petty officer in the Navy and took that discipline into her acting profession.
She enrolled in the Lorne Green Academy of Radio Broadcasting and that began a huge phase of her career. She was noted as having a great voice for the roles of boys! Billie says it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise since she was named Billie and her dad wanted a little boy.
She starred in many radio shows back in those days but the biggest hit was W. O. Mitchell series “Jake and the Kid”. That series has lasted for decades through radio, television and even books. She would even play the older brother of an actual kid on a radio show and then as he aged they would switch roles and she would begin playing the younger brother!
She is a wonderful actress but even more endearing is her personality. Please take the time to check out our show with Billie, you won’t regret it. ALSO, Rick Goldschmidt gives us UNBELIEVABLE backstage trivia about the Rudolph special. In fact, I will leave you with this… Yukon Cornelius was known for his licking the ice pick and saying “NOTHING!”….most of us thought he was looking for gold. He wasn’t….find out how that came about and why we didn’t know the truth about it until 1998! Now that’s what we call in the business, a “tease”.