‘Petticoat Junction’: Bea Benaderet Looked To Play Kate Bradley ‘Straight’ on the Show

by Joe Rutland

Actress Bea Benaderet of Petticoat Junction was a well-known name in the world of comedy for both radio and television. She was the original voice of Betty Rubble on The Flintstones. Additionally, she worked with Lucille Ball on her radio show My Favorite Husband. Well, many people know Benaderet from her role as Kate Bradley on the CBS sitcom. Because of her ability to play both comedy and serious roles, the actress would talk about playing her character “straight.”

What did she mean by this? Benaderet was a guest in the 1960s on Ball’s radio show Let’s Talk To Lucy. Her time on Petticoat Junction was still taking place when this interview was done. As you can hear, Ball has a lot of respect for Benaderet and vice-versa. In a snippet, Ball does ask her former co-star and friend about the role of Kate Bradley on the now-classic TV show.

Bea Benaderet of ‘Petticoat Junction’ Had Her Eyes On Another Sitcom Part, Too

When asked by Ball if it’s difficult to be “typed,” as in typecast, Benadaret said that she agreed. “I will tell you one thing,” Benaderet said. “Due to this, the fact that I have done so many of the different things, Kate was the biggest challenge I ever had. Because she’s almost straight. And yet, you know I love [to do] the comedy. So I’m just hammy enough to always try and invent something, you know, to get back to the big shoes and the funny hat.” Ball would say that Kate is so warm and that Benaderet would never regret playing her.

Yet Benaderet, before getting the Kate Bradley role on Petticoat Junction, happened to be angling for another TV role. The actress appeared as Pearl Bodine, Jethro’s mother, on The Beverly Hillbillies. She would play this part in the show’s first few seasons on CBS. Heck, even Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs would sing to her in an episode. Benadaret had been trying to get the role of Granny on there. As the story goes, it would eventually go to Irene Ryan. But that was due to a little nudge from Benaderet herself. When Ryan showed up for an audition and started reading for the part, Benaderet reportedly looked at Paul Henning and said point-blank, “There’s your Granny.”

Sadly, the actress would die while the show was still on network TV. Benaderet suffered from lung cancer and would go through surgery. Linda Henning, who played one of the Bradley girls on the show, remembered the “toughest day” on the show’s set. Benaderet’s role there remains popular with those who watch Petticoat Junction reruns. June Lockhart would come on there and fill in that space but not as Kate Bradley.