April 20, 1914 – Actress and Voice Actress Betty Lou Gerson is Born
“Betty Lou Gerson gave you so much to work with [for Cruella de Vil], and she was absolutely marvelous.” – Animator and Disney Legend Marc Davis
On April 20, 1914, Betty Lou Gerson was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her family followed her father’s work, as he was an executive with a steel company, and she was raised in Birmingham, Alabama. When she was sixteen, her family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she attracted attention as a performer on the radio serial The First Nighter Program opposite Don Ameche. She continued her radio career with a string of soap opera hits, including Lonely Women and Midstream. She moved to Los Angeles in 1940, and continued her streak of popular radio programs, including Mr. President and Johnny Dollar. Gerson also broke into the television and movie mediums, starring in some B-list films and popular television series, such as Perry Mason and The Twilight Zone. Gerson was hired by Disney in an uncredited role as the narrator in the beginning of the film Cinderella, but she is well-known for playing the villainous Cruella de Vil from One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Gerson also has a cameo in the film Mary Poppins as an old crone. Her role as Cruella is so beloved that she was honored as a Disney Legend in 1996. Gerson passed away in 1999 at the age of 84.