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Cruella’s voice is silenced

Betty Lou Gerson, the actress behind the distinctive voice of fur-loving villainess Cruella De Vil, in Disney's classic animated feature, "101 Dalmations" (1961), passed away on January 12 at the age of 84. She was also the narrator of Disney's earlier film, "Cinderella" (1950), and made a cameo appearance in "Mary Poppins." In addition, she was a veteran radio and television actor who appeared in such shows as "The Twilight Zone," "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Perry Mason;" and such films as "Undercover Girl," "The Fly" and "Miracle of the Hills." Her unique voice was often compared to that of Tallulah Bankhead. Marc Davis, one of Disney's Nine Old Men, who designed and animated the character of Cruella, recalls, "Betty Lou's voice was a true inspiration. She had one of those unique voices that gave you something special to work with and which helped me define the character. She was a dear lady and we will miss her very much." In recent years, she had returned to doing voice-over work for Disney and other animation studios. Among her last roles was the crabby, ex-diva fish, Francis, in Turner's 1997 animated feature "Cats Don't Dance."