Eleanor Audley

Eleanor Audley (born Eleanor Zellman; November 19, 1905 – November 25, 1991) was an American actress who had a distinctive voice in radio and animation, in addition to her TV and film roles. She is best remembered on television as Oliver Douglas's mother, Eunice Douglas, on the CBS sitcom, Green Acres (1965–69); and for providing Disney animated features with the villainess voices of Lady Tremaine in Cinderella (1950); and Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty (1959). Audley provided the voice of Madame Leota, the spirit medium, from Disney's Haunted Mansion attractions.

Eleanor Audley
Audley in costume concept for the role of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Eleanor Zellman

(1905-11-19)November 19, 1905
DiedNovember 25, 1991(1991-11-25) (aged 86)
Resting placeMount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery, Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.
Other namesElinor Audley
Years active1926–1970
Known forOriginal voice of Lady Tremaine in Disney's Cinderella (1950)
Original voice of Maleficent in Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Original voice of Madame Leota in Disney's Haunted Mansion (1969)
TelevisionGreen Acres (1965–1969)

Early and personal life

Audley was born Eleanor Zellman in New York City on November 19, 1905. Her parents' names are unknown as are the details of her early years. Audley was Jewish[1] and a Democrat who supported the campaign of Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.[2]


She made her acting debut at age 20 in the 1926 Broadway production of Howdy, King. Other stage appearances include: On Call (1928);[3] Pigeons and People (1933);[3] Thunder on the Left (1933); Kill That Story (1934); Ladies' Money (1934); Susan and God (1937); and In Bed We Cry (1943). Audley worked extensively in the 1940s and '50s in Hollywood radio on such programs as Escape; Suspense; My Favorite Husband (as mother-in-law, Leticia Cooper); The Story of Dr. Kildare (as receptionist Molly Byrd); and Father Knows Best (as Anderson family neighbor, Elizabeth Smith). She played the stepmother in re-imaginings of the Cinderella story included in episodes of the series, Hallmark Playhouse, and the weekly western series, The Six Shooter, which starred James Stewart.

Audley's film appearances include: Three Secrets (1950); Gambling House (1950); Untamed (1955); Cell 2455, Death Row (1955); All That Heaven Allows (1955); The Unguarded Moment (1956); Full of Life (1956); Voice in the Mirror (1958); Home Before Dark (1958); The Pleasure of His Company (1961); The Second Time Around (1961); and Hook, Line and Sinker (1969).

In the animation film industry, Audley was best known for providing 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.[4] For those films, animators Frank Thomas and Marc Davis designed the characters' facial features and expressions to be closely similar to Audley.[5] She was the live-action model for both characters. Audley had initially turned down the role of Maleficent because she was battling tuberculosis at the time.[6]

In 1969, Audley's voice was used as the voice of Madame Leota, the spirit of a psychic medium, in the Haunted Mansion attractions in Disneyland and Walt Disney World.[5]

From 1954 to 1970, Audley appeared regularly on television, including: I Love Lucy; Crossroads; The People's Choice; Richard Diamond, Private Detective; Perry Mason; Dennis the Menace; Hazel; Pete and Gladys; The Real McCoys; The Twilight Zone; Mr. Lucky; The Dick Van Dyke Show (as Parent-Teacher Association head, Peggy Billings); The Beverly Hillbillies (as Potts School headmistress, Millicent Schuyler-Potts); Mister Ed (as Aunt Martha); and My Three Sons (as mother-in-law, Beatrice Vincent, which was her final role before retiring).

Audley played a recurring character on the CBS sitcom Green Acres from 1965–69, portraying Oliver Douglas's disapproving mother, Eunice Douglas, despite being only five months older than actor Eddie Albert who played her son.[7] When the cast were reunited for a 1990 TV movie, Return to Green Acres, Audley, who suffered from failing health, could not appear.


Audley died from respiratory failure on November 25, 1991.[3] She is interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.[8]


Selected film roles

TV roles

Radio appearances

Theme parks


  • Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1949, RCA/Camden) as Evil Queen
  • Walt Disney's Cinderella (1954, RCA/Camden) as Lady Tremaine
  • Disney Songs and Story: Sleeping Beauty (2012, Walt Disney Records) as Maleficent

Stage appearances

  • 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 Jun 1938, December 1943
  • In Bed We Cry as Claire Dangerfield, November 1943 to December 23, 1944


  1. Morning News, January 10, 1948, Who Was Who in America (Vol. 2)
  2. Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  3. "Eleanor Audley; Actress, Voice of Disney Characters". Los Angeles Times. 1991-11-27. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
  4. Hischak, Thomas S. (2011). Disney Voice Actors: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland. ISBN 978-0786462711.
  5. Zuckerman, Esther (2014-05-30). "Meet Eleanor Audley, the Original 'Maleficent'". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
  6. Audio-Commentary. Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition: Walt Disney Home Entertainment. 2008.
  7. Lang, Nico (2013-08-15). "29 Little-Known Facts About Disney Movies That Will Blow Your Mind". Thought Catalog. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
  8. Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. p. 32. ISBN 9781476625997. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
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