I've had more than the usual amount of time to Web-surf this week while recovering from surgery. Thus it was that I learned, only a couple of days ago, of the death of Billie Mae Richards, the Canadian actress who voiced Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on three extremely memorable occasions, this past September 10. She was 88 and had suffered several strokes. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) remains my favorite of all the perennial Christmas specials -- yes, even over A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) -- and Richards' winning, boyish portrayal of Rudolph, so similar in so many ways to Billie Lou Watt's portrayals of Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, is a VERY big reason why. Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976) was a popular (and still, to my mind, highly underappreciated) sort-of-sequel, with Richards in fine form after a decade away from the character, and even the maddeningly slow-tempo'ed feature film Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979) had its good points (plus a solo song by Richards, "No Bed of Roses," which, quite honestly, wasn't one of them). Younger (in a comparative sense) folks probably best "know" Richards as the voice of Tender Heart Bear, one of the Care Bears.
In tribute to Richards, here's "No Bed of Roses."