Billie Mae Richards, the voice behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the 1964 animated spesh, died Sept. 10 in Burlington, Canada, of stroke. She was 88.
The Toronto native started her career very young in theater acting and eventually transitioned into radio when she discovered her talent for emulating the voice of a little boy. She was even credited as Billy Richards for her first role as Rudolph.
The filmmakers behind the toon came to Canada looking for voiceover talent. “It was a one-shot deal, and I didn’t ask a lot of questions,” she said in a 2005 interview in Filmfax. “We did the voiceover work in Toronto, and the songs in New York. It felt completely natural.”
After serving in the Canadian navy during World War II, Richards worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
She appeared in a few live action roles feature length films, but primarily worked as a voiceover actress until 2004 including on TV’s “Spider-Man” and “The Care Bears Family” and in the “Care Bear” films.
But she was most proud of Rudolph and working with Burl Ives.
“I’m just so glad that my kids, my grandkids, my great-grandkids and probably my great-great-grandkids will see Rudolph,” she once said.
Richards is survived by her four children and 12 grandchildren.