Singer Ilene Woods, 81, dies; was the voice of 'Cinderella'

Ilene Woods
Ilene Woods (Family Photo - Family Photo)
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By Dennis McLellan
Monday, July 5, 2010

Ilene Woods, 81, who provided the speaking and singing voice for the title character in Walt Disney's classic 1950 animated feature "Cinderella," died July 1 at a nursing and rehabilitation center in Los Angeles. She had Alzheimer's disease, said her husband, Ed Shaughnessy, the former drummer for Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show."

Ms. Woods was a busy 18-year-old singer on the radio in 1948 when, as a favor to two songwriter friends, Jerry Livingston and Mack David, she recorded a demo of a few songs they had written for Disney's animated feature.

"I did the discs for them, in a studio with a piano -- 'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,' 'So This Is Love,' 'A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes,' " she recalled in a 2005 interview with the Deseret News of Salt Lake City.

"Two days later, Walt called. He wanted me to come over and have an interview. I gladly said, 'Yes, anytime you say.' We met and talked for a while, and he said, 'How would you like to be Cinderella?' "

At the time, Ms. Woods was unaware that more than 300 singers had auditioned to be the voice of Cinderella.

After being offered the role of the sweet, mistreated stepdaughter who ultimately finds her Prince Charming, Ms. Woods spent about two years, off and on, recording songs and dialogue at the Disney studio.

The singing voice for Cinderella's Prince Charming was that of singer and future TV talk-show host Mike Douglas; William Edward Phipps did the dialogue.

Animation critic and historian Charles Solomon told the Los Angeles Times that "one of the things about her performance is the warmth she gave the character. As soon as she began to speak, her voice meshed with Marc Davis's animation to create a heroine you liked instantly."

"Cinderella," Solomon said, "was a very important film for Walt Disney, because his animated films hadn't been doing well after the war and 'Cinderella' was kind of a last chance he had. He needed a hit on the scale of 'Snow White.' He gambled everything on 'Cinderella.' It was a huge hit when it came out, and it really did save the studio."

Jacquelyn Ruth Woods was born May 5, 1929, in Portsmouth, N.H., and planned to be a teacher. But her mother insisted that she take music and dance lessons, and by 11 Ms. Woods had her own local radio program. By 1944, she was starring on network radio broadcasts from New York.

After a stint in Chicago, she moved to Los Angeles and appeared on radio shows with Jack Carson, Jack Benny, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

On TV during the 1950s, she sang on Perry Como's and Arthur Godfrey's shows and was a regular on Garry Moore's daytime show, where she met Shaughnessy. They married in 1963.

In addition to her husband, survivors include their son, Daniel Shaughnessy; a daughter from her first marriage, Stephanie Pagoto; and three grandchildren.

-- Los Angeles Times

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