Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Meet the voice of Disney's Second Princess Cinderella ~ Jacqueline Ruth "Ilene" Woods

Meet the voice of Disney's Second Princess Cinderella

Jacqueline Ruth "Ilene" Woods (May 5, 1929 – July 1, 2010)


      Jacqueline Ruth "Ilene" Woods (May 5, 1929 – July 1, 2010) was an American singer and actress who voiced Cinderella in the 1950 Disney classic film, which is what she is best known for.

Early life

       Woods' mother worked behind the scenes of films, taking Ilene with her. Ilene started acting at the age of two. When she was 15 years old, she was given her own radio show on the new station called The Blue Network on ABC Radio during the summer of 1944, The Ilene Woods Show. The entire show was 15 minutes of music 3 days a week. Many songwriters came on the show to present their music; this is how she became friends with Mac David and Jerry Livingston. She then moved to California.


       In 1948, as a favor for songwriter friends Mack David and Jerry Livingston, Ilene Woods recorded "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo," "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes," and "So This is Love." She didn't know that Walt Disney would hear the demo recordings and hire her as the title voice of his upcoming animated feature "Cinderella".

       "I learned a very good lesson," she later recalls. "Never pass up doing a good deed for friends!" Born May 5, 1929, Ilene had wanted to become a schoolteacher. Her mother, however, guided her toward a singing and radio career and by 11, she starred in her own show which aired in her hometown of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. By 1944, she had her own weekly radio show at the ABC Network in New York City.

       During World War II, she toured with the United States Air Force Orchestra and many Hollywood stars, promoting war bonds. Because of her appearances for the USO, as well as at army and navy hospitals, she was invited to sing for President Franklin D. Roosevelt at his Hyde Park home Christmas party and for President Harry S. Truman at the White House the following year.

       By the time she was 18, Ilene had worked with Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, and Paul Whiteman. She was a featured performer on Jack Carson's "Sealtest Village Store," when selected from a field of nearly 400 hopefuls to voice Cinderella.

       During recording sessions, Walt would drop by to offer suggestions, including asking Ilene if she could harmonize with herself on "Oh Sing Sweet Nightingale."

       She recalls, "It was such a beautiful sequence - Cinderella scrubbing the floor and each time a soap bubble would rise with another image of Cinderella, so would another voice. When we heard the finished product, Walt kidded, 'How about that? All of these years I've been paying three salaries for the Andrews Sisters, when I could have only paid one for you!"

       Later, Walt admitted to Ilene she was his favorite of the Disney heroines. She recalls, "Once I went into his office and he said to me, 'You're my favorite heroine, you know.' I said, 'You mean Cinderella?' 'Yes,' he said, 'there's something about that story I associate with.'

       "I think it was the rags-to-riches tale," she says. "Of course, then I didn't know how many times Walt had risked it all to realize his dreams."

       After "Cinderella," Ilene moved into television appearing on "The Steve Allen Show," "The Gary Moore Show," and "Arthur Godfrey and His Friends". During "The Gary Moore Show," Ilene met her husband-to-be, Ed Shaughnessy, Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show drummer," and raised two sons with him.

       "Those were the happiest years of my life," she says.

       In 1985, Ilene launched a new career as a portrait artist and says she loves painting children's portraits.

       On February 12, 2001, she appeared at a Cinderella Ball celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the motion picture, held at Disneyland. On her birthday, the following May, Ilene Woods united with the voice of Sleeping Beauty, fellow Legend Mary Costa, for a Cinderella Birthday Ball held in Knoxville, Tennessee, benefiting Childhelp U.S.A.


       Woods died on July 1, 2010, at age 81, from causes related to Alzheimer's disease at a nursing home in Canoga Park. She did not recognize a lot of what was going on around her, but the nurses found that she was most comforted by "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes," so they played it for her as often as possible, her husband, Ed Shaughnessy, told the Los Angeles Times. In addition to her husband of 47 years, she was survived by their son, a daughter from her first marriage, and three grandchildren. She was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.

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