I’m going to be frank with you guys, my love and respect for Eleanor Audley cannot be contained in one post and neither can her career. For now we will start at the beginning. She first lent her villainous voice to Disney animators in 1950 as Lady Tremaine in Cinderella.
Now all in all, Cinderella was never one of my favorites. I think it was added to my puffy VHS collection later in the game so it didn’t become a part of me in the same way a lot of the other Disney movies did, but I remember the eerie feeling of the evil stepmother. She is arguable the most emotionally scary villain since she is a maternal figure that is supposed to represent trust in a young girl’s life. What made the whole thing so psycho for me in my young mind is that you can still see a shred of motherly instinct inside of her that tricks you in to hoping she will fill the maternal void in Cinderella’s life. Every single interpretation of the Cinderella story has left me feeling this sense of false hope from the wicked stepmother, and boy are they good at being bad.
Some of my most favorite Evil Stepmother performances include:
Anjelica Houston in Ever After
“How can anyone love a pebble in their shoe.” Ugh knife in the heart, this is when me and Drew Barrymore started crying.
Jennifer Coolidge in A Cinderella Story
“There’s something I’ve always wanted to tell you and I think you’re ready to hear it. You’re not very pretty, and you’re not very bright. Oh, I’m so glad we had that talk.” She’s a comedic genius every time even if the irony is lost on Hilary Duff
The complete trifecta of Roger’s & Hammerstein’s Cinderella stepmothers:
Ilka Chase in the original broadcast (right)
“Cinderella is no help at all, a very disorganized girl.” Sorry I was distracted by the baby-faced JULIE ANDREWS. Ilka you ungrateful cow, love ya, mean it xo.
Jo Van Fleet in the 1965 version (right)
“Go to your corner, and stay there till you’re called.” She will go to her corner, and Leslie Ann Warren will like it too, her corner is the poo, so take a big whiff.
and Bernadette Peters in the 1997 reboot.
“Because… you’re common, Cinderella. Your mother was common and so are you. Only you can wash your face and put on a clean dress, but underneath, you’ll still be common.” Brandy doesn’t give a flying fuck, she be all ‘The Boy is Mine’… betch.
And for heaven’s sake we cannot forget the woman who started it all! Eleanor Audley brought Lady Tremaine to life not only with her mesmerizing voice but the animators used her actions and facial expressions to map our the character. The first actress of many to attempt this once in a lifetime role, her domineering presence is still the most haunting character portrayal of all of the talented actresses above and you never even see her in the flesh on screen.
Eleanor went on to voice two more iconic Disney characters of the night, Maleficent and Madame Leota, (but those are both posts for another day).If casting a heroine’s antagonist is as difficult as trying a glass slipper on ever maiden in the kingdom, I daresay that this time it was the perfect fit.
Cant’ get enough Disney Villains to satiate you? Stroll on over to my Etsy shop and pick up a pack of 6 handmade greeting cards featuring the portraits of your favorite badass ladies.