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1960s / Vanishing TV Character - Kate Bradley
Petticoat Junction was one of CBS' rural-themed hit shows of the 1960s. Set in a quaint hotel outside of Hooterville, it fared best in the ratings during its first two seasons (1963 to 1965) when it was filmed in black and white. Although there were numerous cast changes during the show's run--for example, three different actresses played oldest daughter Billie Jo Bradley--the linchpin of Petticoat Junction was family matriarch Kate Bradley, a kindly widow played by veteran TV and radio actress Bea Benaderet. Kate was the voice of reason in most episodes who kept order in both the Shady Rest Hotel and among her family members. In early 1968 Benaderet was stricken with cancer and took a leave of absence. At one point she appeared in just three of 11 episodes. Kate's absence was explained as her being away on a long trip. After initially good medical reports, Benaderet was kept in the Petticoat Junction cast. However, when the 1968-69 season was to begin, Benaderet's cancer returned and she was too ill to continue her role as Kate Bradley. In a few episodes only her voice was heard. In some cases a double was used in scene in which Kate was only seen from the rear. Benaderet died on October 13, 1968, but her character never really died on the show. On a few episodes, she was seen in flashbacks. Although June Lockhart joined the cast as its new older female character, Kate Bradley was never mentioned as being deceased, but she was seldom mentioned after 1969. Only once in the final season was Kate even alluded to: Youngest daughter Betty Jo explained that she and her sisters were taught to swim in the train's water tank by Kate. Petticoat Junction was cancelled after the 1969-70 season. The Mary Tyler Moore Show replaced it in the CBS lineup on Saturday nights.