She was the perfect busybody with her distinct voice, red hair and dainty stature. Lurene Tuttle didn’t want for work after radio found that she possessed a mastery of various speech dialects and stole every show with her sassy personality. Lurene was born on August 20, 1907 in Pleasant Lake, Indiana to a theatrical family. Her father, O.V. Tuttle, began his career in minstrels, but as parts became hard to find, he began work at a railroad station agent to pay the bills and feed his family.
Lurene’s grandfather was a drama teacher who also managed an opera house in Angola, Indiana. He must have been delighted when his granddaughter, Lurene wanted to study acting and began stealing the show with her comedic antics. Lurene and her family moved to California when she was 15 years old, and she began to study drama at the Pasadena Playhouse. She eventually joined a vaudeville troupe called Murphy’s Comedians and worked during the 1920s and 1930s.
Tuttle entered the radio scene during the depression and was named the “First Lady of Radio” because of her distinctive and recognizable voice. Lurene's presence can be heard throughout the golden age of radio and indeed she is credited in over 90 episodes of shows on RUSC including Suspense - notably the episode The Sisters - The Whistler, Let George Do It, Hallmark Playhouse, Favorite Story, Adventures of Maisie and Arch Oboler's Plays to name but a few.
Lurene eventually met actor and announcer, Mel Ruick while playing a part on the radio. They married and had one daughter, Barbara Ruick, who became a musical comedy actress who was best known for her role as Carrie Pipperidge in the musical film, Carousel. Ruick and Tuttle divorced and Tuttle was married again, but the marriage didn’t last very long.
Lurene Tuttle was a renowned drama and diction coach as well as teaching radio technique during the 1940s. When some popular actors returned from their service in World War II, Tuttle was the expert who trained them to re-enter the world of entertainment. Just a few of her famous students were Red Skelton, Milton Berle, Jayne Meadows and Orson Welles.
In radio, Lurene’s best known part was as Effie, Sam Spade’s girl-Friday on The Adventures of Sam Spade opposite Howard Duff as the detective. She was also frequently seen on the variety show, Red Skelton. The Great Gildersleeve radio show featured her as Marjorie Forrester during the early 1940s. Another memorable part for Lurene was when she played the part of president of Lucy’s women’s club on I Love Lucy in 1953.
Besides her many roles on radio and television, Tuttle appeared in top films such as Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House, Niagra, Heaven Only Knows, and Hitchcock’s thriller, Psycho. Lurene was also active in Hollywood as president of the local chapter of AFTRA, where she was voted Woman of the Year. From 1951 through 1954, Tuttle served on the board of the Screen Actors Guild.
Sadly, Lurene lost her only daughter, Barbara (who was married to film composer, John Williams) when she died unexpectedly in 1974. Lurene Tuttle died of cancer at 78 years of age on May 28, 1986 in Encino, California, survived by her famous son-in-law and three grandchildren.