Betty Bolton

(26 Jan 1906 – 2 April 2005)

Betty Bolton portrait 1

Betty Bolton “Charlot Revue” from her private collection

Betty Bolton portrait 2

Betty Bolton publicity shot from her private collection

Betty was a prominent British actress/singer performing in the 1920s and 1930s. Born in 1906, she started her performing career during the Great War. A highly regarded contralto, she made many audio recordings, including her popular 1931 version of “Ten Cents a Dance”. She appeared in three British films in minor roles and performed in several revues on the London stage. She bridged the period of vaudeville with that of film, radio and television, appearing in all of these formats. Betty retired from a very successful career in 1936.

In features, she had a distinctive round face with straight sleek dark hair styled into a distinctive kiss curl around her ear held by a white clasp visible in both these publicity photographs.

Betty Bolton off-screen

Off-screen shot in “Television” June 1934

Betty Bolton extract

Restored sequence © D F McLean 1998

The photograph on the left was made directly off screen in 1934 during reception of one of her performances. The extract from the newly restored recording on the right looks more like her than the photo on the left. Both the shine of the sleek dark hair, the style of the hair with kiss curl and appearance of two light, probably silver, clasps holding the kiss curl are very obvious throughout the full recording.

On 13th June 1998, Betty saw for the first time these restored pictures. She confirmed that the subject was indeed her but was unable to place a broadcast date or indeed what she was singing. She said it looked like a love song. From the panning action of the camera and from the mirror-drum characteristics, it places the recording between 1932 and 1935.

A contact in the BBC showed the video clip to a lip-reader they engage to find out what people are saying when there’s no audio. The comment back was that there were ‘no lips to read’. The definition is simply too low. The YouTube video is an extract from the complete recording available on my CD, ‘The Dawn of Television Remembered’.

The performance on disc is absolutely stunning and, though silent, shows what an excellent and natural television performer Miss Bolton was.

(With thanks to Betty Bolton (RIP) and Judyth Knight for supplying information, photographs and permissions. The animated GIF has been reduced in resolution for low-rate web access.)

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