Betty Driver MBE


Real name: Elizabeth Driver
Born:
20 May 1920, Leicester, Leicestershire
Sibling:
Freda
Married:
Wally Petersen

Played: Betty Williams (2 June 1969 - )

Betty Driver was born in Leicester on 20 March 1920, the older of two daughters born to Federick Driver and his wife Nell. At the age of two the family moved to Manchester and Nell turned her long term hobby as concert pianist into a profession. Betty was pushed into a life on the boards by her star-struck mother, joining the Terence Byron Repertory Company at the age of nine and turning professional at the age of 10 in a touring production of Mixed Bathing. and at 14 both landed her first film role and trod the London boards.

Betty appeared in George Formby's Boots Boots in which she had a few lines of dialogue and a big production number in which she sang and tap danced with Formby. Sadly, these scenes ended up being cut from the film on the orders of Formby's domineering wife, Bessie who also danced in the film and did not want to be upstaged by a sweet child. At the tender age of 12 Betty moved into radio where she sang with the famous bandleader Harry Hall. She was spotted while performing in a revue at the Prince Of Wales Theatre by Archie Pitt (former husband of Gracie Fields) and his brother Bert Aza. They quickly signed her up and Bert became her agent and put her in a leading role in the hit show Mr Tower of London. Film director Basil Dean, after seeing her in Jimmy Hunters Brighton Follies, cast her in the 1938 film Penny Paradise. This was followed by Let's Be Famous and Facing The Music.

During World War II she entertained the troops with the ENSA organisation and teamed up with bandleader Henry Hall, singing in his radio show Henry Hall's Guest Night on and off for seven years. She also had her own show A Date With Betty. In the 1930's and 40's, Betty became a major recording artist with hit songs including The Sailor With The Navy Blue Eyes, Macnamara's Band, Pick The Petals Of A Daisy, Jubilee Baby and September In The Rain.. Soon Betty travelled to Australia where she performed her own show and her career took her to Cyprus, Malta and the Middle East. On her return to England she appeared in various Ealing comedies.

At the age of 32, she married South African singer Wally Peterson. After a while they returned to South Africa but Betty returned a few months later, ending the marriage after seven years. She appeared on stage in The Lovebirds, Pillar to Post and What A Racket (with Arthur Askey) and appeared on television with James Bolam in Love On The Dole. In 1964 she auditioned at Granada Television for the role of Hilda Ogden in Coronation Street but she was unsuccessful as they wanted someone thinner. In 1966 she was given the role of canteen manageress in the first of two Coronation Street spin-off series Pardon The Expression in which Arthur Lowe recreated the role of Arthur Swindley. While throwing him in one episode she dislocated her hip and injured her back. At this point she decided to retire from showbusiness.

Betty, with her sister Freda and their father, took over The Cock Hotel in Whaley Bridge (Derbyshire) and later the Devonshire Arms in Cheshire. In 1969 one of her customers, Coronation Street Producer Harry Kershaw noticed her and asked if she would be interested in appearing in Coronation Street. Betty decided that she would and made her debut on 2 June 1969 as barmaid Betty Turpin. Now almost thirty years later she is one of the most established and popular characters of the show, she was even a subject of This Is Your Life.

Today, Betty lives with sister Freda near Altrincham in Cheshire with their boxer dogs, Totti and Polly, and their cat Abby. Betty is godmother to William Roache's son, William Jr.

In the New Year's Honours List for 2000, Betty was awarded an MBE - one of only a handful of cast members to receive the award.


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