Tracking Betty’s Stage Career

To investigate Betty’s career on stage in the UK hasn’t been at the forefront of my research priorities.  Her film career has overshadowed the time she has spent on stage as it has had a much higher profile in the newspapers of the time.  Film is generally a much more portable format as it can be copied from the original and is often distributed all round the world for audiences in cinemas on first release and later in their homes as reruns of old movies on TV.

I have collected a few references to stage performances but I’m sure that there’s a great deal more to be found in the future.

As a young reader, Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ and ‘Secret Seven’ series of books captured my imagination and a few found their way to my own book shelf.  What a surprise to find that ‘The Famous Five’ had been both a radio play and a stage play and none other than Betty was to play a role in the latter.

The Stage – London – 1 Dec 1955

Betty was not far short of 51 by 1955 so it was unlikely she would be playing one of the children! Rather it seemed she was to play the role of Mother.

The Tatler and Bystander – Dec 28, 1955

Transcription:

An Unexpected Stage “Mother”

Betty Stockfield, outstanding player of romantic leads in British and French films and plays, takes on an unfamiliar task with the greatest zest and ability at the Princes Theatre, where she is “Mum” in Enid Blyton’s new play, The Famous Five. Miss Stockfield, last seen in the West End in The Devil’s General, with Trevor Howard, finds being surrounded with stage children no strain on the nerves, for she has numerous nephews and nieces to whom she is devoted. She has a flat in Belgravia, but whenever possible spends her week-ends at her cottage in Tatsfield, Surrey. She also has a villa in the South of France. Her most recent film was Lovers of Lisbon.

Recently I had acquired an ‘original’ photograph from a newspaper archive –  my photograph was not credited but the article above credits the image identical to mine as the work of photographer Houston Rogers, much of whose work in held in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s V&A Images collection.  The new addition to my collection is an original print of that photo even including the crop marks for the paper’s layout. 

Adhered to the back of the photo was a small newspaper article in which it was used. A search of the British Newspaper Archive has failed, so far, to find the article in question but another article found refers to the forthcoming production of the Jean Genet play, Les Bonnes (aka: The Maids). The work was considered somewhat controversial for its sadomasochistic themes.

Betty played the role of Madame in both this English version and a French language production staged in the UK. This has been an enduring work by Genet, having been staged many times including here in Australia in 2013 with Cate Blanchett, Isabelle Huppert and Elizabeth Debicki in the main roles. It has also transitioned to film in 1975 starring Susannah York and Glenda Jackson. There have been other interpretations of the play and biopics of the two French women whose lives on which the original play was supposedly based.

Clipping from rear of photo – no known source.

Betty’s stage roles were quite diverse when you consider Enid Blyton and Jean Genet side by side! The play, The Devil’s General, referred to in the Tatler article above, was staged in 1953 at The Savoy Theatre in London.  It also attracted controversy as it was amongst the first plays staged post WW2 written by a German playwright and dealing with Hitler and his generals. Betty was certainly not afraid to take parts in productions that might well have attracted unwanted attention from the press and the public.

Building a profile

It would be hard to imagine the lengths an actor would need to go to raise their profile in the public eye in the years before everything digital.  Communication with the public in Betty’s early theatre and film career would have been limited to the print media in the way of newspapers and magazines and on radio.

There was also the raft of cigarette cards and advertising postcards, examples of which have been documented here already.

Newspaper and magazine product endorsements are still the stuff of actors, sports people and celebrities to this day, and, no doubt, many manage to fill their financial needs between films, television shows, concerts, performances and competitions by this means.

Betty was no different – actively maintaining her profile as well as putting food on the table were perhaps motivations for accepting these roles.

de_reszke_advert

An intensive search of the British Newspaper Archive revealed this little gem: Betty was giving beauty advice!

My Beauty Secrets 7 July 1933

The West London Observer of 7 July 1933 carried several column inches of tips and tricks to looking your best in the sunshine. I wondered whether she was asked to put her name to this as she was a “sun burnished Australian girl” used to being seen out of doors?

If only I had know that “as a precaution against freckles, horse-radish and sour milk is good. Grate some horse-radish into a saucer of the milk and let it stand for a few hours, then dab it all over the face and neck and leave it on for an hour“, I should not have ended up with a generous sprinkling of those freckles myself!

Her handwritten signature appears at the foot of the column giving the impression that she was the author of these rather interesting “hints” rather than perhaps just endorsing a ghost written piece. Who knows if she did write this? In 1933, the article’s publication date, her film career was just starting to gather momentum and this would have helped to keep her face in the public arena.

In September of the same year, the same paper carried another column under her name and signature.  This time the hints were “Make your Hair Beautiful – everyday care” and Betty’s ‘qualification’ for giving this advice was as “The British Stage and Film Star”. Another September entry was headed “Make Good Impression – the secrets“.

Each of these columns had small break out boxes headed “What the Doctor says” – giving a certain gravitas to the information contained within the rest of the column perhaps?

Goodness only knows what the product “Phosferine” contained but, by endorsing it,  her face was in the paper and it quite effectively promoted the stage production “Art and Mrs Bottle” in which she appeared. No doubt there are other examples of product endorsement out there but these few illustrate quite clearly how Betty’s name and image were in the public eye.

The Tatler - Nov 13 1929

The Tatler – 13 November 1929

Another look in the letter box …

Most of the postcards featuring Betty shown on this site have been publicity shots from various movies. Some have been of English origin and others French and have often formed a part of a series, similarly to the cigarette cards featuring the actors and performers of the time.

Recently, I wrote a short piece that appeared on my other blog featuring Betty in a rather glamorous slinky dress taken from an article that appeared in a UK newspaper promoting a new play.  Of interest to me in this article was the photographer Dorothy Wilding who is mainly remembered for her royal portraits that have been the source of the Queen’s image on UK postage stamps for many years.

Dorothy Wilding (1893-1976) was known for her work as a portraitist of women and was sought after by the famous, no so famous and social elite.  She was especially regarded for her works of nude women. In my research, I also found a multi page spread of Wilding images featuring Betty that appeared in The Tatler.

A recent foray into eBay – an excellent source of this type of ephemera – yielded a hitherto unseen postcard image which naturally had to be come part of the collection.  When it arrived from the UK, it came with a note from the seller hoping “the extra is useful!” It’s not often you unexpectedly receive two for the price of one, but here was a second ‘new to me’ postcard with the added bonus of an original signature on the card. Many thanks to Richard “its-on-the-cards” and the extra certainly is indeed useful.

Picturegoer Series No 670a
Credited to Dorothy Wilding

 

 

The best part about these cards were that both images were accredited to Dorothy Wilding. It had been of some interest to know whether Betty had been a client of Miss Wilding’s photographic studio over a number of years and whether there were other images still to be uncovered.

Portrait by Dorothy Wilding
with original signature and message from Betty

Checking your Facts #3

… and so now we check on those sisters of Betty’s – Dahlis and Freda. Two reportedly beautiful girls who accompanied their more famous sister on her travels to and from France whilst she was working and also to America where they were spotted dining in a high end restaurant whilst on holiday to see their father, Harry.

Those trips to the Continent sometimes saw one or the other of the girls take a small role in one of Betty’s films making it quite the family affair.

Dahlis was, according to the 1939 Register, an unemployed secretary at the time the census was compiled. She had put that secretarial skill and training to good use in the 1939 French film Son oncle de Normandie where she had a small role as La secretaire earning herself a spot in the IMdb under the name Dahl Stockfeld.

The 1939 Register also credited her with a birth date of 2 July 1909.  Her mother, Susan, had registered her birth some two months after she was actually born on 2 July 1907. Susan was now 29 according to the certificate – in reality, she was 39.  Susan’s mother had been present at the birth of Dahlis but not, we can assume, at the registration, otherwise the issue of her age might well have been raised and corrected.

 

By the time Dahlis passed away in 1997, her date of birth had changed yet again – now she was supposed to have been born in 1910. Her death certificate also perpetuates the misspelling of her maiden name – STOCKFIELD instead of STOCKFELD.

Dahlis was the longest lived of the three Stockfeld girls, succumbing to old age at her home in Walton on the Hill.

Freda was the youngest of the three, born in Mosman, NSW on 6 April, 1909. Again, it was Susan who registered this birth about a month after Freda’s arrival. By this time, father Harry was reported as 32 which was actually correct but Susan’s age was given as 31.  Susan was, in fact, 40 going on 41. Freda’s arrival was recognised with an entry in the birth notices in the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday 14 April, 1909. Birth notices for her two older sisters haven’t been found as yet.

Freda appears on the 1939 Register as having been born in 1915 and as an unemployed chorus girl. She would have been 19 at the time of the census if this date of birth had been accurate. Her name entry was later corrected to reflect her marriage in 1941 to Philip Noel Edgecombe.

Again, when Freda passed away in 1980, her date of birth was still listed as having been 1915. She was 70 years old.  If this year of birth had been accurate, she would have been born in the UK as opposed to Australia as the family had relocated to London by that time.

The inaccurate dates, especially in the case of Betty’s year of birth, are to be found in film histories, both French and English, and books like the World Film Encyclopedia which was published as early as 1933.  Modern online databases and references like Wikipedia continue the story. It would be hard to believe that all these references weren’t correct except for the Australian birth certificates that tell a completely different story.

For the researcher, its a challenge with which we are often confronted.  It behooves us to make sure we go back to the primary sources – after all, the filmographies, the histories, the cigarette cards, the potted biographies are all second and third hand reporting and should be treated with care and healthy skepticism.

References:

1939 Register: https://search.findmypast.co.uk/record?id=TNA/R39/1872/1872I/005/18

General Register Office UK:

  • Birth Certificate for Susan Elizabeth Evans  1868, Jun Q, Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Vol 11B, p 209 England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office
  • Marriage certificate for Elizabeth Baddeley Stockfeld & Aubrey St John Edwards 1942, Sept Q, Westminster,  London, Vol 1A, p 942 England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office
  • Death Certificate for Elizabeth Baddeley Stockfeld (Stockfield) 1966, Mar Q, Surrey Mid Eastern, Surrey, Vol 8b, p25 London, England: General Register Office
  • Death Certificate for Freda Mathilde Edgecombe 1980, Mar Q, Birkenhead, Wirral.
  • Death Certificate for Dahlis Clare Scorah 1997, Sept Q, South East Surrey, Surrey.

IMDb Inc: Son oncle de Normandie http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0030769/?ref_=rvi_tt

New South Wales Aust BDM (Dept of Justice):

  • Marriage Certificate for Harry Hooper Stockfeld & Susan Elizabeth Evans 1903/000382
  • Birth Certificate for Elizabeth Baddeley Stockfeld 1904/005002
  • Birth Certificate for Dahlis Clare Stockfeld 1907/26455
  • Birth Certificate for Freda Mathilde Stockfeld 1909/16545

Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, 14 April 1909, page 8.

 

Checking your facts….. #2

Our dear friend Susie, as she called herself on her daughter’s birth certificate, was forever flexible with her age and year of birth. So much so, that it appeared she cultivated the habit with all three of her daughters.

So now let’s turn to Betty’s story:

When Elizabeth Baddeley Stockfeld was born, her arrival doesn’t seemed to have made it to the papers.  Her father registered her birth a fortnight after her arrival and in doing so, managed to perpetuate the discrepancies in the ages of both himself and Susan.  He seemed to think he was the same age as he was the day he married….another year lost to bad arithmetic! Magically, it appeared that Susan hadn’t aged either and was still claiming to be 27.

Elizabeth Baddeley Stockfeld, became Betty Stockfeld or Stockfield or, at times, Edwards.  Her birth was recorded as 15 January 1904, just shy of twelve months after her parent’s wedding. The 1939 Register has her year of birth as 1906.

International Tobacco Company

 

Some of the promotional material produced throughout her career was clearly also wrong – International Tobacco (Overseas) produced a cigarette card with the biographical details claiming her birth in 1905, Film Star Weekly profiled her in 1933 and made the same claim as did a French company that produced pocket biographies of film actors.

 

Her death, when reported briefly in a British newspaper, supported the 1905 assertion with an age at death of 61, whereas she has turned 62 just 11 days before she died. Her death certificate, informed by her sister Dahlis, also perpetuates the 1906 year of birth by stating she was 60. We do well, as researchers, to remember that death certificates and the information they contain should always be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism as to their accuracy. You will note the article below describes her as a widow – her death certificate identifies her as a spinster!

 

The only record I have been able to find where her age is correctly reported is on the certificate of marriage to Aubrey St John Edwards in 1942. It is stated on the certificate she was 38 and that tallies with the year of her birth.

In some ways, it would not be unexpected to find Betty’s age ‘manipulated’ given her career as a stage and film actress – her longevity in the industry would be, as it is today, subject to how old she appeared to be rather perhaps than how old she actually was.  As she was a public figure and the subject of many a short line in various papers both in her home country and abroad, it would be ever so easy to fall into the trap of believing the 1905/6 options for her year of birth.

References:

1939 Register: https://search.findmypast.co.uk/record?id=TNA/R39/1872/1872I/005/18

British Newspaper Archive :

  • Birmingham Post, 28 January 1966, p7

General Register Office UK:

  • Birth Certificate for Susan Elizabeth Evans  1868, Jun Q, Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Vol 11B, p 209 England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office
  • Marriage certificate for Elizabeth Baddeley Stockfeld & Aubrey St John Edwards 1942, Sept Q, Westminster,  London, Vol 1A, p 942 England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office
  • Death Certificate for Elizabeth Baddeley Stockfeld (Stockfield) 1966, Mar Q, Surrey Mid Eastern, Surrey, Vol 8b, p25 London, England: General Register Office

International Tobacco Company (Overseas) Cigarette Cards

  • Film Favourites No 51 in a series of 100 Pictures: Betty Stockfeld (Author’s private collection)

New South Wales Aust BDM (Dept of Justice):

  • Marriage Certificate for Harry Hooper Stockfeld & Susan Elizabeth Evans 1903/000382
  • Birth Certificate for Elizabeth Baddeley Stockfeld 1904/005002
  • Birth Certificate for Dahlis Clare Stockfeld 1907/26455
  • Birth Certificate for Freda Mathilde Stockfeld 1909/16545

 

 

Checking your facts….

Conducting any sort of research in to family history requires an inquiring mind.  A mind that is open to everything, that has the capacity to look at something from every perspective and to ask the questions over and over again until maybe, just maybe, it is able to come up with an answer.

When the 1939 Register was published and became part of the Find My Past suite of resources, I thought this would give me a good snapshot of Betty and her family in the UK.  Information about the 1939 Register included the claim that this was the definitive and most accurate resource available for the time and was sure answer many questions for researchers looking to place their families in more recent times. It gave dates of births not otherwise accessible due to the 100 year embargo and, in some cases, had been annotated with changes of name due to marriage. It would only show those people who were known to be deceased.

Imagine my concern, when acquiring the register entry for Betty, her mother and two sisters, I read a list of dates of birth that were completely at odds with the information I had already acquired. It was not surprising to find that the entry had been made under the name STOCKFIELD – perpetuating the misspelling of the surname yet again.

The entries had been annotated – Betty’s entry had been edited to reflect her marriage to Aubrey St John Edwards in 1942 and her younger sister Freda’s entry also reflected her marriage to Philip Noel Edgcombe in 1941.  Dahlis also married in 1941 but her entry remains unchanged.

What information about the dates of birth did the Register contain?

  • Susan Elizabeth Stockfeld (nee Evans) – 25 Jun 1874
  • Elizabeth Baddeley Stockfeld – 15 January 1906
  • Dahlis C(lare) Stockfeld – 2 July 1909
  • Freda M(athilde) Stockfeld – 6 April 1915

Let’s deal with Susan first.Susan Elizabeth Stockfeld nee Evans

Susan’s parents were Frederick Price (Pryce) Evans and Susan Maria Baddeley from Newtown, Montgomeryshire in Wales.  Susan appears as part of the family on the UK 1871 census and again on the UK 1881 census as a 12 year old.

Susan and her family migrated to Australia, fetching up in Sydney where, in 1903, she married Harry Hooper Stockfeld.  On her marriage certificate she is listed as 27 years old. She was, in fact, 34 years old. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that her groom was only 26 as was stated on the certificate?

By the outbreak of WW1 the family of five had moved to the UK and were, by all accounts, unable to return to Australia. With war looming again, the 1939 Register was compiled by the government where she listed her year of birth as 1874 suggesting she was 65 whereas, in fact, she was 71.

Family memories describe Susan as ambitious for her three daughters – that they should have every opportunity and that they should marry extremely well. It seems that being flexible with one’s age was also a requirement and Susan certainly led by example!

To be Continued…..

References:

1871 Wales Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 5616; Folio: 25; Page: 16; GSU roll: 892471

1881 Wales Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 5486; Folio: 74; Page: 1; GSU roll: 1342319

1939 Register: https://search.findmypast.co.uk/record?id=TNA/R39/1872/1872I/005/18

General Register Office UK:

  • Birth Certificate for Susan Elizabeth Evans  1868, Jun Q, Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Vol 11B, p 209 England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office
  • Marriage certificate for Elizabeth Baddeley Stockfeld & Aubrey St John Edwards 1942, Sept Q, Westminster,  London, Vol 1A, p 942 England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office

New South Wales Aust BDM (Dept of Justice):

  • Marriage Certificate for Harry Hooper Stockfeld & Susan Elizabeth Evans 1903/000382
  • Birth Certificate for Elizabeth Baddeley Stockfeld 1904/005002
  • Birth Certificate for Dahlis Clare Stockfeld 1907/26455
  • Birth Certificate for Freda Mathilde Stockfeld 1909/16545

 

 

 

 

Additions to the Postcard Collection

Every so often I take a look at eBay to see whether there’s been a new flush of ephemera posted for sale or auction.  I look in the hope that I may find more postcards or cigarette cards featuring Betty in the later years of her career.  Featured below are some of the more recent purchases however they seem to reflect the period between the wars.  Three of them are of French manufacture and one being annotated with “Paramount Pictures” is Italian in production.

Betty(Viny 141)

Editions Viny No 141 Postcard of Betty Stockfeld annotated with details of “Fanfare d’amour” on the reverse of the postcard.

 

Two postcards have hand written notes on the reverse, one accrediting the image to the French film “Fanfare d’amour” with Julien Carette released in 1935. This was one of four films Betty made that year – three in French and one English film. The film itself was remade in the early 1950’s (this time as a German version called “Fanfaren der Liebe”) and then again by Billy Wilder, re-titled as “Some Like it Hot”.  Of course, everyone remembers the 1959 version with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon – however Billy Wilder had collaborated as a writer with Micheal Logan on the original version.

References:

Philippe PELLETIER,  Les Gens du Cinéma (mise à jour 14/01/2004)

Betty Stockfeld Filmography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0830823/?ref_=nm_pub 

“Some Like it Hot”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Some_Like_It_Hot

 

 

The spotlight shines…

The challenge of stardom these days is well documented – the press give us chapter and verse of the public and private lives of the stars of stage and screen. Social media keeps us apprised of any little foible those in the spotlight might exhibit unintentionally. Whether there is any need for us to know, whether the matter is indeed newsworthy or not, it seems we will continue to be treated to knowing all there is to know about our public figures.

Imagine my amusement when, working through some text correction for TROVE, I came across this little gem:

LONDON SCENE (1953, March 8). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 58. Retrieved January 11, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article230721400

LONDON SCENE (1953, March 8). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 58. Retrieved January 11, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article230721400

It seems that the smallest thing could be considered of interest to the fans of movie stars. No doubt, Betty would have expressed her displeasure at seeing her name spelled incorrectly yet again.

Nothing much has changed, it seems. In 1953, not getting quickly connected to the phone service was considered newsworthy in some form or another. Was it because a little known actress was the person ‘waiting’? These days, its our internet service providers or mobile phone carriers about which we complain and its hardly likely to make the papers, unless of course, we happen to be famous!

Some new images

Studying for the Diploma of Family History alongside another degree has been a trifle more time consuming than expected.  As the focus of two of the three units covered so far this year has been on both convicts and tangible relics like photos, jewellery, artwork and other heirlooms, there hasn’t been much room to focus on Betty’s story.

2016-07-15-0002

Sepia postcard, no publishers details, signed Betty Stockfeld

I have, however, managed to acquire some more postcards.

I was particularly pleased to obtain a duplicate of one already in my collection.  Why worry about a duplicate?  The best part of this one was that it was signed with a short message – I had a sample of Betty’s handwriting!

The significance of this was more than just having obtained her autograph, I was handling something that she had touched many years before.  It’s a small thing but somehow I felt I had taken a step closer to this otherwise unknown relative.

This image is one of a bright eyed young woman with her life and career in front of her – there is a touch of naivety about it.  Perhaps it was a publicity image for a film in which she was playing a demure young lady?  Who knows….

B & W Postcard - no publisher's details - Advertising material for the alcohol company?

B & W Postcard – no publisher’s details – Advertising material for the alcohol company?

The second card I found was another image where she is pictured with a glass, the bottle beside her.  I was immediately struck with the realisation that she was advertising both cigarettes and alcohol during her career, products that we with which we might not so readily associate ourselves in this day and age.  This image shows a more worldly woman, a little older and a little wiser, perhaps?

Betty had a high profile in France and other European countries over the course of her career.  I am finding articles and programs, cards and movie reviews and actor’s profiles in French, German, Dutch and Polish, just to name a few!

Early in the piece, I noted that I felt I had found most of the cards – that I had only a couple to yet to find.  I take back that comment – there are more items surfacing regularly and I continue to acquire them on the odd occasion when I stray away from the study for a quick search through the online auction and sales sites.

Both images are scans of the originals held in the author’s private collection.

 

Calling all Stockfelds!

It’s time for all Stockfelds and related descendants to start gathering together their family treasures and memories in preparation for our forthcoming family gathering.

To be held in Trentham, Vic., we hope to gather together as many of the Australian family as we can muster together for a weekend in late October celebrating the art and craft of Robert Herman (Grandbob) Stockfeld. It would be delightful to think we could also welcome US and UK family members too.

Why Trentham? Its pretty well central to many of the family as well as near to locations that were and continue to be significant to the Stockfeld family. We will be able to take short trips to see some of the Daylesford and Hepburn Springs locations illustrated in some of RH’s paintings and etchings.

Stayed tuned!