Just how many of the newspaper articles and gossip column inches devoted to the comings and goings of the stars and celebrities can we reasonably assess as being true?
We would like to think, perhaps a trifle naively, that what was published in the twenties and thirties was more likely to have a basis in fact, but it seems not. Or was this little teaser a ploy to get Betty’s name back in the paper?
BETTY STOCKFIELD.Some weeks ago a correspondent stated that Miss Betty Stockfield of “City or Song” (sic) fame was the daughter of a well known Melbourne doctor. This is incorrect as Miss Stockfield is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Stockfield, late of Camewarra, Epping, Sydney. The stockfields left Australia about seven months before war was declared. Betty is also the god-daughter of Mrs. Edmund Playfair, a well known Sydney society leader.
The movie title should have read “City of Song” …. and, of course, Stockfeld has that extra i all the way through the piece. Who is, or should I say was, Mrs Edmund Playfair?
It would seem that Mrs Playfair could lay claim to knowing all about Betty and her family and is quoted at some length in a page 3 article, replete with illustrations, that featured in The Sun on September 1931. You can see the full article here and it’s hardly surprising that some of the phrasing of the above quoted piece can be found in Mrs Playfair’s big September splash. She claims an association close enough to have prompted Betty’s mother, Susan, to have called her second daughter Dahlis after her own daughter of that name.
In the advance publicity for ‘City of Song’, there were other star profiles and reviews written that offered little teasers:
SYDNEY GIRL AS FILM STAR.Betty Stockfield’s Success.“CITY OF SONG,” to be shown at the Wintergarden Theatre next Saturday, has caused a good deal of surmise about the lovely girl who plays the leading role.- After a private screening in Sydney everyone wanted to know something of Betty Stockfield, the sole description furnished by London being that she was Australian. It is now known that Miss Stockfield—who is a niece of Admiral Evans—was born at Cambewarra, Epping, New South Wales, in 1905. After living for a few yearsin Melbourne she was taken abroad and educated. Her stage life began in the chorus of Charlot’s revue when Gertrude Lawrence was playing the lead. Fascinated by Miss Lawrence, the youngster studied her carefully, and in doing so learned her role. Miss Lawrence became ill, the understudy was also indisposed, and Charlot was at his wit’s end.Then the timid voice of Australia was heard. “I think I could play the part,” said Betty. Charlot was astounded, but he was also helpless. It was either risk the chorus girl or close the show. He took the risk, and Betty was a big success.When visiting Hollywood Miss Stockfield was given a small part in “What Price Glory.” It was then that the director remarked that she would be marvellous if the screen could speak. In “City of Song” she is starred with one of the best voicesin the world, that of Jan Kiepura.
Despite Mrs Playfair denying Betty’s connection with Melbourne, her father Harry had lived in the Melbourne suburb of Mont Albert, Vic., near to where his brother Robert and family lived just prior to the War. A few years earlier, Harry is also recorded with an address in Caulfield. There is definitely a connection to Melbourne, least of all to the rest of the Stockfeld family.
There are many occasions in press reports where a connection to “Admiral Evans” is noted. Mrs Playfair is quoted as correcting the Evans relationship and suggesting that it is another Captain Fred Evans to whom Betty is related. There are, as far as I can assess, two of Betty’s mother, Susan Stockfeld’s (nee Evans), immediate family with a background in all matters Naval.
This newspaper death notice on 7 Aug 1909 for Blanche Baddeley Rusden, Susan’s sister, gives some credence to the ‘claims’ of association with famous sailors… however, not an admiral!
DEATHS.RUSDEN -On the 5th August, at the CommercialBank of Australia Limited, Nhill, after only afew hours’ illness, Blanche Baddeley Rusden,loved wife of Arthur S Rusden JP, daughterof Mrs Evans, Mosman, NSW, and the lateF. Pryce Evans, Newtown, North Wales; sisterof Stuart B Evans and Mrs Stockfeld, Mosman,and Lieutenant F Pryce Evans, R N R captainUnion Co’s SS Navau (late commander s. s.Koonya and s.y. Nimrod, Shackleton’s expedi-tion). N.Z. and home papers please copy.
….. and this notice for one of Betty’s uncles from March 1907:
EVANS.—On the 22nd March, of fever, at Hong Kong, Captain Frank Norman Evans, youngest son late Frederick Pryce Evans, Newtown, North Wales, aged 29.
Frederick Pryce Evans was admitted to the Bar in 1921 – it hardly seems even necessary to create an inflated rank for him when his career is obviously one of note.
SOUTH POLE EXPLORERAdmitted to the BarThe Full Court to-day admitted Frederick Pryce Evans as a member ofthe Bar. Percy Charlton, Harold Collins, Michael Venantius Stanislaus Duffy, Raymond Kyrle Fulton, John Griffiths, Francis Clunes Kirkpatrick,Arthur Massey Makinson, and Keith Roylond Traill were admitted as solicitors. Arthur Railton Richardson was conditionally admitted as a solicitor.In moving the admission of Captain Evans, Mr. Broomfleld, KC., said that he had commanded the Nimrod in Shackleton’s expedition to the South Pole, and when the war broke out he was in command of the troopship Tahiti.
AUSTRALIAN ACTRESS’SSUCCESSMiss Stockfield of Sydneyin New English Play(Herald Special Representative)LONDON, November 13. — “MissStockfield wins,” says the Daily Mailin a critique on the new play, “Artand Mrs Bottle.”Miss Betty Stockfield, who is a Syd-ney girl, and the niece of CommanderF. P. Evans, who commanded the lateSir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic ex-ploration ship, Nimrod, is appearingwith Miss Irene Vanbrugh in thecomedy, which was written by Mr BenLevy, a nephew of Judge Cohen, ofNew South Wales.The Daily Mail adds that the mostdifficult task falls to Miss Stockfield,and it is enormously to her creditthat, by her sincerity and her humor,she makes the character, Judy, notonly not unpleasant, but even lovable.It is an entirely delightful per-formance.