Betty Paul: Stage and screen actress and writer of ITV's first rural soap opera

After one career as an actor and singer, Betty Paul switched to another as a writer and co-created ITV's first rural soap opera, Weavers Green (1966), with her third husband, Peter Lambda.

They envisaged Weavers Green as "a mirror of country life", and set their stories around a Norfolk village's veterinary practice run by Alan Armstrong (Grant Taylor) and Geoffrey Toms (Eric Flynn). There were also appearances by Wendy Richard as a barmaid and Kate O'Mara as a young vet.

The programme did not idealise country life, with Paul and Lambda portraying the difficulties both for those new to rural life and others who wanted to escape it. They were also involved in a screen "first", with Anglia Television making most of the twice-weekly serial on location, on videotape instead of film, which was unusual at the time – and expensive.

However, although the weekday, peak-time episode was popular, the weekend one was scheduled in a children's slot and struggled to find an audience. After six months and 49 episodes, ITV cancelled the soap. Anglia believed it was the victim of being an outsider among ITV's "big four" companies – and, when the network later launched Emmerdale Farm, it was the last region to promote it to a peak-time slot.

Paul contented herself with contributing scripts to ITV daytime serials – Harriet's Back in Town (1972-73), featuring a woman facing life after divorce, Marked Personal (1973), about a personnel officer in a large company, and Rooms (1974-77), which followed the tenants of a house converted into bedsits.

Paul was born Betty Percheron in Middlesex, in 1921. Her French father was a fabrics importer and her Irish mother encouraged a love of the theatre. Just a week after her 13th birthday, she was appearing at Sadler's Wells theatre in the ballet production The Legend of Dick Whittington (1934).

On finishing her education – at South Hampstead high school and the Institut Français – she set out on a career as an actor, singer and dancer, aged 14. A year later, she was in London's West End, playing Adele in Jane Eyre (Queen's Theatre, 1936). Then, in 1938, she became the youngest member of C.B. Cochran's Young Ladies troupe.

During the war, she joined ENSA, which entertained the troops, and performed in the West End musicals Lady Behave (1941) and Old Chelsea (1943). Deciding to change her professional name to Betty Paul, she acted in further West End productions – Bless the Bride (1947), Bitter Sweet (1949), The Dish Ran Away (1951), All for Mary (1954) and And So to Bed (1961), playing Mistress Pepys in a musical about Samuel Pepys. She even had a brief Broadway run as the title character in the musical Maggie (1953), based on J.M. Barrie's play What Every Woman Knows. Although there were only five performances, she was nominated for a New York Critics' Award.

On radio, Paul appeared alongside Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss in the comedy Up the Pole (1947-48). She made her film debut in the director David Lean's screen version of Oliver Twist (1948), as one of the singers at the Three Cripples pub (Hattie Jacques was the other). She also acted in Let's Have a Murder (1950) and Flesh & Blood (1951). There were a handful of television appearances, in Children's Newsreel (1950), Colonel March of Scotland Yard (1956), No Hiding Place (1960) and Echo Four Two (1961).

But she switched to writing following her marriage to Lambda, a Hungarian refugee who moved to London in 1938 and was also a talented sculptor (he produced busts of theatrical legends such as Laurence Olivier). The couple jointly contributed two scripts to the short-lived drama series The Sentimental Agent (1962), before they teamed up again for Weavers Green.

After enjoying some success writing other serials, Paul returned to acting for a two-year run in the West End as Mrs Pearce, the housekeeper, in My Fair Lady (1979-81). In 1987, she and Lambda retired to Gloucestershire, where Paul wrote two novels, Lucky Star (1989) and Conditions of Love (1992).



Betty Percheron (Betty Paul), actor and writer: born Hendon, Middlesex 21 May 1921; married Robin Hood (died 1944), 1945 Hartley Power (marriage dissolved 1955), 1958 Peter Lambda (died 1995); died Tibberton, Gloucestershire 27 February 2011.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery assistants required across Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

SEN 1:1 Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified teache...

SEN Teachers and Support Staff

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

English and Media Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English & Media Teacher - ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week