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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project