Obituary: Vivienne Byerley
Thursday 06 April 1995
Vivienne Byerley was for 30 years the press representative for H.M. Tennent Ltd, the firm that from 1936 to 1973 produced over 400 plays, musicals and intimate revues, ranging from George and Margaret to My Fair Lady, from Shaw to Shakespeare, Rattigan and Coward, to Peter Shaffer and Joe Orton. Hugh "Binkie" Beaumont, the firm's managing director, saw no point in spending money advertising his smash-hit successes but Vivienne's snide nickname of "No News Is Good News" is belied by the volumes of press cuttings she meticulously assembled and mounted and which have now gone to the Theatre Museum, in London, for future theatrical research.
Vivienne Byerley belonged to that generation of women who after the First World War faced a husbandless future as a result of the slaughter of their male contemporaries. For an intelligent gentlewoman in need of a job the choice lay almost exclusively between teaching or becoming a secretary. Two famous colleges, Mrs Hoster's and the St James's, provided the necessary training and at the latter Byerley learnt the shorthand and typing which led to a job with Guy Bolton, creator of numberless plays and musicals including Lady Be Good and many collaborations with P.G. Wodehouse.
She then joined Richard Clowes, the press representative to H.M. Tennent Ltd, and in 1945 was appointed press representative to the Company of Four, the new organisation under the aegis of HMT which operated at the Lyric, Hammersmith. In 1947 she took over as sole press representative for HMT. The first woman to hold such a responsible post, she dealt with stars such as John Gielgud, Vivien Leigh, Edith Evans, Margaret Rutherford and international celebrities like Paul Muni and Franoise Rosay, supervising photocalls by Cecil Beaton and Angus McBean. Her tact and charm helped to circumvent the press on more than one sticky occasion when scandals had to be suppressed.
A typical Englishwoman in appearance with a delicate complexion maintained with the help of Maria Hornes, a beautician friend, Byerley combined her love of the theatre with a passion for cats, enjoyed card games (she was a good bridge-player and a demon at canasta), good food (she was an excellent cook), and holidays abroad with her friends, visiting the south of France and Italy, Venice being a particularly favourite venue. After all her years' service with HMT there was no pension payable but "Binkie" made it possible for her to buy the freehold of the roomy Victorian house where she and her mother had paid rent for over 50 years; and she lived there happy in her garden surrounded by lodgers and cats.
An only child of parents who themselves were only children she had no immediate relatives of any kind. After various legacies to friends and employees she has left the residue of her estate to a handful of animal charities.
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