27 March 1903|
|Died||4 November 1977
Weybridge, Surrey, England
|Spouse(s)||Jimmy Campbell (m. 1931–41) (divorced)|
Betty Balfour (27 March 1903 – 4 November 1977) was an English screen actress, popular during the silent era, and known as the "British Mary Pickford" and "Britain's Queen of Happiness". She was best known to audiences for her Squibs series of films.
Life and career
Balfour was the most popular actress in Britain in the 1920s, and in 1927 she was named by the Daily Mirror as the country's favourite world star. She was a consummate screen actress, whose sympathetic portrayals were often tinged with pathos.
Her talent was most evident in the Squibs comedy series produced by George Pearson, while in his 1923's Love, Life and Laughter and 1924's Reveille, she demonstrated a serious side to her character. Her 1925 role as a wealthy heriess in Somebody's Darling was an attempt to break out of her previous role as Squibs, to avoid typecasting.
She made her stage debut in 1913, and was appearing in Medora at the Alhambra Theatre when T. A. Welsh and Pearson saw and signed her for Nothing Else Matters in 1920. After replacing Gertrude Lawrence on stage in The Midnight Follies, Balfour was back with Pearson with her first starring role in Mary Find the Gold.
Balfour made no attempt to break into Hollywood but like Ivor Novello she was able to export her talents to mainland Europe. She starred in the German films, Die sieben Töchter der Frau Gyurkovics and Die Regimentstochter she worked for Marcel L'Herbier in Le Diable au Coeur for Louis Mercanton in Monkeynuts and for Géza von Bolváry in Bright Eyes.
Back in Britain, she also starred in Alfred Hitchcock's Champagne (1928). Balfour's sound debut, The Nipper (1930), based on the Squibs character, was only moderately successful. Her popularity diminished in the 1930s, though she played a supporting role to Jessie Matthews in Evergreen (1934), appeared with John Mills in Forever England (1935) and played the matriarch in 29 Acacia Avenue (1945).
Balfour had less fortune in her private life. Her marriage with composer Jimmy Campbell went on the rocks in 1941 after ten years, a try of a comeback at the theatre failed in 1952 and she experienced the low with an attempted suicide. She died aged 74 and is interred at Weybridge Cemetery, Surrey, England.
- Nothing Else Matters (1920)
- Mary-Find-the-Gold (1921)
- Squibs (1921)
- Squibs Wins the Calcutta Sweep (1922)
- Mord Em'ly (1922)
- Wee MacGregor's Sweetheart (1922)
- Squibs M.P. (1923)
- Squibs' Honeymoon (1923)
- Love, Life and Laughter (1923)
- Reveille (1924)
- Satan's Sister (1925)
- Somebody's Darling (1925)
- Pearl of Love (1925)
- Cinders (1926)
- Blinkeyes (1926)
- The Sea Urchins (1926)
- Monte Carlo (1926)
- Die sieben Töchter der Frau Gyurkovics (1926)
- La petite bonne du palace (1927)
- Croquette (1928)
- Little Devil May Care (1928)
- Champagne (1928)
- A Little Bit of Fluff (1928)
- Paradise (1928)
- Daughter of the Regiment (1929)
- Bright Eyes (1929)
- The Vagabond Queen (1929)
- Raise the Roof (1930)
- The Nipper (1930) also known as The Brat
- My Old Dutch (1934)
- Evergreen (1934)
- Squibs (1935)
- Forever England (1935)
- Eliza Comes to Stay (1936)
- 29 Acacia Avenue (1945)
- Macnab p.56
- Macnab, Geoffrey. Searching for Stars: Stardon and Screen Acting in British Cinema. Cassell, 2000.
- Rothwell-Smith, Paul. Silent Films! the Performers (2011) ISBN 9781907540325
- Betty Balfour at the Internet Movie Database
- Betty Balfour biography and credits at BFI Screenonline
- Betty Balfour at Find a Grave
- Photographs and literature