Hazel Ascot (born 1928) was a tap-dancing British child-star in the 1930s who was billed as the "British Shirley Temple". She starred in two films before abandoning her theatrical career.
Ascot was born in Manchester. She was the daughter of Duggie Ascot, who created a dance troupe with his family called "The Petite Ascots". Film director John Baxter discovered Hazel at her father's dance studio in London. She was made the star of his upcoming film Talking Feet (1937), a "quota quickie" about a girl's attempt to raise money for a local hospital by putting on a show. The film was a success and so Hazel was given another starring role in Stepping Toes (1938), about a child dancer who wins a contest and goes on to star in a show in London.
After these films, it was intended that Hazel would appear in a third feature, a more expensive venture, to be shot in colour, provisionally titled "Hazel of the Sawdust" but the outbreak of World War II made this untenable.
After the war Hazel abandoned performing to marry her childhood sweetheart, Peter Banting, an architect. Hazel worked as a school-teacher and had three children. She was interviewed about her memories of the film studios on several occasions, most notably for an episode of the 1980 TV series Movie Memories, and at the British Film Institute.
In 1970 the "Hazel Ascot Appreciation Society" was created by Tony Willis, who tracked Ascot down via her brother. The society supported events for budding child performers. Though originally a genuine appreciation society, by the late 1990s it had become a front for a network of paedophiles. In 2002 a series of arrests were made of members of the society. According to the police, paedophiles "used the fan club as a cover to communicate with each other via the internet." The police emphasised that Ascot was not aware of or associated in any way with the activities of the gang, but "though she has nothing to do with these deviants, she has become an icon for paedophiles."
- Stephen C. Shafer, British Popular Films, 1929–1939: The Cinema of Reassurance, Routledge, London, 1997, p.188
- Threadgall, D, Shepperton studios: an independent view, British Film Institute, 1994, pp.16-18.
- Vallance, Tom, "Binkie Stuart", The Independent, August 17, 2001, p.6.
- BFI/Guardian interview
- Milmo, Cahal, "Paedophile, 80, Is Freed despite Admitting Abuse", The Independent, March 19, 2002, p.10.
- "42,000 Pictures, 118 Videos, 500 Magazines and a Guide on How to Chat Up Children. They Called It the Hobby", The Mirror, February 25, 2002, p.20.