Betty DRIVER (1920-2011)

Betty Driver
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THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Betty Driver, actress, was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at London’s Euston Station.

Having begun her career in the music hall, Betty soon became one of Britain's best loved singing stars making countless records and hosting her own radio and television variety shows. Throughout the 1940s, Betty became a prolific presence on radio, singing with the top dance bands of the era. She was also known for her work for ENSA - entertaining the troops stationed at home and abroad.

During this period Betty also starred in three feature films Penny Paradise, Let's Be Famous and Facing The Music.

After performing on stage since the age of 11 and releasing records since 1935, Betty retired from singing and concentrated on television, starring in numerous television plays for Granada Television. In 1969 Betty was cast as Betty Turpin in the ITV soap opera Coronation Street – a role she became synonymous with.

“I didn’t recognise you with that awful hat on!”

Writer Stephen Bourne recalls Betty Driver and discusses her appearance on This Is Your Life in an exclusive interview recorded in March 2016

Screenshots and photographs of Betty Driver This Is Your Life

Betty Driver's autobiography

Betty recalls her experience of This Is Your Life in her autobiography...

I’ve only known Charles, Michael, Mark and Brian a relatively short time so none of them appeared on my This Is Your Life back in 1976.

Freda, of course, planned the whole thing and had to get me down on the train to Euston where the ‘grab’ was to take place. Freda said we were going to a champion dog show and she had me trapped in the train, pretending she’d lost her gloves, until everyone else had got off.

Then she walked me down the platform and there was Eamonn Andrews done up like a news vendor with a huge newspaper board on which was written ‘Big Surprise for Betty Driver’. I was stunned! All I can remember was worrying that they’d bring my husband out!

Of course, Freda had seen to it that they didn’t but lovely Jack Watson came on, and Beryl Reid, and – to my absolute horror – Lena Brown, the whistling woman from Let’s Be Famous. When she came on I nearly had a heart attack. Goodness knows where they’d dug her up from!

The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls the experience of this particular edition of This Is Your Life in his book This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

Rover’s Return barmaid Betty Turpin – actress Betty Driver – had a night off from pulling pints when we surprised her on the evening of 21 January 1976. She was visiting London for a dog show.

But the newsvendor at Euston Station was Eamonn Andrews. And in the Big Red Book was a story which must have astonished her younger ‘regulars’.

Betty had been a child star of the Thirties and a singing star of the Forties and Fifties. As a schoolgirl she had attended the same singing and dancing class as Beryl Reid.

Before Betty was even seventeen, the legendary showman C B Cochran had signed her for West End revues, and she appeared in the film Penny Paradise in 1938. For seven years, she was top vocalist with the famous Henry Hall Orchestra – he of ‘Tonight is my guest night’ fame. Though in poor health, Henry talked to Betty in our studio on a special telephone line [Bigredbook editor: Actually, Henry Hall was too ill to even send a telephone message, and does not appear in the programme].

Betty had been managing a real-life pub with her sister, Freda, when tempted back into the business via Coronation Street.

programme details...

  • Edition No: 428
  • Subject No: 425
  • Broadcast: Wed 11 Feb 1976
  • Broadcast time: 7-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Wed 21 Jan 1976
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 16
  • Edition: 14
  • Code name: Chauffeur

on the guest list...

  • Freda - sister
  • Bill Roache
  • Stephen Hancock
  • Neville Buswell
  • Anne Kirkbride
  • Bernard Youens
  • Jean Alexander
  • Helen Worth
  • Maggie Jones
  • Bryan Mosley
  • Kathy Jones
  • Thelma Barlow
  • Barbara Mullany
  • Harry Kershaw
  • Beryl Reid
  • Arthur Stracey
  • Thelma Durrant
  • Betty Hill
  • Lena Brown
  • Jack Watson
  • Carl Yale
  • Andrew Faulds
  • Tony Britton
  • Martin West
  • Lesley West
  • Jack Howarth
  • Filmed tribute:
  • Auntie Mabel

external links...

production team...

  • Researcher: Tony Lee
  • Writer: John Sandilands
  • Director: Royston Mayoh
  • Producer: Jack Crawshaw
names listed in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
Series 16: Ronnie Dukes > Ray Milland > Mike Hailwood > Frank Windsor > Magnus Pyke > Bill Tidy > Gladys Mills > Andy Stewart > Windsor Davies > Ray Reardon > Patrick Mower > Alberto Remedios > Susan Masham > Betty Driver > Henry "Shrimp" Davies > Gwen Berryman > Vince Hill > Arnold Ridley > Beryl Reid > Alan Mullery > Percy Thrower > Gareth Edwards > June Whitfield > Terry Fincher > Richard Dunn > Norman Croucher