Yank the army weekly had a Betty Bryant on the cover in 194?. So I decided to profile her, and this is where the problem starts. Which Betty Bryant? After some digging around, I noticed that there are, no more and no less, than three Betty Bryants that operated in Hollywood in the early 1940s. The only one I could cross was the Australian Betty Bryant (as she was definitely not the woman on the picture!). The second is a Portland, Oregon born Betty Bryant, who was a Goldwyn girl. The one left is the Betty Bryant the high society songstress. The Betty we are going to talking about is the most active one (the songstress), filling newspaper columns from the early 1930s until the early 1950s. Well, let’s read on!
Elizabeth Bryant Borst was born on February 5, 1909, in Natick, Massachusetts to Theodore C. Borst and Sara Boysat (Bryant?). Her younger brother John was born on January 23, 1910. Her father worked in real estate – her mother wrote children’s books, and was pretty good at it, as several of her books were best sellers (for instance New Stories to tell the children, published in 1923).
The family moved to Newton, Massachusetts when Betty was only a few years old, and stayed there for the long run. Betty and her brother grew up in an affluent, loving environment and had a nice childhood. Betty attend Foxcroft Finishing school for genteel ladies in Middleburg, Virginia. Already at that tender age, it was clear to everybody that Betty was destined to become a performer. Her desire for a professional career on the stage alienated her a great deal from her school chums, who found her weird. But Betty did not back down, she knew what she wanted and went for it. She took voice and dance lessons and slowly grew at her craft. But, her education had to be finished first.
Betty first got her BA in University of California, and then got her masters from Smith Colledge, where she was in the Phi Beta Kapa sorority. After graduation in 1932, she started working on the stage right away, but it would take her a long time still to come to Hollywood.
Betty worked from the time she graduated, joining the Bryant Show Boat and going extensive theater work (she played Shakespearean roles, among others). In the late 1930s she settled in New York and did nightclub work and became very succesful. She appeared in some of the best known cafees in the city and drew large crowds.
Betty never truly was part of the movie scene, and she does not have her own IMDB page, but instead her credits are mixed with her namesakes, Betty Bryant, who was an Australian actress born in 1920, made famous in the early 1940s when the australian movie 40 000 Horsemen hit the US cinemas, and the Betty Bryant Goldwyn girl. Two of Betty Bryant (Australia) credits are actually Betty Bryant (Goldwyn girl or singer) credits. So, I’ll just take the two credits and go with it.
One Betty Bryant was a Goldwyn girl in Up in Arms – again this movie!!!! But it seems I’m goign to profile more and more Goldwyn girls appearing in it (really, the movie is a goldmine for obscure dancer/actress types with only a few credits to their name!).
Her second and last credit was Saigon, the last pairing of Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake. It’s definitely a movie of mixed pleasures – a romance/adventure set in the orient, with Ladd playing a flying ace who tries to help his former army buddy during the last months of his life. Add Veronica Lake and you have a slightly more different love triangle than the usual fare, but you still know Ladd’s going to get the girl! The movie is a mild excercise in adventure making and lacks the suspense or the stunning twists of some of the other similarly themed Oriental movies (Calcutta, Macao and so on). On the other hand, it’s got a decent plot and Ladd and Lake are effective as always (they truly are a unique pairing of the silver screen – they perfected the cold, icy passion better than anybody else).
That was all from Betty.
In 1936, Betty had a serious relationship with Maxwell Aitken, son of Lord Beaverbrook. The young Aitken was a keen aviator, and even brought his father along to New York to meet Betty and the two hit it off right away. There were stories Betty could actually become part of the english nobility, but the relationship quickly sizzled after that. In 1937, she was engaged to band leader Henry Sosnik, but that also did not happen. He was closely followed by a Captain Roark, an upper crust polo player who flew to the US just so he could meet with Betty. Pretty romantic, but it also didn’t lead to a long-term relationship. John Buckmaster, another Briton, came along after Roark. Seems the gents from Europe really adored Betty!
Betty was a well-educated woman, and sometimes this se her apart from the peers. In 1942, she lamented ow a well-known actress was “quite stupid” as she had no idea who Lindbergh was (and Betty wanted to discuss his book with her).
In 1940, Betty was again in a hot clinch, this time with Paul Douglas, the sports announcer. They dated on off for better part of the year. In 1941, Betty was constantly seen with Luther Davis, one half of the Davis Cleveland writing duo. By this time, Betty was living in the Blackstone hotel in Manhattan, and was a succesful business woman, living by her own hard work, quite a feat for that time!
In early 1942, Betty dislocated her shoulder while ice skating and was bedridden for a short time. This did not stop her from dating one of the eligible Whitney brothers (never said who) and Spencer Eddy, member of the New York high society. Betty started dating the suave Eurasian novelist, Leslie Charteris, in mid 1942. They married on October 2, 1943, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Charteris was born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin on May 12, 1907, in Singapore, son of a chinese doctor and an Englishwoman. He attended a prep school in England, and later attended Cambridge university for a year before dropping out. He led quite a colorful life: he worked at various jobs from shipping out on a freighter to working as a barman in a country inn. He prospected for gold, dived for pearls, worked in a tin mine and on a rubber plantation, toured England with a carnival, and drove a bus. He constantly wrote on the side, and in 1935 started to write series of books that would become his claim to fame: Simon Templar, “the Saint” books. He moved to the States and worked in Hollywood for a time as a scriptwriter.
Before marring Betty, Leslie was already twice married – first, in 1931, to Pauline Schiksin, daughter of a Russian diplomat. They had a daughter, Patricia. They divorced in about 1937. In 1938, he married Barbara Meyer, editor at the American magazine. He divorced her just before marrying Betty (I could not find this information – was Betty the reason Barbara and Leslie divorced? I don’t think so, but can’t tell for sure).
In the late 1940s, Betty was an active humanitarian, organizing benefit baseball games featuring movie stars and so on. However, her marriage fell apart acrimoniously toward the end of the decade. Charter fell into a writing rut, unable to come up with any quality novels, was often highly agitated. She did not have enough un understanding for him (and so goes the story). When things escalated he left her in New York to wonder around the world. They finally divorced in 1951. Charteris was ordered to pay his wife 500$ monthly alimony. He went on to marry his last wife, actress Audrey Long (who somewhat resembled Betty) in 1954. He died in 1992.
Betty resumed her nightclub career after the divorce, and it lasted well into the 1950s. Unfortunately, that was all I could find about Betty – she left the US at some point.
Elizabeth Charteris died in January 2003 in Corby, Northamptonshire, England, UK.