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She was born Elizabeth Ada Bronson in Trenton, NJ.,
Nov. 17, 1906. She was the oldest of four children, and, because
her family moved around quite a bit, she attended schools in several
cities including St. Louis, New York and Newark. To pursue her
dream of becoming an actress, she moved to New York for dance
instruction under Michel Fokine, a Ballets Russes choreographer,
which only lasted for a short time. She went to Paramount Studios
on Long Island seeking work and was given a small role in Leatrice
Joy's "Java Head" (1923) playing a young girl of ten
(she was 17 at the time.) Small roles continued to follow in such
films as "Anna Ascends" (1922) with Alice Brady, "The
Go Getter" (1923) with T. Roy Barnes and Seena Owen, "His
Children's Children" (1923) with Bebe Daniels, and "Twenty-One"
(1923) with Richard Barthelmess. Her first credited role was in
"Eternal City" (1923) with Barbara LaMarr and Bert Lytell.
When Betty learned that a search was on for the lead in "Peter
Pan" (1924), she began working toward getting the part and
finally gained an introduction to the studio manager. Through
the help of director Victor Fleming (for whom she worked in "Anna
Ascends"), she made a screen test for "Peter Pan"
director Herbert Brenon. Author J.M. Barrie, who was in England,
had the final word on who would play the coveted role. Brenon
took the test to Barrie who immediately approved of Bronson for
the title character. When the movie was released, it and Betty
were an immediate hit. She received praise from every quarter
for her performance. "Peter Pan" was followed by "Are Parents People?"
(1925) a delightful comedy with Adolphe Menjou, Florence Vidor
and Lawrence Gray as the love interest. "A Kiss For Cinderella"
(1925) was another J.M. Barrie story and an attempt to repeat
the success of "Peter Pan." Although it was a good film
and well received, it did not measure up to her first success.
Betty was next given the role of Mary in MGM's "Ben Hur"
(1925) and handled the role with dignity and grace. Betty made
14 more films in the next four years, including "The Singing
Fool" (1928) with Al Jolson. She only made six undistinguished
films in the 1930's. All of this time, she also worked on the
stage. In 1932, she married Ludwig Lauerhass a successful businessman
in the pharmaceutical industry. After making her final movie in
1937, she settled into home life raising children and working
in a variety of civic and charitable endeavors. She also did support
work during World War II including entertaining soldiers at Pasadena's
Hospitality House. She made a return to the screen in 1961's "Pocketful
of Miracles" in a character role and made four more screen
appearances with a final role in "Evel Knieval" (1971).
She received particular praise for her role in "The Naked
Kiss" (1964). She was also active on stage and TV during
this time. She died Oct. 19, 1971, after a long illness.
Selected films of this star available for viewing:
Peter Pan (1924)
A Kiss for Cinderella (1925)
Ben Hur (1925)
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