Betty Astell

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Betty Astell
Actress Betty Astell.jpg
Bridgewater 3rd Series of Movie Star Trading Cards (1934)
Betty Julia Hymans

(1912-05-23)23 May 1912
Died26 July 2005(2005-07-26) (aged 93)
Spouse(s) Cyril Fletcher (18 May 1941 – 1 January 2005; his death); 1 child

Betty Astell (23 May 1912 26 July 2005), born Betty Julia Hymans, was an English actress, best known for comedy and pantomime productions on stage, screen, and radio with her husband, Cyril Fletcher. She was one of the first performers to appear on television, in experimental broadcasts by the BBC in 1932.


Early life

Betty Julia Hymans was born in Brondesbury, Willesden, Middlesex, [1] the daughter of Herbert Hyams and Estella Oppenheimer Hyams. [2]



Astell was a child performer, trained as a dancer. [3] She sang on BBC Radio programmes in the 1920s, and met her husband while making recordings for radio in Bristol during World War II. [2] In 1956 and 1957, they played a married couple in a radio comedy, Mixed Doubles, written by Bob Monkhouse and Denis Goodwin. [4]


In 1931 and 1932, Astell sang and danced in John Logie Baird's experimental television programming, on the BBC's 30-line shows, [2] making her one of the first people to perform on television. That same year, she played Alice in Dick Whittington, the first televised pantomime. [4] She starred with her husband on an early sketch show for television, Kaleidoscope (1949), and on his eponymous television series, The Cyril Fletcher Show, on ITV beginning in 1959. [5]

Stage and film

Astell's made her London stage debut in John Galsworthy's Escape (1928). She performed in revues through the 1940s, including Magic Carpet (1943) and Keep Going (1944). [6]

Astell first appeared in film in 1932, in A Tight Corner with Frank Pettingell. She stayed active in film through the 1930s, appearing in two dozen films. In 1942, the Fletchers were familiar enough to a wide audience to make a wartime newsreel clip together, honouring farmers. [7] Her last film role came in 1948, when she returned to the screen in A Piece of Cake, co-starring with her husband. [4] [8]

Astell also wrote and produced pantomimes at the Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon, including Dick Whittington, Mother Goose, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Aladdin. [9] [10] [11]

Personal life

Astell was married to entertainer Cyril Fletcher for more than 60 years, from 18 May 1941 until his death on 1 January 2005. They had a daughter, actress/comedian Jill Fletcher, born in 1945. [1] [12] Astell died in a hospital near her home in Guernsey, aged 93 years, nearly seven months after the death of her husband. [12]



1932 Double Dealing Flossie
1932 A Tight Corner Unknown role
1933 The Lost Chord Madge
1933 Cleaning Up Marian Brent
1933 Great Stuff Vera Montgomery
1933 This is the Life Edna Wynne
1933 The Medicine Man Patient
1933 That's My Wife Lillian Harbottle
1933 Strike It Rich Janet Wells
1933 I'll Stick to You Pauline Mason
1934 On the Air Betty
1934 Flat Number Three Trixie
1934 The Man I Want Prue Darrell
1934 The Life of the Party Blanche Hopkins
1934 Josser on the Farm Betty
1935 That's My Uncle Maudie
1935 Strictly Illegal Mrs. Bill
1936 A Wife or Two Mary Hamilton
1936 The Vandergilt Diamond Mystery Mary
1936 Jack of All Trades Dancer
1936 Sunshine Ahead The Girl
1937 Behind Your Back Gwen Bingham
1939 The Mind of Mr. Reeder Gwen Bingham
1948 A Piece of Cake Betty Clarke


1959 The Cyril Fletcher Show 6 episodes

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  1. 1 2 "Betty Astell | Obituaries". The Stage. 2 August 2005. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  2. 1 2 3 Pointon, Michael (7 March 2013). "Cyril Fletcher". In Goldman, Lawrence (ed.). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2005-2008. OUP Oxford. p. 382. ISBN   978-0-19-967154-0.
  3. "Dance scene with Peggy van Praagh and Betty Astell, ca. 1918 [1][picture]". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  4. 1 2 3 Hayward, Anthony (29 July 2005). "Betty Astell". The Independent. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  5. "Screen and Radio Revue". Sydney Morning Herald . 12 July 1934. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
  6. Wearing, J. P. (22 August 2014). The London Stage 1940-1949: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 112, 158. ISBN   978-0-8108-9306-1.
  7. "Cyril Fletcher". British Pathé. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  8. Rowan, Terry (2012). World War II Goes to the Movies & Television Guide. p. 367. ISBN   978-1-105-58602-6.
  9. "Aladdin (Astell)". Concord Theatricals. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  10. "Flyer, Panto, JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, Jim Dale, Betty Astell". Fairfield Collection, Museum of Croydon. December 1966. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  11. Astell, Betty (1978). The Sleeping Beauty: A Pantomime. Evans Bros. ISBN   978-0-237-75018-3.
  12. 1 2 "Betty Astell obituary". The Telegraph . 30 July 2005. Retrieved 22 December 2010.