Elizabeth Mary Driver was born in Leicester on 20 March 1920, the older of two daughters born to Federick Driver and his wife Nell. At the age of two the family moved to Manchester and Nell
turned her long term hobby as concert pianist into a profession. Betty was pushed into a life on the boards by her star-struck mother, joining the Terence Byron Repertory Company at the age of nine and turning professional at the age of 10 in a touring production of Mixed Bathing. and at 14 both landed her first film role and trod the London boards.
Betty appeared in George Formby's Boots Boots in which she had a few lines of dialogue and a big production number in which she sang and tap danced with Formby. Sadly, these scenes ended up being cut from the film on the orders of Formby's domineering wife, Beryl who also danced in the film and did not want to be upstaged by a sweet child.
At the tender age of 12 Betty moved into radio where she sang with the famous bandleader Harry Hall. She was spotted while performing in a revue at the Prince Of Wales Theatre by Archie Pitt (former husband of Gracie Fields) and his brother Bert Aza. They quickly signed her up and Bert became her agent and put her in a leading role in the hit show Mr Tower of London. Film director Basil Dean, after seeing her in Jimmy Hunters Brighton Follies, cast her in the 1938 film Penny Paradise. This was followed by Let's Be Famous and Facing The Music.
During World War II she entertained the troops with the ENSA organisation and teamed up with bandleader Henry Hall, singing in his radio show Henry Hall's Guest Night on and off for seven years. She also had her own show A Date With Betty. She became a forces’ sweetheart, with the RAF naming a Spitfire after her.
In the 1930's and 40's, Betty became a major recording artist with hit songs including The Sailor With The Navy Blue Eyes, Macnamara's Band, Pick The Petals Of A Daisy, Jubilee Baby and September In The Rain..
However, behind the scenes all was not well. On the orders of her mother she was ruining her voice. To sound like Gracie Fields she had to sing at a much higher register than she was comfortable with, then in her 20s she started fainting on stage. Her mother would throw water over her to bring her round but as her voice grew ever more painful Driver had a nervous breakdown. Helped by Henry Hall she managed to keep performing but her singing voice eventually gave out for good.
Soon Betty travelled to Australia where she performed her own show and her career took her to Cyprus, Malta and the Middle East. On her return to England she appeared in various Ealing comedies.
In 1953, aged 33, she married the South African singer Wally Peterson whom she had met four years earlier on the set of her television show, a variety vehicle called The Betty Driver Show. The marriage was a disaster. Wally turned out to be as domineering as her mother then a pregnancy ended in miscarriage and a hysterectomy. Finally she gave up her career and followed Wally back to South Africa where he turned out to be an inveterate womaniser.
After seven years of marriage and penniless she left him and returned to the UK. Back in Britain her career flourished. She appeared in Ealing comedies and in 1964 auditioned for the role of Hilda Ogden in Coronation Street. She didn’t get it but she did get a part in the Street spin-off Pardon The Expression alongside Arthur Lowe.
During a stunt she damaged her hip. Although she recovered she went off with her sister Freda to run a pub in Derbyshire. In 1969, however, she auditioned for the role of Betty Turpin, a part she would play for 40 years.
In the New Year's Honours List for 2000, Betty was awarded an MBE - one of only a handful of cast members to receive the award.
Driver lived with and cared for her sister Freda until Freda's death in December 2008. On 11 May 2011, Driver was rushed to hospital, suffering from pneumonia. She died on 15 October, aged 91, after around six weeks in hospital. (Info edited mainly from www.corrie.net & Express obit)